Fifty Years of Education and
Community: Norwalk Community College
Linda P. Lerman
Chapter 1: Connecticut's First
Municipal Community College
of the Idea of Community Colleges in Connecticut
It was only 15 miles from Bridgeport to
Norwalk, but the arrival in 1953 of the new Superintendent of Public
Schools of Norwalk, Dr. Harry Becker, brought new ideas and a
professional vision that would change the view and future of higher
education in Norwalk and eventually impact the entire State of
Becker's vision to establish a community college in Norwalk didn't
materialize from a desire to merely replicate the private Junior
College of Connecticut in Bridgeport where he had spent majority of
his time since graduating with a doctorate in educational psychology
in 1944 from Yale University.
Rather when Dr. Becker first came to Norwalk he had as one of
his objectives the establishment of a public junior college.
Becker believed that "the community college, more than any
other institution, is the college of all the peoples." (Barclay
The concept of a junior college had its origins
in the mid-west arising from work of the presidents of the
University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, and the
University of Illinois.
It was in 1901 that the first public junior college was founded in
Joliet, Illinois. Until
the 1930s most junior colleges were private institutions.
After the great depression when many private junior colleges
closed, the expansion of junior colleges continued at a rapid pace.
By the 1950s there were 483 junior colleges in the United
State. Of these slightly
more than half were public institutions with diversified programs.
There are several studies that have addressed
the long delay in the development of pubic community colleges in New
England in general and specifically in Connecticut.
Two dissertations focus on these early years, Barry J.
Cunningham's work that explores the developmental period in
Connecticut from 1945-1965, and Kenneth B. Barclay's work on the
origins of the movement from 1946-1961 with particular emphasis on
the situation in Norwalk.
Both are invaluable research resources to understand the
social and political climate from which Norwalk's Community College
and the Connecticut Community Colleges developed.
It is a fair assessment that the tradition of private
enterprise in education that existed in Connecticut and all of New
England inhibited the development of public institutions into the
In spring 1952 Dr. Becker was awarded a sabbatical at New
York University's Higher Education Department, to study the
community college movement and teach a course at NYU entitled "The
Community College." This
course coincided with the community college movement just beginning
to expand in the East. The
following year as Superintendent of Public Schools in Norwalk,
Connecticut, Dr. Becker was in a position to share his vision with
member of the Norwalk Board of Education as well as many others in
municipal government, State representatives and senators, including
Senator Louis A. Lemaire from Norwalk, and many others in other
organizations who took an interest. Norwalk was the seventh largest
city in Connecticut in the early 1950s, but it was the largest city
in the State without any public institution of higher education.
Lemaire introduced a bill in 1955 to the state legislature to
permit the establishment of local community colleges.
Barclay suggests that its failure was a lack of understanding
of goals and objectives of two-year community colleges and fear of
tax increases in local communities.
(Barclay, p. 85) It may also have been a fear of needing to
share dollars by other existing institutions of higher education
that also brought pressure to bear on the legislators.
Then University of Connecticut President, Albert N.
Jorgenson, held the view the University of Connecticut should assume
the role of educators for veterans in the state which was one of the
largest segments of new students at the time.
He believed that the branch campuses with the same admission
requirements as the University at Storrs, would compensate for the
lack of space on the main campus. There was no expectation that the
masses would be permitted to participate in higher education
(Barclay p. 118-23)
The Norwalk Board of Education's reaction to the State Board
decision didn't discourage them nor did it surprise them.
In the Board's Minutes
dated March 20, 1956, the action by the State Board of Education
with reference to the Norwalk Post-Secondary Institute (which would
later become known as Norwalk Community College).
The discussion in that meeting of the Board moved from the
failure of Lemaire's bill immediately into action.
"All of us have known of this
but as Board members have not taken official action. The Board
has always favored a post-secondary institute, and has encouraged
the Superintendent since the days he first suggested working toward
getting one in Norwalk. The Board officially had a joint
meeting with the State Board of Education in Norwich, the purpose of
which was to consider the plea of the Norwalk Board that there
should be such an institute and that it should be built in Norwalk.
Therefore, some official point of view by the local Board would be
appropriate. … The Chairman [Marvin Gruss] then declared that our
own Board should go on record to commend Dr. Becker for his
leadership and his participation because it was under his leadership
that the Board initiated this cooperative effort with other Boards
to bring about the action on the post-secondary institute."
In further discussion about the Norwalk Post Secondary
Institute, it is Madeline Bernard who raises the point that "we
should urge support from local groups when the matter of the Norwalk
Post Secondary Institute comes up in the Legislature."
June 5, 1956) That
statement evolved into an impressive level of support by educational
organizations, civil groups, legislators, businessmen, corporations,
and the general public.
Acknowledging the Need for Community Colleges in Connecticut
Projections of college aged students through 1970 were at
numbers that exceeded the capacity of existing public and private
In 1957 the Connecticut Conference on Higher Education
co-sponsored by the State Department of Education and the
Connecticut Council on Education, made far reaching recommendations
that stated unequivocally "Additional junior colleges and community
colleges are needed to serve all areas of the state.
These institutions should offer both college credit courses
and other educational services.
State scholarship funds should be available for able students
to continue their formal education in these colleges…
Community colleges could be more adaptable and creative in
the educational services that they develop in cooperation with
business and industry."
(Report on the Tenth State Conference in Education, p. 5)
While this conference was encouraging, there was no movement
to rethink the existing structure of public higher education in
State Senator Abner U. Sibal, the successor to
State Senator Louis Lemaire, introduced legislation in March 1957 to
authorize local boards of education to conduct courses on the
college level for the first two years in their own towns.
All that would be required was the city or town had to
approve the establishment of a community college by a referendum
vote in a local election.
