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New book about Hagerstown Community College's history unveiled in Kepler Center

August 30, 2013|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com
  • Diane Weaver, author of "The Community's College: The Remarkable Journey of Hagerstown Community College 1946-2012," unveils the book's cover Tuesday at Hagerstwon Community College's Kepler Theater.
By Colleen McGrath / Staff Photographer

From holding classes in a building at Hagerstown High School, to moving to the grounds of South Hagerstown High School, and finally settling at its Robinwood Drive location in 1966, Hagerstown Community College has come a long way since 1946.

HCC officials ruminated on the school’s evolution Tuesday when a book detailing the school’s history was unveiled in the Kepler Center.

The 339-page book, titled “The Community’s College: The Remarkable Journey of Hagerstown Community College 1946-2012,” was written by Diane Weaver, a former HCC professor, coordinator and adviser.

“Hagerstown Community College was Maryland’s first community college, and I don’t care what Montgomery College has to say,” she said to a round of applause as she spoke to the audience in the Kepler Theater, which, as the book points out, was named for the late Atlee Kepler, the school’s first president in 1961.

The book’s cover is a collection of photos showing college scenes over the years.

Weaver said that in addition to explaining how the college has changed over time — for one thing, it started out as Hagerstown Junior College before the name was changed to Hagerstown Community College — the book also documents the struggles it supporters faced, from getting it started to involving the community and expanding.

“It might not have survived had it not been for the leadership of the college and the community,” she said. “Those two were connected from the very beginning.”

The book also documents the building known as the “cracker box” that the college used at South Hagerstown High School from 1956 to 1966. It touches on integration, noting that Leon Brumback became the school’s first black graduate in 1958.

Weaver — who worked at the school from 1978 to 1986 and again from 2001 to 2009 as a history teacher, academic adviser and career-development program coordinator — said that the school has a long history of being part of the Hagerstown community.

“There’s an interdependency between the community and the college, such that it is very hard to imagine one without the other,” she said. “They work together so well, the community supporting the college, and certainly the college supporting the community.”

All three college presidents, Kepler, Norman Shea, and Altieri, and the deans of the school before them are documented in the book.

Altieri said that the book helps connect the school’s past with its future.

“It helps us give our students, current and future, a deep sense of respect for the college’s history and those who were the pioneers who helped the college make its way through a relatively fragile future to be the strong vibrant college that it is today,” he said.

Weaver, who lives in North Carolina, began working on the book at the beginning of 2012 after being asked to take on the job in 2011.

Altieri said that she was selected to write the book based on the criteria that had been set.

Those criteria included being a trained historian, an understanding of county, state, and national history, judgmental skills, an ability to document the school’s accomplishments and failures without emotion — and enthusiasm.

He said that the project shows how the college has been a community effort since it began.

“The most special thing about this book is its all-inclusiveness,” he said. “The chapters cover the seven decades that HCC has been part of this community, and the book is full of personalities that made significant contributions to the college’s success.”


Help from others

Weaver, who also worked as a grant writer for the college, had the help of an advisory committee made up of retirees and staff from the college as she worked on the book.

She conducted interviews with people affiliated with the college, and made use of digitized and nondigitized material from the college for her sources.

Merle S. Elliott of Hagerstown, who was a member of the HCC board of trustees for 28 years, was among those who helped.

Officials were probably prompted to have the book written because the school is coming up for its reaccreditation self-study, and there were things about the school that had not been looked at for a long time, according to Elliott.

“Diane Weaver went back to the origination of the college, when it was nothing but an idea, to the development of part of the board of education to its own facilities, its own board of trustees, to its own campus,” he said. “From a space standpoint we have the largest acreage of a community college in Maryland, and we’re the first community college in Maryland, and we’ve grown from an idea to a pretty successful and pretty prominent part of the community.”

He said that the book is “well written and thoroughly researched.”

“Anyone who is interested in knowing about the history of the college can learn an awful lot by looking at it,” Elliott said.

The book can be purchased at the HCC book store. It costs $12 for a paperback  and $25 for a hard cover, said Beth Kirkpatrick, director of HCC public information and government relations.

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