For 44 of the state institution’s 50 years, the Columbus campus of Ivy Tech State College has given to and benefited from a strong partnership with the local community.
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of what started as the Indiana Vocational Technical College, those affiliated with the Columbus campus can look back on a history that began modestly but eventually evolved into a learning institution which literally touches all facets of community life.
When considering how far the Columbus branch of the state institution has come — it began in 1968 in spaces which were converted into classrooms at Columbus’ City Hall and the then-named Cummins Engine Co. — it is important to recognize the contributions of a small army of volunteers and supporters who applied a variety of techniques in developing one of the largest post-secondary institutions in the state. More than 4,700 students currently attend classes at the local branch.
City officials and industry leaders were among the most vocal backers in efforts to grow the local campus. The process was slow at first and advances, such as an eventual move into the old National Guard Armory at Seventh and Franklin streets, were modest.
It was upon the arrival of Dr. Harvey Poling, who was appointed dean of the local campus in 1976, that things began to change measurably.
He was key to a lobbying effort that included a number of leading local citizens sometimes referred to as the “Gang of Five.” One of their primary missions was to lobby the Indiana General Assembly to build a centralized campus in Columbus. The support for that effort was not limited to Columbus. In the Indiana Senate, Sen. Robert Garton, R-Columbus, exercised his influence; and the project was also championed by George Doup, a Columbus farmer who was chairman of the Indiana Commission on Higher Education.
Columbus got its centralized facility, which was built at the Columbus Municipal Airport alongside the Columbus campus of IUPUI. Over the years, the airport has evolved into a sprawling neighborhood of learning institutions that have followed a path of collaboration rather than going their own independent ways.
Ivy Tech was a major partner in the educational concept that led to the construction of the Learning Center. It has also been an active participant in the Community Education Coalition. School officials have combined efforts with the staff of the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation in utilizing classroom space and adopting innovative programs that encourage high school graduates to continue their education.
The local Ivy Tech has certainly been a major player in the development of the Advanced Manufacturing Center for Excellence, which is the newest partner in the airport educational complex.
The local campus and the parent institution have certainly come a long way from their births in the 1960s. Here, that path to success has had many guides.