Although the bill required no State funding, it was tabled.
Becker took up the mantle and began in 1957 to
stimulate interest through the Connecticut Association of Public
School Superintendents, which appointed a sub-committee to support a
community college movement.
His principal supports among the superintendents were
neighbor Gerhard Rast of Westport and William Curtis in Manchester.
(Barclay p. 91) Becker
also found support in Lynn Savitsky, then President of the Central
Council of PTA, and with the American Association of University
Women's president, Madeline Bernard.
The inner circle of Becker's local supporters included Marvin
I. Gruss, Charlotte Chen, Max Leposky in addition to Savitsky and
Bernard. These civic leaders appreciated the importance of higher
education and held a strong sense of pride in Norwalk.
By June 4, 1957 Gruss reported to the Board of
Education "our community college bill is definitely lost.
The State Department of
Education did not get behind this and push it.
We are partially at fault because we did not go to them and
put the idea in their minds.
I hope we can arrange another meeting with them … Connecticut
is known as a deficit state in post secondary colleges.
Nothing is being done about it.
We have to do something drastic.
The only approach possible is community colleges, and I hope
we can keep pushing for it."
June 4, 1957 p.8-9) The
Connecticut Department of Education was aware of the State's ranking
near the bottom of the country in its support of higher education
according to the transcript of its Interim Committee on Education
Public Hearing on Community Colleges, May 14, 1958 at the State
Capitol. The State's
support of higher education extended to the University of
Connecticut, the four State Teachers' Colleges, and one technical
institute. Outside of
the State's support were six private junior colleges in Connecticut,
the Junior College of Connecticut in Bridgeport (which officially
became the University of Bridgeport in 1947), the University of
Hartford, Quinnipiac College of Hamden, Mitchell College of New
London, New Haven College and the Hartford College for Women.
This public hearing brought together those representing the
private junior colleges who demonstrated their planned growth and
their role in solving the gap in meeting the needs of future
students. They believed
that adding public community colleges would only raise taxes and
reduce available faculty to teach at the two-year institutions.
Frankly, they failed to see the need for public community
colleges when the private colleges believed they could handle it
their arguments, the Committee also heard from the Superintendent of
Public Schools from Newington, Mr. John Wallace, a member of the
Connecticut Association of School Superintendents.
He stated "the community college in not only thoroughly sound
from every educational standpoint, but it is also the most
economical kind of college to establish and operate.
One reason for this is that at least during the period of
organization and in some cases on a more or less permanent basis,
community colleges might use such facilities as the following in
selecting senior high schools: classrooms, library, laboratories,
gymnasium, and cafeteria. (Interim Committee, p. 6-7).
Also speaking at the public hearing was a delegation from the
Norwalk Public Schools led by Martin Gruss [misspelled in the
transcript as "Gross"], serving as Chairman of the Norwalk Board of
demonstrated how a municipal community college would solve problems
in geographic areas not well served by the private junior colleges
and serve populations of students with financial hardships that
would never be served by these same colleges.
Gruss went on to introduce the other Norwalk speakers staring
with Mrs. Lynn Savitsky, Chairman of the Education of the local
P.T.A. Council. She read a paper on need for more educational
facilities quoting from the Commission on Human Resources and
Advanced Training. Mrs. John
O'Connor of the Norwalk P.T.A. Board was the next speaker and she
read an editorial from the Bridgeport Telegram titled "Send a Boy to College" dated December 5,
1954 on the inability for most parents to pay the rising costs of
college educations. Mr.
Artie, Chairman of Norwalk's Post-Secondary Education Committee
followed. He stated that
while the distance to Bridgeport was only 14-15 miles, public
transportation which most students would use, was not very good and
prevented students with economic need from working and carrying a
Therefore, the availability of private junior colleges was not
addressing the needs of potential college students in the Norwalk
area. Gruss summarized
the two major points, the lack of facilities to meet the tremendous
influx of students into higher education and the increased cost of
college education. Mr.
James H. Halsey, president of the University of Bridgeport spoke in
favor of developing community colleges.
He also raised the possibility of municipalities working with
private colleges. Mr.
Nils Shalin, president of Quinnipiac College, stressed that it
wouldn't be a simple thing to add grades 13-14 onto the K-12 school
systems. He stressed
that community colleges need their own campus facilities and their
own faculties that these should not be dependent upon the public
school systems. (Interim
Committee p. 14)
These statements reiterated the primary
frustrations of many in the Norwalk who wanted to attend college and
those who supported them.
With the growing demand for college during the post World War
II era, there were limited opportunities for high school graduates
and others whose education may have lapsed due to work
or service to the country, to find a place among the public
or private institution of higher education in Connecticut.
Large increases in young
adult populations wanting to further their education but with
financial limitations could only compete for limited spaces in
Connecticut public state institutions or pursue vocational
alternatives. With 20
year projections to 1970 demonstrating that the current public and
private educational structure was inadequate to meet the growing
demand, those seeking an alternative, municipal community colleges
required State enabling legislation, that would allow municipal
governments to create locally managed and supported community
The House Majority Leader, Louis A. Padula, a representative
from Norwalk was a strong proponent of community colleges.
He was instrumental in influencing many other legislators.
The public hearings continued to draw supporters from various
organizations in Norwalk and this time the bill gained momentum came
to a vote. The Senate
Bill No. 21, Public Act No. 232 "An Act Enabling Board of Education
to Provide Post-Secondary Education" introduced in 1959 by Senator
Sibal with active assistance of State Representatives Louis A.
Padula, John Shostak, and John E. Vallerie, passed and was put into
effect on July 1, 1959.
[See Appendix for the text of Public Act No. 232]
Local elections had to
officially authorize local boards of education to conduct courses on
the college level for the first two years in their own towns.
