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Editorial - Drop the 'Junior' in HJC

January 23, 1998

Two years ago, Hagerstown Junior College marked its 50th year as a local educational institution. This year the people who run it believe it's come far enough to leave behind the "Junior" in its title. We agree. Barring the discovery of some unforeseen major expense involved in the name change, it should take place as soon as possible.

Just how far HJC has come is a remarkable story. Begun after World War II in the old Hagerstown High School to meet the educational needs of returning GIs, it was almost shut down in 1953 when enrollment began to decline.

But then Atlee Kepler was appointed dean and began an ambitious program that not only recruited students, but also sold the idea of higher education as a valuable commodity to the community at large. When Kepler retired in 1986, the college was accredited and had its own campus on Robinwood Drive. Under the leadership of Kelper's successor, Dr. Norman Shea, HJC has continued to grow.

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In the 10 years beginning in 1986, HJC's endowment fund grew from $300,000 to $2.3 million. The campus computer system has been upgraded with a fiber optic network and Internet access. A New Technology Center has provided an incubator for new businesses that can't yet afford the investment that new computer-controlled manufacturing machinery requires. A large recreation center was built that hosts a variety of county-sponsored youth programs and also contains a Wellness Center that promotes healthy nutrition and exercise.

The college has not neglected its basic academic mission either, announcing plans for an $8.2 million Learning Resource Center with a library and a series of computer classrooms. And it continues to be the host site for a variety of programs transmitted to the HJC campus by four-year colleges.

None of this sounds like the activity associated with a small subsidiary of a college. Let's consign "junior" to the history books in favor of a title that better reflects the mission of a proud educational institution now approaching a robust middle age.

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