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Former dean Galligan touts value of economical education

Former dean Galligan touts value of economical education

September 12, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - Asked to talk about his years at Hagerstown Community College, Carl Galligan doesn't want to mention the countless stories and memories he must have from his 33 years as dean of students.

He wants to talk about the importance of the community college, a topic he's still passionate about three years after retiring from HCC. The college is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, and many former employees and students are remembering the school's beginning and its progress.

"We called it opportunity college," Galligan said.

When Galligan started working at Hagerstown Junior College, he said the school was a place for students who could not afford to study at traditional four-year universities or were unsure what they wanted to study.

"It was an opportunity to experience different fields of study at a reasonable price," Galligan said.

Most students were the first in their families to go to college.

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Galligan began working at HCC as a counselor in 1966. After five years, he became dean of students. He retired in 2003.

It was not long after starting at HCC that Galligan said he developed a three-fold mission for the community college.

The first part of the mission was to prepare students to transfer to other colleges. The second was career preparation for vocations, like nursing and criminal justice, that require two-year degrees. The third mission of the community college was to allow residents to take special-interest courses like knitting.

"These are the lifelong learners," Galligan said.

In 1966, he said the majority of HCC's 641 students were recent high school graduates. Now, the majority of students enrolled are adult learners.

"It's a really important economic factor for some citizens," he said. "They work and learn. They may go to school part time at night for years."

The importance of the community college goes beyond convenience and cost. The mission is important for the county, the state and the nation, Galligan said.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, he said HCC's population grew, and many of those enrolled were Vietnam War veterans.

"That was a really exciting time for the college," he said.

HCC began as a night school for World War II veterans, and 25 years later, there was another influx of war veterans.

"There were more than 200 veterans," Galligan said. "I never told the vets that they could have taken over the running of the school."

Having been at HCC for nearly 40 years, he said he saw a lot of changes. Students went from wearing tie-dyed shirts to baggy jeans and baseball caps.

"I don't think I ever noticed a change in the students' commitment, though," Galligan said. "No matter how they dressed or the temper of the time, they were on track academically."

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