(Barclay, p. 94-5)
Frankly the success of this bill had much to do with the fact
it didn't require any state funds, directly or indirectly and had
wide spread support.
In a letter from Sherwin Rodin, Chairman of the Norwalk PTA
Council Committee on Community Colleges, read at the Board of
Education meeting on June 14, 1960, he urged the Board to add the
creation of a community college to its agenda for discussion at an
early date. Mr. Rodin
was also present at the Board meeting and personally urged the
Board's early approval so that steps could be taken to proceed with
the necessary referendum and the ultimate approval by the voters of
Norwalk. "There is
necessarily a delay time of at least a year, so that if the matter
could come up for referendum this November, a community college
could not hope to begin its operations until the following year."
Rodin pressed the Board to make known its position on
creating a community college.
Dr. Becker followed up and stated that the Norwalk Chamber of
Commerce wanted to support a community college, through its efforts
and financially and was awaiting the Board of Education's decision.
(Board's Minutes dated June 14, 1960)
Barclay captures the enormous efforts undertaken to educate
the citizens of Norwalk about the issues prior to the election in
November. Five groups
coordinated their efforts and help public meetings.
Together the Central Council of the Parent Teachers
Association, Norwalk Chapters of the League of Women Voters and the
American Association of University Women, the Chamber of Commerce
and the Citizens Committee for the Community College, strongly
supported the bill and responded to concerns, primary among them
were increased taxes. To
keep costs to a minimum, existing facilities, specifically the newly
built $3,500,000 facility Brien McMahon High School would be used in
the late afternoons and evenings when no high school classes were in
session. The Brien
McMahon facility was completed in late 1960 and met or exceeded
The election was held on Nov. 8, 1960 and the
citizens of Norwalk overwhelmingly voted in favor of the proposal to
create a community college by a vote of 10,324 to 2,192.
The success in Norwalk was attributed to its location in the
industrialized section of the state with a strong democratic center
during this time period.
It's also important to note that the Democratic Party also
controlled the Connecticut legislature and the Governor was a
democrat. Norwalk and
more generally Fairfield County was then and is today the most
affluent county in the State with major contributors to the
Democratic political party. (Barclay p. 131)
Norwalk Community College
Under the direction of Harry Becker and the
Board of Education, Everett Baker, Vice-Principal of Norwalk High
School and part-time Director of Adult Education for Norwalk Public
Schools, was granted release time from his adult education duties in
order to prepare for the accreditation review of the educational
programs. (Board's Minutes December 6, 1960)
Six months later during an Executive Session of the Board of
Education on June 20, 1961, Becker reported that he was recommending
Mr. Everett I. L. Baker, presently Vice-Principal of Norwalk High
School, as Dean of the Community College and Director of Adult
Education. Out of 45
applicants for the position, Becker said Baker proved to be the best
qualified. He continued "in terms of the adult education position
there is no one who approaches his qualifications, and in terms of
the college position, he best meets the needs of the position in our
Community College." The
recommendation was approved by the Board and accepted according to
The Prospectus for the Organization of the Norwalk Community College was
completed by Everett Baker on February 10, 1961 under the direction
of Harry Becker. The
prospectus of the new community college included staff, curriculum,
facilities, and the terms of the fees.
These final plans were then submitted to the State Department
of Education on March 13, 1961 in the form of answers to a
Questionnaire for the Review
of Plans for the Establishment of the Norwalk Community College.
(Barclay p.100-1) The
Questionnaire addressed all facets of the Community College
including administration, (specifically naming Dr. Harry A. Becker
as President, ex-officio, and Mr. Everett I.L. Baker as Dean)
curricula, faculty, finances, library, objectives, plant and
equipment, records, students, and the supervision of instruction.
The competition for fund raising between institutions was no
less intense than the competition for state funding itself as these
exchanges from 1959 suggest.
The Norwalk Board of Education had received a letter dated
February 3, 1959 from Mayor Freese concerning the raising of funds
for the University of Connecticut, Stamford Branch. Under advisement
from the Board, it was decided to write to the Mayor explaining the
interest of the local Board in establishing a community college in
Norwalk but if the Mayor wanted to appoint someone else in Norwalk
to head the fund-raising committee, the Board would give that person
as much cooperation as possible.
Mayor Freese replied back on March 24th that he
would not ask anyone from Norwalk to give active leadership to the
University of Connecticut Stamford campus fund raising campaign.
According to the Board Minutes of May 20, 1959, Dr. Becker
informed the Board of Education that "in a conversation with Mr.
[Sherman] Prothero [of the Chamber of Commerce], following passage
of the community college bill by State legislature, he had learned
that a group of Norwalk industrialists were on the point of agreeing
to head a drive for the fund raising for the University of
Connecticut branch in Stamford.
According to Mr. Prothero., the group was prepared to give
$100,000. When Mr.
Prothero realized that the community college bill had passed both
houses of the legislature, he took steps to have the local business
leaders postpone affiliation with the Stamford drive."
On April 18, 1961, the Connecticut Department
of Education granted Norwalk Community College its license to
operate as a junior college for a period of two years ending June
30, 1963 provided its plans were modified by the recommendations of
Dean Grant Robley and Mowat G. Fraser chief of the Connecticut State
Department of Education, Bureau of Higher and Adult Education.
There were nine recommendations made by Robley and Fraser
that Baker implemented and included in a report of progress.
Developing a strong community college
Establishing an administrative plan
to designate the Dean as the chief Administrative Officer of the
Defining the degree requirements,
hiring competent faculty, both full-time and part-time, setting up
satisfactory tenure policies
Establishing entrance requirements
that assure the opportunity for college level studies
Caution in admitting high school
seniors to college courses
Adequate library staff and materials
to support college work
A comprehensive budget reviewing
certain calculations. (Fraser)
By the time of their interim visit to NCC on
March 21, 1962 all concerns had been addressed and these areas
became Commendations in the report dated May 11, 1962.
