Completed August 2009
Embedded Video, Part 1
In the beginning -
The idea to create a community college in Barton County was introduced around 1960 at the Mayflower Café, a popular Great Bend restaurant on Forest Avenue where businessmen gathered for coffee and conversation. Those early proponents were dedicated to the proposition that everyone has the right to higher education.
Former Great Bend Tribune editor, Paul Conrad wears the label, "father of Barton" because he joined the efforts of the Great Bend Jaycees in 1959 to establish a college in Barton County. Although not a Jaycees member, Conrad pushed forward the message to the public of bringing a college to Barton and helped rally support for the cause. Conrad served as general chairman of the first college steering committee, helping to get the right people on board and giving the cause organized momentum.
Conrad along with Jaycees members Brock McPherson and Jerry Ward wrote and introduced legislation in 1961 that eventually became a law, which allowed the county to vote on establishing a county-wide community college. Conrad remembers those initial steps as more of a community grassroots effort.
The vote failed during the general election in November 1962. A Supreme Court ruling more than a year later allowed the county to be counted as one district. A second vote for establishing a college was conducted in the general election in 1965 and this time it passed. The bond issue a year later to fund the college also passed.
Barton Community College was founded in 1965; ground was broken on a cold, windy November day in 1967; and the College opened in fall of 1969.
What began 40 years ago as a college delivering on-campus education to hundreds of area students has evolved into a comprehensive learning environment that still provides on-campus classes, but also delivers education through outreach, online and interactive television offerings.
Given the landscape of continually rising education costs today, Barton has proven vital to the seven counties and Fort Riley/Grandview Plaza areas it serves, enabling thousands of students each year to earn degrees, complete continuing education and receive workforce training. Through four decades, Barton has adapted to the educational and training needs of its varied stakeholders.
Moreover, Barton offers education at a fraction of a cost compared to costs of four-year colleges.
Employees are Community Resources -
Nearly 40 first employees came to work for the start-up College in 1969. For many, including band instructor J.B. Webster, accepting a position at Barton meant uprooting their families and heading toward uncertain futures since the college they were going to was still being built.
Those pioneers helped to turn Barton into one of the greatest assets the community possesses today.
Barton is a leading employer with more than 600 employees today, adding significantly to the economic impact of the communities it serves. Furthermore, Barton employees are active in their respective communities, ultimately helping to improve area quality of life.
First Students -
In the fall 1969, College officials were expecting 500 students for the inaugural semester. Instead, more than 850 students showed up at the newly constructed Library, ready to enroll. On Sept. 3, 1969, Great Bend High School graduate Connie Kruckenberg became the first student enrolled at what was then called Barton County Community Junior College.
At the start of that first academic year, Barton consisted of just three buildings on campus - the Library, Technical Building, and the Science and Math Building. Those buildings stood in the midst of a massive construction zone, surrounded by mounds of dirt in what previously served as a 160-acre wheat field. Longtime Great Bend residents Kevin and Nancy Sundahl were among those students who attended the dirt-lined campus that first academic year.
The Sundahls and Karlin also participated in commencement activities as part of Barton's first graduating class in spring 1971.
Today, Barton serves more than 13,000 students annually. The College offers dozens of course options in various formats at its Barton and Fort Riley Campuses and at its outreach communities, along with its leadership training facility at Camp Aldrich.
Reaching Out -
The first College off-campus classes were held in 1971 when psychology classes were offered at Larned State Hospital. But Barton's Outreach program began during the 1973-74 academic year. That year 18 outreach courses were offered and 145 students participated as the College extended courses into communities of five surrounding counties: Russell, Rice, Stafford, Pawnee and Rush. Ellsworth was eventually added to Barton's service area. Last year, Barton provided more than 390 outreach course offerings with an unduplicated headcount enrollment of nearly 2,000 students in its seven-county service area and the Grandview Plaza/Junction City area.
Serving Industries -
Barton has a long track record in working to meet business and industry needs. One example: the 60-by-100-foot Midwest Utility and Pipeline Training Center that stands on the southwest portion of the Barton Campus. The College constructed the training center five years ago over Barton's cathodic protection field, already in place. The industry-driven facility has been utilized to fulfill training needs for utility and pipeline companies representing 11 states, and the training facility is used year round, including during the annual corrosion control seminar Barton has been offering for more than two decades.
