PARKERSBURG - West Virginia University at Parkersburg is celebrating 50 years as "The College the Community Built."
Throughout the year, the college will celebrate its milestone with activities, exhibits and programs.
The theme is "The College the Community Built," according to Connie Dziagwa, executive director for institutional advancement at WVU-P. She and Kim Jones, executive director of the WVU-P Foundation, are co-chairmen of the 50th anniversary celebration.
"The reason is because we're the only public institution in West Virginia that was founded by the citizens. They passed a bond levy which made this campus possible. The Wood County Court gave the property so that we could build out here," Dziagwa said of the current campus location on West Virginia 47 east of Parkersburg.
"This is really a celebration of the college's existence because of the commitment of the Mid-Ohio Valley to higher education," she said.
In 1961, the Parkersburg Branch of West Virginia University opened in a former elementary school in Parkersburg, with 104 students enrolled in classes. Four years later, Wood County citizens passed a bond issue that, with matching federal funds, provided $3.6 million to build an educational complex on land provided by the Wood County Court at what is now the college's W.Va. 47 campus. In 1966, the college's name was changed to West Virginia University-Parkersburg Center.
Construction was completed in 1969 on the campus and two years later it was renamed Parkersburg Community College following legislative action to create a comprehensive community college system for West Virginia of three free-standing community colleges. It remained PCC until 1989 when the name was changed again to West Virginia University at Parkersburg, when the West Virginia Legislature made it a regional campus of WVU.
Jones said a variety of events will be occurring at the college throughout 2011, with the kickoff occurring at the beginning of January when students returned for the spring semester. One of the first events was a "Border Battles Basketball Tourney" with WVU-P hosting a basketball tournament between Ohio and West Virginia colleges at the Parkersburg High School Fieldhouse.
Jones said the college is also working with the county governments served by WVU-P to have proclamations issued recognizing the anniversary.
"Thousands of Mid-Ohio Valley residents have gone through this college," Dziagwa said. "We started from 104 and now we're over 4,500. We're the fourth largest college in the state. We're really reaching out to the communities that have been touched by WVU Parkersburg to have them also celebrate with us," she said.
Exhibits will also be on display at the college during the year and there will be special events for students, alumni and current and past employees and staffmembers. Jones said a special "legacy weekend" is planned in August to honor those who have donated to the college, including those who have established endowments and scholarships at the college. The schedule of anniversary activities is expected to conclude next fall with a special gala.
"Probably the biggest thing is to get our alumni involved, re-ignite our alumni's love of this institution through some of the activities that we plan on having, through some of the reunions that some of the academic divisions are planning for the students who have come through their programs," Dziagwa said.
"We also want to have this opportunity to thank the community for what it has done for us to become what we have become. It really is remarkable that in the early 1960s that the citizens of Wood County taxed themselves, they passed a bond levy to create this institution," she said.
"We're the only institution that has that legacy and we want to celebrate that legacy," Dziagwa said.
WVU-P officials have created a website at www.wvup.edu/50th-Anniversary/index.html with information about the college's history and that will be updated throughout the year, she said.