(The Board began to use the acronym "NCC" in its Minutes as
of January 1962.) Dr.
Becker had assured the Board that the visit would be a routine
matter as all issues had been addressed during the first year of
Minutes March 6, 1962)
There were also six items listed under
"Recommendations for improvement" that focused attention on both
longer term goals and specific requests. (See Appendix)
Responding to these recommended areas was critical to the
accreditation process, for although NCC had a license to operate as
a community college, they were not yet accredited.
Without accreditation, NCC would not be permitted to grant
Associate Degrees within the expected two year period of attendance
by its students. Toward
this end, Dean Everett Baker expended much effort in responding to
the lengthy Questionnaire for
the Evaluation of the Norwalk Community College which provided
objectives of the college in terms of general education,
occupational outcomes and in the development of the individual
students; a thorough description of the responsibilities of the
administration of the college, specifically its Board, the Citizens
Advisory Council, the President, the Dean, and the Faculty.
In all, there were 40 questions covering every facet of
college related activities and resources.
The objectives of the College and descriptions of the
administration are available in the Appendix.
While Everett Baker had completed all of the necessary
requirements for accreditation, and had been informed that on March
6, 1963 the Connecticut State Commission for Higher Education
officially accredited the College and authorized it to conduct
programs in Liberal Arts and Sciences, and in the field of Business
leading to the Associate Degree, a last minute effort by Norwalk's
State Representative Louis J. Padula was necessary.
Although Bill 3934 for accreditation passed through the
Republican controlled House without difficulty, the Education
Committee held it up in the Senate just days prior to NCC's first
The bill would permit "Norwalk Community College to confer such
degrees and grant such diplomas as is customary in institutions of
Without the passage of the bill, all the students graduating in
NCC's first class on June 9th would not receive diplomas
from a state accredited institution.
Mr. Padula, then House majority leader, according to the
Norwalk Hour, threatened to withhold important Senate bills unless
the college bill passed.
Senate leaders ordered the bill brought to the floor and it was
adopted in short order. Governor
John Dempsey sent a telegram to Dean Everett Baker on June 5, 1963
saying he had signed the bill granting the college the power to
confer degrees and diplomas. (Norwalk
Hour June 5, 1963)
Citizens Advisory Council
Critical to the success of NCC in its early
years was the dedication of the members of the Board of Education as
well as the members of the Citizens Advisory Council.
All members served without compensation but shared the goal
to provide higher education in Norwalk.
It was this group that served on committees that was
responsible for the actual operation of the College.
Their work was officially designated as the policy making
body of the College subject to the approval of the Norwalk Board of
There were 75 citizens who participated in the
Citizens Advisory Council and accomplished the detailed work of
admissions, academic standards, budget, curriculum, facilities,
faculty, nominations, long range planning, publicity, scholarship
and loan, student personnel, and the library.
Lists of members of these dedicated people and the By-Laws of
the Advisory Council can be found in the Appendices.
The first officers of the Citizens Advisory Council of NCC
were Attorney Max R. Lepofsky, chairman; Mrs. Preston N. (Madeline)
Bernard, vice-chairman, Carroll Cavanagh, treasurer, Mrs. Howard
Green, secretary. Max Lepofsky was elected to a second two-year term
as chairman in May 1963.
Madeline Bernard remained as vice-chairman and Fred M. Barr became
Marvin I. Gruss and Vice Admiral George F. Hussey Jr., were elected
to one year terms as members-at-large of the executive committee.
(Norwalk Hour, May
24, 1963) By January
1966, Madeline Bernard became Chairman; Marvin Gruss, Vice-Chairman;
Fred M. Barr remained treasurer; and Mrs. Walter Hall was secretary.
This is one illustration of how the Council
worked with the Dean and NCC faculty.
"Changes in the curricula offered at the College usually are
suggested by the faculty and administration and reviewed by the
Curriculum Committee of the Citizens Advisory Council.
The Committee may, however, originate suggestions. (Questionnaire
1966 p. 4; see the Appendix for the list of committee with the
names of chairs and members.)
Among these dedicated members of the Citizens
Advisory Council were a former Assistant Dean of the Harvard
Business School, who was now the president of the Board of Trustees
of the Norwalk Hospital, the Director of Development and Planning of
Norwalk Hospital, a retired television producer, the Director of
Education Services of Columbia Records, the Executive Director of
the United Fund, a former Superintendent of Schools and former staff
member of the U.S. Office of Education, three personnel directors, a
manufacturer, a retail merchant, the proprietor of a beauty salon, a
publishing company executive, a college professor, two school
teachers, the director of a private school, a YWCA physical
education instructor, the president of a management consultant firm,
a clergyman, the president of an automobile agency, the Executive
Director of the Jewish Family Service of New York City, an interior
decorator, an industrial designer, and a Certified Public
included on the Council were seven engineers, three physicians,
three librarians, two pharmacists, two bankers, six lawyers, two
housewives, a nurse, a city planning consultant, an education
specialist, three industrial executives, a retired Admiral, a
purchasing agent, a service representative for a fuel oil company, a
real estate and insurance executive, four industrial department
managers, two sales managers, and two former school teachers.
Nine of these members are former members of the Board of
1966) Under the
leadership of Max Lepofsky and the Citizens Advisory Council, NCC
gained recognition throughout Fairfield County and beyond.
In 1964, the Sylvester Fund was established by
NCC in memory of Arthur D. Sylvester who had been of one the
original members of the Citizens Advisory Council.