Embedded Video, Part 2
Education for Military Community -
Barton is proud of its association with Fort Riley and the U.S. Army. The association began in 1984 with a single training contract and has continued to grow in support of the Army, its soldiers and their families. Today, Barton Fort Riley Campus provides education and training to the total military family. The College also provides selected specialized education and training to the entire state. Approximately half of Barton's enrollment comes from Barton Fort Riley Campus, helping to substantially decrease the amount of property taxes paid per credit hour by Barton County taxpayers.
Online Education Takes Off -
Web-based education at Barton has significantly increased since the College introduced its version of virtual instruction in spring 1999. BARTONline offers opportunities to pursue or complete an associate degree online. Today, nearly 19,000 credit hours are generated through BARTONline, comprising 20 percent of Barton's total credits for the year. Barton also offers online courses as part of the six-college consortium, EduKan. And Barton provides other distance learning opportunities through online and ITV offerings.
Affording Opportunities -
Barton Foundation was formed more than two years before the College opened its doors, established May 5, 1967, under the premise that no student should be denied a college education because he or she cannot afford one. Over the years, private support through the Foundation has given thousands of students the opportunity to learn. Annually, the Foundation holds its Big Benefit Auction, as well as its Academic Enrichment Fund Campaign as ways to raise money and awareness for academic scholarships at Barton.
Expanding Access -
Key to Barton's expansion and progression was the establishment of on-campus housing. The first seven living centers were completed in fall 1977. Three more living centers were available for students a year later. Earth-sheltered housing was built in fall 1979, and Barton's housing complex was added in fall 1999. Today, the College has the ability to house 292 students with its multiple housing options.
In 1996, the Kirkman Student Activity Center opened to provide physical fitness opportunities that never before existed at the College for students and the community. Adjacent to the Kirkman Center in the Physical Education Building, the Thelma Faye Harms Wellness Center opened for students in 2005.
Quality of Life -
Barton has provided the community with thousands of cultural, intellectual, and athletic activities and experiences over the years. Barton's music department has performed for audiences since the College's beginning, with band and choir performances and the unveiling of the Hilltop Singers in the College's first year. Early on, drama opportunities were provided by a student organization called The Barton Players, and the first theatre production by the College happened in March 1978.
Nearly 20 athletics teams at Barton bring hundreds of fans to the College every season.
Beacon for the Arts -
The L.E. "Gus" and Eva Shafer Memorial Art Gallery opened on Barton's campus in fall 1992 in the College's Fine Arts Building. The gallery serves as a memorial to the late Gus Shafer who grew up near Hoisington and gained international prominence for his bronze sculptures. The idea for a gallery at Barton originated a decade earlier. It began with a donation of the 507-piece C.E. Denman Art Collection in December 1981.
The public also has use of the College's Dorothy Moses Morrison Chapel, which was dedicated in 2004. The chapel, located in the College's Fine Arts Building, is named after Morrison who donated five stained glass windows from the razed First Congregational United Church of Christ.
The Cohen Center for Kansas History, located in Barton's Learning Resource Center, is dedicated to preserving resources in Kansas and inspiring research in Kansas history.
Changing Family History through Opportunity -
In 40 years, Barton has changed lives, and in some cases, even changed family history by making possible what may have seemed impossible before. Through access to affordable education and a myriad of choices in program and course offerings, the College has allowed families to dream, to aspire, and, ultimately, to succeed. One example: All five McCormick siblings attended Barton. Four of them graduated from Barton. Mother and father McCormick, Donna and Denny, also earned degrees from Barton.
Vision for the Future -
As Barton enters the dawn of its next 40 years, it does so in close step with the communities it serves. No symbolic ivory towers exist at Barton -- only open doors with highly trained, caring people who are committed to helping stakeholders along. As its mission statement says, Barton strives to deliver educational opportunities that improve lives of students, meet workforce needs of the region, and help strengthen the communities it serves. Even now, in tough economic times, Barton is working with businesses and organizations to offer training that can quickly get dislocated workers back into the workforce.
During the past year, Barton renovated a new training facility at Grandview Plaza. On the Barton Campus, construction is ongoing to increase space and improve amenities for career technical programs. Barton's Learning Resource Center is also being expanded and renovated to accommodate student learning.
Like the commitment of those early-day proponents at the Mayflower Café, Barton will remain dedicated to the proposition that everyone has the right to affordable higher education.