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Stewarts HCC alumni role continues to increase

September 07, 2006|by JANET HEIM

Editor's note - There are a lot of people you see around town you recognize, but may not know anything about. People like...

Lisa Stewart

Age - 48.

Occupation - Alumni coordinator for Hagerstown Community College.

Hometown - Hagerstown.

Where would you see Stewart? - As alumni coordinator for HCC, Stewart is helping finalize plans for the 60th anniversary of the college. Stewart and the 42 members on the board of the Alumni Association have scheduled events to appeal to all ages.

This weekend will be packed with special events, from the 5K run Saturday morning to the alumni ball at Fountain Head Country Club in the evening to the reunion Sunday afternoon for students during the college's first 15 years (1946-1962).

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"There are few people who haven't had a family member take a class at the college whether College for Kids, through the Essence program for high school students or traveled with the seniors program," Stewart said. "Just about everyone in the community has ties to the college."

As she puts the finishing touches on the memory book for the first 15 graduating classes, Stewart said she is touched by the stories from the students.

Some were returning veterans who took evening classes when the college first opened and classes were held in the old Hagerstown High School. Others recall the next location at South Hagerstown High that some referred to as a "crackerbox."

Stewart said it has been gratifying for her to hear about the positive impact the college has had in shaping the lives of many alumni.

The Hagerstown native knows first hand what a difference the college has made in the life of her family. In addition to herself, her mother, foster sister, sister-in-law, two nieces and nephew attended the college.

Stewart was the youngest of four children. When her father died in 1967 when she was 9, her mother faced some hard decisions.

A stay-at-home mom, Ellen "Jean" Stewart had always wanted to teach. Stewart's older sister, who was a teacher in California then, enrolled their mother in classes at what was then Hagerstown Junior College.

Jean Stewart became the first person in her family to go to college and the first person to graduate from college. She transferred to Shepherd College and taught in the Washington County school system, Stewart said.

Stewart has memories of going to classes as a little girl with her mother and playing with dolls in the library, an experience that made an impression on her.

A 1979 graduate of HCC herself, Stewart transferred to Shepherd University where she graduated with a degree in psychology and English.

"It's touched my family in a broad spectrum ... the education we've gotten here has helped us go on to other venues. It's been a blessing to us," Stewart said.

Fifteen years ago, her mother saw the ad for a part-time alumni coordinator job at HCC and encouraged Stewart to apply. At the time, Stewart was president of the Highland View Academy Alumni Association, where she graduated from high school.

She said she was doing much of what the HCC job involved, but as a volunteer. Stewart was offered the job and took it, thinking it would be a stepping stone.

Instead, it became a full-time job that she loves and that has evolved with her. Stewart said she's also part-time events planner, helping plan some of the events at the college.

She said she doesn't ever do the same thing day-to-day. One day she might be writing the college newsletter, the next driving a golf cart for an event.

"It's a good working environment, not just our office, the whole college. That's a plus," Stewart said.

Stewart, who lives on Crystal Falls Drive, felt it was important for the HCC Alumni Association to have a goal. They came up with the idea for an outdoor venue for performances, starting small and letting the idea grow to what is now the amphitheater.

Building began on the amphitheater in 1996 and is now the site of concerts and performances, the majority of which are free and open to the public.

The amphitheater debt is chipped away year by year with proceeds from the annual HCC Flower and Garden Show, which began under Stewart's leadership. Each year they pay off about $30,000 and there's about $122,000 left to pay off, Stewart said.

The Alumni Association has about 600 members, which has grown considerably over the years, both in numbers and their fundraising efforts. Annual dues are $25, one-quarter of which goes to the Alumni Scholarship Fund.

Stewart said you don't have to be an HCC grad to join. She added that her goal for board meetings is "to try to make it fun, always have food and laugh a lot."

Hobbies - Stewart, who is single, likes to walk, read and travel. She also raises Shuts puppies. She said whenever she takes vacation time, she makes a point of going away.

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