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For HCC grads, the numbers add up

October 28, 2007|By BOB MAGINNIS

Looking at the four confident professionals sitting at a conference table in an office that takes up the entire third floor of an office building on Hagerstown's Professional Court, it's tough to believe that the partners in Albright, Crumbacker, Moul and Itell were ever unsure about anything.

But Arthur Crumbacker, Sue Wright, Peter Alexander and John Itell were once students (and later graduates) at Hagerstown Community College. And, like many students today, not all were sure what they wanted to do.

The four accountants agreed to talk about those long-ago days to draw some publicity to HCC's current scholarship and capital campaign committee.

According to Dick Phoebus, the campaign chair, the $5 million they hope to raise will fund additional scholarships, a renovation of the Career Programs Building, expand the Commercial Vehicle Transportation Program and develop new courses that make use of the latest learning technology.

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That's a large goal, but Phoebus said that $4 million has already been raised. That total includes two large individual contributions, one for $1 million and the other for $200,000.

Based on their own experience, the four partners said that going to Hagerstown Community College allows a student to work while attending college, but more important, get individual attention from educators who were dedicated to mentoring their students.

Crumbacker said he began at HCC while the school was still housed at South Hagerstown High School. At the time, he said, he was really not interested in going to college.

"The only reason that I went was that my brother forced me to go. He paid my tuition for the first semester and I knew he couldn't afford it," Crumbacker said, adding that "I wasn't a stellar student by any means."

But with the help of Carl Galligan, the HCC's dean of students for 33 years, Crumbacher said he made it, obtaining a student loan that he didn't need to start repaying until finishing four years of college.

"The whole thing was just a good experience, the whole environment at the college," he said.

When Itell began at HCC, he was working at a grocery store and hoped to get a degree that would help him advance in the food industry.

"I had a few accounting courses and I did well and two of my instructors, Lamar Creager and Joe Mosteller, said 'You really need to consider a career path change.'"

When Pangborn Corp. called the college asking for a bright student to work as an accounting clerk, the instructors suggested Itell. He continued school while employed there, commuting to the University of Baltimore after graduating from HCC.

His favorite memory is of his instructors, whom he said were both enjoyable and accessible.

Unlike his colleagues, Peter Alexander said he knew when he began HCC that he wanted to be an accountant.

"I liked math and I enjoyed working with people," he said.

Going to HCC also allowed him to live at home and work 30 hours a week while attending classes.

"Being a Washington County resident made it very affordable," he said.

Because he graduated with one of HCC's top 20 grade point averages, he was eligible for a tuition discount at Shepherd University.

But when he got there, Alexander said he was pleasantly surprised to find that in some courses, he'd already studied material that was just being introduced to students who'd been at Shepherd all along.

Alexander said one thing he liked about HCC was that many instructors were also professionals working in the professions they were teaching about.

Sue Wright didn't have the money worries her colleagues had, because she received a Maryland senatorial scholarship.

She said she worked in the TV instruction department of the Washington County Board of Education and decided to major in radio, TV and film when she transferred to the University System of Maryland's College Park campus.

But when her father became ill, she returned to the area and worked for Wright-Gardner Insurance owner Fred Wright Jr., to develop a computer program for that company.

"That's basically how I got interested in accounting," she said.

She hasn't forgotten about computers, however, and is now the firm's information and technology specialist.

Not everyone is as willing as these four to revisit their humble beginnings. They did it not to trumpet how far they've come, but to make the point that for many people, HCC is the best way to start a college career.

With smaller classes, a faculty that takes the time to work with students and affordable tuition, HCC is, for many, the only way to get a college education.

It's also an open-access campus. If you graduate from high school, you can attend HCC. Depending on how much you've already learned, you might have to take some remedial courses. But if you do, you'll be prepared for whatever comes next.

If you can contribute to this appeal, please send a check to Hagerstown Community College, 11400 Robinwood Drive, Hagerstown MD 21742 and mark it to the attention of Lieba J. Cohen.

Bob Maginnis is

editorial page editor of

The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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