Co-Lin’s past, future noted in anniversary celebration

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, February 4, 2003

WESSON — There were no diamonds for its 75th anniversary, butCopiah-Lincoln Community College officials, alumni and friendsstill hailed a sparkling history of progress Monday at openingceremonies for the school’s year-long anniversary celebration.

“It is as brilliant as any diamond,” said U.S. Sen. ThadCochran, linking the traditional 75th anniversary gift with thehistory of the school that began in 1928.

Cochran, R-Miss., was one of several featured speakers at theBilly B. Thames Conference Center ceremony, which was attended byclose to 400 people. The senator praised Co-Lin and the state’scommunity college system and the role they play in helping studentsfurther their education.

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“Their needs can be met here closer to home,” Cochran said.

While mentioning a variety of programs and course offerings tohelp everyone from students to senior citizens, Cochran said Co-Linhas a proud and impressive history and a promising future.

Dr. Howell Garner, the school’s sixth president, continued thediamond theme in introducing Texas businessman and Co-Lin Class of1931 member L. Frank Pitts. Pitts attended Co-Lin for three yearswhen it was an agricultural high school and for two years after itwas named a junior college.

“We are not giving out diamonds, either, but we have put manydiamonds out in the world,” Garner said.

Pitts recalled some exciting times in the late 1920s when Co-Linofficials and students lobbied for passage of a $150,000 bond issueto help establish Co-Lin Junior College. In June 1928, Pitts said,the bond issue passed by a 10-1 margin in Lincoln and Copiahcounties.

“That was a lot of bucks at that time,” Pitts said.

Pitts also spoke about meeting his wife, Mary Martha, at Co-Lin,and how the school has grown from two supporting counties to sevensupporting counties.

“This community college … is the best asset for everyone inthis area, and I’m proud to be a graduate,” Pitts said.

Earlier in the program, Gov. Ronnie Musgrove applauded thehistory of Mississippi’s community college system, which was thefirst in the nation.

“They served me well during my educational endeavors for twoyears,” said Musgrove, a graduate of Northwest CommunityCollege.

Relating comments back to Co-Lin, Musgrove said the school wasin the unfortunate position of opening just before the GreatDepression.

“Today is not much different from the times Co-Lin faced when itstarted,” Musgrove said.

The governor cited educational challenges and an economicdownturn that has resulted in tough times and layoffs. In spite ofthose challenges, Musgrove said Co-Lin and other community collegesremain beacons of education for students across the state.

Musgrove commended state lawmakers for last week’s action tofund education first on the state’s budget list. He said the actionsends “a loud, clarion signal” that education is a priority in thestate, and the results will provide an economic competitive edgefor its citizens.

Musgrove referred to a familiar phrase by humorist Will Rogerswhile talking about Co-Lin. Rogers commented that a person canstill get run over even if he is on the right track but notmoving.

“For 75 years, Co-Lin has not only been on the right track, butit has been moving in the right direction,” the governor said.

Dr. Billy B. Thames, Co-Lin’s president from 1968 to 1997,commented on a number of significant additions and changes over theschool’s history. When asked to name the top 10 significant changesabout Co-Lin, Thames said he came up with more than 30.

Thames said the school’s annual budget had grown from $750,000when he started to over $25 million. Among the accomplishments,Thames mentioned the addition of the Natchez campus in 1975 and thelater additions of the Co-Lin Foundation, the Associate DegreeNursing program and developments related to the school’s golfcourse.

“When I look back, I see an institution that has made greatprogress,” Thames said.

Also during Monday’s ceremony, school officials unveiled a 75thanniversary collage featuring many of the buildings on the Co-Lincampus.

Copies of the collage will be available for purchase later inthe year. Other anniversary events scheduled for 2003 includerecognition of all former members of the school’s board of trusteesin June and a variety of activities during Homecoming Week Oct.6-11.