The fund sponsors an annual speaker who also engages the
students in informal discussion over a day or two.
The first speaker was Dr. Francis Horn, President of the
University of Rhode Island.
Administration and Faculty
Dr. Becker's foremost concern was the
development of the educational program at the highest level.
He was responsible for personnel policies and interactions
with and maintaining support of the public, alumni, and the
legislators. He assured
the Board that sound business practices were adhered to for all
expenditures and management.
Everett Baker was the chief administrative officer.
His responsibility was to work with the Citizens Advisory
Council and its numerous committees to assure sound functioning of
the College. He
interpreted and implemented policies, responded to the State Board
of Higher Education, spoke on behalf of the faculty, developed a
strong spirit of loyalty among the faculty to the College, and
dedicated the actions of everyone at the College to the development
and success of the students.
Sometimes their roles overlapped.
It was Everett Baker who went to Hartford on behalf of Dr
Harry Becker and himself, to meet the Committee on Education at the
State Capitol to support two bills to affect changes to Connecticut
Both bills were submitted to the General Assembly by
Representatives Louis Padula and John Shostak.
HB 3359 was an act that recognized Connecticut community
colleges as "upward extensions of secondary education" so that they
would be eligible for benefits under the National Defense Education
Act. The other bill, HB
3344 amended the method of determining how full-time community
college students are counted.
State aid would reduce the tuition charges made to community
college students. The
co-chairman of the Committee on Education, Frank J. DiLoreto and
Guido LaGrotta, received endorsement of both bills from Attorney
Ernest L. Josem, chairman of the Norwalk Board of Education and from
Joseph I. Shulman, chairman of the Committee on Higher Education. (Norwalk
Hour, March 20, 1963)
The faculty was given responsibilities to make recommendation
to the Council on matters concerning admissions, academic standards,
curriculum, and graduation requirements.
These recommendations were subject to the review of the
Citizens Advisory Council and the Norwalk Board of Education.
The faculty held meetings within disciplines during these
first years as a municipal College for English, foreign languages,
mathematics, science, social studies, and psychology.
In 1961-62 there were only three full-time
faculty and 21 part-time instructors.
By 1965-66 the number of full-time faculty increased to 17
full-time faculty and 47 part-time instructors.
Faculty was given a high degree of academic freedom to teach
their subjects with "the full awareness that they are members of a
non-sectarian, public college in a democratic society." (Questionnaire
1966 p. 30) The Norwalk Board of Education was traditionally
viewed as a liberal institution in a broad minded community.
Faculty salaries were based on the salary scale of Norwalk
Public School teachers which was compared favorably to many
preference was given to local residents, faculty positions were
advertised at leading colleges, universities and teacher agencies.
The Faculty by law had to be members of the Connecticut
Teachers Retirement Association with options for individual plans.
They were also members of the Connecticut Education
Association. (Questionnaire 1966)
Additional administrative hires included the Director of
Student Personnel, Hobart P. Pardee, the Director of the Division of
Business Administration, Joseph G. Woods, the Director of Admissions
and Registrar, Frank S. Wright, Bursar Robert A. Verna; Student
Counselor and Instructor, Joseph Jayko, Student Counselor
(part-time) Mary W. Brackett; and Librarian (part-time) Fyle Edberg
. In addition to these
individuals hired by NCC, staff members of the Norwalk Public
Schools performed many services gratis to the College.
These individuals included the Superintendent of Schools, the
Assistant Superintendent for Financial Affairs, the Chief Accountant
and various department chairs and other experts contributed their
time and experience. In
addition, the Maintenance Director and his staff assisted as needed.
The Board of Education also absorbed minor capital
improvements, and all utilities.
Financially, the College was able to pay faculty and
administrative salary expenditures, library materials, other
supplies, and most expenses from the income from students' tuition.
For the rest, the College used tax dollars budgeted by the
Norwalk Board of Education. (Questionnaire, 1966)
First Home at Norwalk's Brien McMahon High School
While use of the newly built Brien McMahon High
School on Highland Avenue solved the immediate problems of where to
hold classes, it was not an ideal situation and was never meant to
be permanent. The
principal of Brien McMahon High School, Dr. Luther A. Howard, and
his staff shared the facilities in a spirit of friendly
co-operation. NCC held
classes in 35 standard classrooms as well as used 37 special rooms
for music, industrial arts, business education, home economics, fine
arts, eight science labs, a language lab, and two gymnasiums.
Classes were held from 2:00
pm to 10:00 pm daily after regular high school hours.
The Norwalk Hour
notes on June 3, 1963 shortly before the first graduation of the
College, "This enterprising day and night use of a magnificently
equipped new school building is attracting increasing comment from
other communities. The
degree of its success among students in Norwalk may be gauged from
the fact that at present new applications for enrollment next fall
now equal the total enrollment of the first semester in 1961.
And most of these are from high school seniors who will be
graduating this month."
By June of 1963 the Board of Education was aware that the use
of Brien McMahon facilities by the College was nearing capacity of
classroom space and in terms of the library which needed to grow
quickly and although only satisfying a minimal sized collection, it
was already at capacity.
The Citizens Advisory Council suggested to the Board of Education
"it might be wise to consider land adjacent to Brien McMahon school
property for possible future expansion."
(Norwalk Hour April
1, 1963) Architects presented
plans for additional administrative offices and a student lounge
area in May 1963. By
December 1963 Dr. Becker estimated enrollment at NCC to top 750
students and while Brien McMahon could handle that increase, he
implored the Board to "begin working on the problem of new housing
The Board had just approved the usage of Columbus-Lincoln, Norwalk
High School and Roosevelt School as bomb shelters in the event of an
emergency at the request of the Norwalk Civil Defense days before
the Cuban Missile Crisis.
October 3, 1963) A year later
the Community College Committee of the Chamber of Commerce
recommended to the Advisory Board of Community College the need to
project future student enrollment, facilities and equipment, and
that the Planning Commission needed to determine available land on
which to build providing for future expansion.
Future land options in 1964 included the possibility of the
Gallaher property then owned by the Stevens Institute of Technology.
The Community College Committee of the Chamber of Commerce
also recommended a meeting with the first selectmen and
superintendent of schools of New Canaan, Darien, Westport, and
Wilton to discuss making the local college an area institution.
(Norwalk Hour, Oct.
10, 1964) Physical
space limitations continued for many years to be an issue for
Norwalk Community College.
In 1965, an application was made for federal aid under the
Higher Education Act of 1963 to secure funding for a one million
dollar general-purpose facility.
A grant of $100,000 was pledged by The Frank Chase Estate if
the remainder of the funds could be raised through federal aid and
additional pledges. (Questionnaire,
1966) This pledge
assumed the College would remain under the control of the City of
Additional funds, over $106,000, were secured from the
federal government under the Vocational Education Act of 1963 for
equipment and books for business programs.
In response to their request for additional space the Board
of Education offered the College full use of half of the Nathaniel
Ely Elementary School effective September 1965.
NCC's new Division of Business Administration moved into the
Ely School, with its own business library.
1966, p. 22)
Continuous development of the NCC Library was necessary for
accreditation by the state and also as a basic resource for the
College. Max Lepofsky,
during his tenure as chairman of the Advisory Council, expressed
concern at the depletion of library funds and launched a new
campaign in the summer of 1963 to revitalize library funding through
the efforts of the Financial Advisory Committee which included among
its members every council officers and committee chairmen.
(Norwalk Hour May
8, 1963) Donations of
cash to the Library Fund and book donations were noted in the
Norwalk Hour periodically and also in the Minutes of the Advisory
Council. Donations were
also made for specific equipment for the college.
In December 1963, the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing
Company (later 3M) selected 500 colleges by grant application,
including NCC, to receive $3,000 worth of teaching tools including a
visual communication system, overhead projects, transparency makes,
transparency film and copy paper. (Norwalk
Hour Dec. 10, 1963).
Programs and Students
During the years that NCC was a municipal
college, it did not have an open enrollment policy.
Applicants were screened based on their academic achievement
in high school, results of the Entrance Battery of Tests (including
the School and College Ability Test known as SCAT available from the
Cooperative Testing Service in Princeton, NJ), College Entrance
Examination Board scores if available, a personal interview, and the
health of the applicant.
Students were evaluated on their potential ability to successfully
complete college level course work.
All applicants had to be graduates of an approved secondary
school or earned a State High School Equivalency Certificate.
Students whose backgrounds were not
academically sound but demonstrated a probability of success were
admitted as probationary students which would be removed if a "C"
average was earned for a minimum of 12 credit hours.
Those students who were required to take more than two
remedial courses were admitted as special students.
If successful, they could apply for admission as matriculated
announcements of upcoming entrance exam dates were announced in the
Norwalk Hour to allow
students who needed to take pre-college courses to do so over the
summer. (Norwalk Hour June
Within the first two years of the College,
other colleges were accepting transfer students from NCC with credit
for courses taken. These
colleges included the University of Bridgeport, Southern Connecticut
State College, Long Island University, Danbury State College,
University of Connecticut, College of Advance Science, Salem
College, Orange Community College, Rocky Mountain College, New
England College, Washington State Teachers College, American
International College, University of Michigan, and Massachusetts
Institute of Technology. (Norwalk
Hour Feb. 27, 1963)
The programs available at NCC by 1965-65 included Liberal
Arts, General Education, Nursing Program in conjunction with the
Norwalk Hospital School of Nursing, and Accounting Business
Administration with majors in accounting, general business,
marketing, data processing, traffic and transportation, secretarial
studies with options for executive secretary, legal secretary,
medical secretary, and technical science.
Beginning in 1965-66 NCC also instituted a foreign language
requirement for Liberal Arts.
The Nursing Program provided the academic program for student
nurses preparing for the registered nurse license.
It was part of the three-year nursing program offered by the
Norwalk Hospital School of Nursing.
The student full-time enrollment data for the
fall semester showed continuous growth in the five year period from
1961 to 1965. NCC
received accreditation in 1963.
The fall class of 1965 included 588 male and 182 female
full-time students and 220 male and 249 female part-time students.
There were 306 students enrolled for the summer of 1965.
The geographically diversity of students included only eight
non-residents of Connecticut, two from New York, one student from
each of these countries: Costa Rica, Ecuador, Finland, Germany,
Hungary, Italy, and the United Kingdom. Ninety-five percent of NCC's
full-time students lived within 20 miles of the College.
1966, p. 24)
NCC sponsored extra-curricular student
Sky Diving Club
Men's Social Fraternity
Convocations (8 per year; 5 are required)
Com Col Capers (a variety show)
Snowbound Dance Homecoming (for alumni)
Activities of the student body were a factor in the formal
accreditation of NCC by the Connecticut State Board of Education
according to Dean Everett Baker. "While their extracurricular
activities include Ski Club trips and foreign language club trips to
such places as the United Nations, the Metropolitan Museum and other
international and cultural centers, they also have a sense of civic
mindedness. For example
the Student Government co-sponsored the Red Cross bloodmobile drive
with the Automatic Signal Division of Laboratory for Electronics,
Inc. on March 12, 1963. This
activity involved cooperation with the Norwalk State Technical
Institute where the bloodmobile was located.
March 20, 1963)
Not everything progressed smoothly in the early years of NCC.
In an interview with Lea Mintz, who served on various
committees of the Norwalk Board of Education from the 1950s and then
on the Board itself from1966 to 1972 including a term as president,
she spoke of terrible friction between the parents and the people at
Brien McMahon and the new College over the propriety feelings about
the use of the new high school.
One particular area of friction was the need to use the
science-chem labs but there were several others including the
overlap in need of facilities for high school sports after school.
The only mention of animosities that made the
Norwalk Hour on June 19,
1963, was the report of the burning of the three-foot by five-foot
sign indicating the site of the Norwalk Community College.
It was severely scorched by the flames and the Fire
Department did find an inflammable liquid at the scene that had been
used to start the fire.
The sign was valued at $300.
The damage was attributed to vandals.
According to the article in the
Norwalk Hour, it was the
second time in six months that the sign had been damaged by vandals.
Beyond Norwalk's City Limits
The establishment of Norwalk Community College
was of great interest
among other educators in the state.
Dean Everett Baker spoke to the Education Association of
Connecticut in March of 1963 on the development of the College.
The Association is comprised of staff from the Department of
Higher Education at all levels from directors and staff of
instructional services, administrative services and vocational
education as well as chiefs and members of educational bureaus.
They were impressed by the achievement of running the College
without any additional cost in plant and facilities from the local
taxpayers. Aside from
the economical use of existing school facilities, guaranteeing
opportunities for higher education to all qualified students,
expanding educational services to the community at the lowest
possible cost, left deep impressions upon the educators.
Dean Baker also spoke about the qualified faculty, the high
morale of the student body and the response of the public surpassing
the College's most optimistic expectations. (Norwalk
Hour, March 12, 1963)
In spring 1964 and again in November, NCC and Manchester
Community College co-sponsored conferences to inform and assist
communities who were planning to develop a public community college.
Prior to the end of the Conference in November, the newly
created Connecticut Association for Public Community Colleges
appointed a By-laws committee that included Dr. Becker.
Sixteen delegations from other communities in Connecticut who
were hopeful of starting their own public community colleges as well
as educators throughout the state attended and met with the Citizen
Advisory Councils of both Colleges, state legislators, city
government officials, civic leaders, and state and local educators
including the Governor's Commission on Higher Education.
Dr. Becker presided at the afternoon session that included
the address of Dr. Mowat G. Fraser, who addressed the conference on
public community colleges and the challenge of rising enrollment.
The audience heard the estimates, that thousands of students
were unable to attend college for financial and other reasons.
Community colleges within easy commuting distances from their
homes were seen as the solution for the majority of these students.
At this conference, a
resolution passed to urge the Legislature and the State Board of
Education to provide adequate financial assistance for public
community colleges. Dr.
George Sanborn of the State Department of Education spoke later in
the day at the conference and announced an opinion from the State
Attorney General that public community colleges are eligible for
State aid for new buildings or alternations under existing
legislation. This meant
that Norwalk Community College could obtain 40% aid under the
Federal Higher Education Act, and up to 50% aid from State
Post, November 19, 1964) The
best chance for success would be to find a site already owned by the
City of Norwalk. The
College only needed 10% of the cost.
A month later on December 16, 1964 the headlines of the
Norwalk Hour claim "School Board to Seek Grants for College'
Considers $1 Million Unit in Cranbury."
The article indicates the Board of Education voted to apply
for $500,000 from the state and $400,000 from the federal government
and the prospect of raising $100,000 from a private donor within the
month, possibly from the Fran Chase Estate of $250,000 bequeathed to
the City of Norwalk months previously. The College was supported in
this effort by the City of Norwalk Mayor Frank J. Cooke.
a State System of Community Colleges in Connecticut
On an altogether separate timeline were the higher education
hearings and meetings held in 1963 by the Joint Standing Committee
on Education to study the state's higher education needs.
The Commission created by this Committee hired federal
researchers, led by Dr. M.W. Stout of the U.S. Department of Health,
Education, and Welfare to investigate why the State of Connecticut
was not meeting the educational needs of citizens and recommend how
to proceed. In a
critical report of poor performance, one of the recommendations in
the final report was a statewide system of public community college
under a separate agency.
Stout charged that the lack of a central higher education authority
resulted in various institutions vying for their own growth without
concern for the broader educational issues or educational
opportunities for all.
The report expressed concern over the high tuition at the municipal
community colleges in Norwalk and Manchester which would turn away
students and noted that the laws that created these institutions
were inadequate. The use
of high schools hampered the development of the community colleges
for they could expand after the first few years.
The Stout report was published by the State of Connecticut in
upon the Stout report, the Commission on Higher Education proposed
to the governor in Dec. 1964 a comprehensive plan of higher
education. One of the
highlights of the report of the Study Commission on Higher Education
was the creation of a statewide system of public community colleges.
It further recommended that community colleges be located so
as to provide every Connecticut student a community college within
reasonable commuting distance."
It was believed that community colleges could be established
quickly as they could share high school facilities and thereby
reduce state expenditures on facilities.
In June of 1965 the General Assembly passed a
comprehensive Connecticut Higher Education Act (P.A. 330) designed
to bring the University of Connecticut, the state colleges, and the
community colleges under one higher education authority.
The General Assembly established a twelve member State Board
of Trustees for Regional Community Colleges.
The Governor made these appointments to the Board of Trustees
for two, four, of six year terms (end of each term is follows each
trustee's name): Mrs. Katherine Bourn, chairman (1971), Max
Lepofsky, vice-chairman (1971), Mrs. Ruth W. Greenberg, secretary
(1971), and Mrs. Doris Devera (1967), Henry E. Fagan (1969), Mrs.
Elizabeth Joyner (1969), Paul Mali (1967), John McDevitt (1971),
Vincent J. Scampoinro (1967), Mrs. Beryl Strout (1969), Mrs.
Marjorie Terrell (1967), and Max R. Traurig (1969).
These members of the State Board represented 12 cities in
geographically distributed regions around the state: Manchester,
Norwalk, Bethany, Stafford Springs, Stratford, Winchester, Groton,
New Haven, Middletown, Wallingford, West Hartford and Waterbury.
The Executive Officer of the State System of Community
Colleges was Theodore Powell.
The State Legislature appropriated $1 million dollars for
construction to support the state system.
The Board of Trustees for Regional Community Colleges'
authority included administering the State System of Community
Colleges, providing programs of study for college transfer, terminal
vocational, retraining and continuing education leading to
occupational certificates or to the degrees of Associate in Art and
Associate in Science.
Also implied in Public Act 330 was a strong commitment to the
development of broader higher educational opportunities by the
people of Connecticut.
The first step was to transfer to state jurisdiction Norwalk
and Manchester community colleges that had operated under municipal
boards of education.
Manchester, like Norwalk, had opened a
municipal college under their Superintendent of Public Schools,
William H. Curtis in the fall 1962 just one year after NCC opened.
A third institution had been planned by the local citizens'
committee in Winsted to open in fall 1965.
Northwestern Connecticut Community College opened its door
under state authority on September 1, 1965 and began classes on
September 29, 1965 with 10 full-time employees and one part-time
Community College which had been holding classes in Manchester High
School, was also transferred to state jurisdiction on September 1,
1965. Manchester had 9
full-time and 45 part-time employees.
Norwalk Community College was transferred to the state
regional system on Feb. 1, 1966 with 22 full-time and 55 part-time
The Norwalk Board of Education indicated in its Minutes, the
desire to have the College join the state system of Regional
Community Colleges shortly after the passage of Public Act 330 and
the reorganization of public higher education in Connecticut.
Dean Baker outlined the preliminary stages for the transition
to state control in line with the Connecticut Higher Education Act.
During this transitional year, the Citizens Advisory Council
ceased to make long range plans for the College but continued its
efforts to raise funds to support the Scholarship-Loan Fund.
A consolidation of the "Friends of Norwalk Community College"
was also in process with the focus on becoming a separate
corporation or foundation to continue their work in fundraising for
the College. (Questionnaire,
1966 p. 21) The
Treasurer's Report to the Citizens Advisory Council at the September
30, 1965 meeting notes that the monies in the Sylvester Fund
($3,867.00) and the Scholarship Fund ($2,982.00) will be transferred
to an account entitled "Friends of Norwalk Community College" with
Fred Barr and David Baumgarten as co-signators.
Lea Mintz recalled that time well.
She wanted Norwalk to be the first and the best among the
state colleges. Because
of the financial problems in the City of Norwalk, the Board of
Education continued to cut back on many initiatives, such as
sufficient funds to support kindergarten programs.
It made no sense to keep NCC as a municipal institution if
the State was willing to support it.
This made the most sense at the time. (Mintz)
While the Board of Education supported the statewide
organization, members of the College's Advisory Council had passed a
resolution calling on the Board of Education to postpone for 18
months its decision to place the school under state control.
The two primarily reasons for the delay were Norwalk's
failure to receive from the state sufficient funds to cover its
proposed budget for 1965-66 thereby limiting enrollment, and the
second reason was the removal of local decision making.
The difference in the budget was primarily due to higher
salary levels for faculty as set by the State Board of Regional
October 13, 1965 p. 1)
The smaller budget would require limiting enrollment at NCC which
philosophically was in opposition to Norwalk's approach to make
college education available to all who desire it.
Hour, September 24, 1965 p.1-2)
The State Board of Regional Community Colleges had not only
imposed the higher faculty salaries on the community colleges, but
it also surprised the Commission on Higher Education which bears the
responsibility for planning and coordination for the educational
system in the state. The
State Boards' quick
decisions also included the hiring of an executive officer, with the
new title of president, at a salary of $19,000 which was $3,000 more
than the community college presidents were to earn. While all legal,
these actions resulted in a public outcry in Norwalk. (Norwalk
Hour October 21, 1965)
By late October, no final agreement was made by the Norwalk
Board of Education to join the State community college system.
The Advisory Board hoped the next year's General Assembly
would assist with Norwalk's full budget.
But State Representative Louis J. Padula warned of the
dangers of going-it-alone in financial terms.
Padula said it "would be a serious mistake for Norwalk to
believe that in go-it-alone status, the city's junior community
college will receive any special financial consideration from the
General Assembly. I can
tell them right now that there will be no sympathetic ear for
Norwalk in the Legislature if it decides not to join the
system...There is no guarantee … that at the end of 18 months, the
state would then accept Norwalk institution into the system.
By that time, he predicted, there will be a state community
college in this same area and the state may not be receptive to
adding another." (Herald, November 21, 1965 p. 16)
Board of Education made the decision to join the state system.
With the closure of Norwalk Community College as a municipal
institution under the direction of the Norwalk Board of Education,
Harry Becker stepped down as president on January 31, 1966.
Everett I. L. Baker became president on February 1, 1966.
According to President Baker's Annual Report for 1965-1966,
when agreement was finally reached on budgetary arrangements that
made it likely that all students who applied in September, 1966
could be admitted, final agreements were reached and the papers
providing for the transfer signed by Governor Dempsey and other
officials on March 11, 1966, making entry into the System
retroactive to February 1, 1966." Thus on February 1, 1966 the control of the College
was passed to the State of Connecticut from the City of Norwalk and
the College became a member of the State system under the
jurisdiction of the State Board of Trustees for Regional Community