Johnston Community College

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History of the College

Johnston Community College had its beginnings in early 1967 when the Smithfield Chamber of Commerce appointed a steering committee headed by the late M. Brack Wilson Sr., a prominent Smithfield businessman and civic leader, to study the need for a post-secondary educational institution for Johnston County and surrounding areas.

This study led to the establishment in 1969 of Johnston County Technical Institute, the 51st institution in the North Carolina Community College System. M. Brack Wilson Sr. was elected chairperson of the Institute's newly-appointed Board of Trustees, and William R. Britt, Vice-Chairperson. Dr. John L. Tart was chosen by the board to be the founding President of Johnston County Technical Institute. In September 1969, under his leadership, the Institute enrolled more than 500 students in 29 evening courses at its temporary campus at the former Forest Hill School, on Highway 301 South near the town of Four Oaks.

Adult High School classes were soon offered and a new industry training program was initiated in December 1969. General Office Technology was the Institute's first full-time, on-campus program. The first full-time, off-campus program was Basic Electrical Installation and Maintenance, which began in June 1970.

The Institute climaxed its first year of operation with the Adult High School graduation exercises on August 26, 1970. Occupational education curriculum programs also began that fall and included a unique Veterans Farm Cooperative training program in conjunction with the Johnston County Public Schools.

In January 1971, the Johnston County Technical Institute was changed to Johnston Technical Institute and in August its first full graduation was held with 31 curriculum students receiving diplomas.

As student enrollment increased, the need for a permanent campus became clearly evident. Accordingly, a one-hundred acre tract of land, located near the center of the county at the intersection of Interstate 95 and U.S. Highway 70, east of Smithfield, was purchased by the Board of Trustees on December 4, 1971.

Although growth continued, progress was not always even and smooth. In the early morning of February 12, 1976, a major fire destroyed the main classroom building on the Forest Hills campus. The cause of the fire was thought to have been faulty wiring. Arrangements were made immediately to continue classes in temporary quarters at various off-campus locations and in the gymnasium on the campus.

Prior to the fire, the first major building on the permanent campus east of Smithfield was under construction. It provided 51,000 square feet for classrooms, laboratories, shops and other modern facilities for post-secondary adult education and was named the Wilson Building for the Institute's first Board of Trustees chairperson.

On September 13, 1976, students began classes on the new campus. Completion of three additional buildings added 30,000 square feet of classroom and laboratory space.

The Institute was fully accredited by the North Carolina State Board of Education on July 7, 1977 and by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools on December 13, 1977.

On June 2, 1980, by action of the Johnston County Board of Commissioners, the name of Johnston Technical Institute was changed to Johnston Technical College.

During 1981, enrollment exceeded 2,500 full-time equivalent students. Buildings and facilities were being utilized to a practical maximum, and plans were developed to construct a vocational building of 17,500 square feet to provide laboratories, classrooms, and faculty office space for Diesel Mechanics, a Machine Shop, and Truck Driver Training.

Construction of the facility was completed in early 1983. The North Carolina Truck Driver Training School, the oldest publicly operated program of its kind in the nation, was moved to the Smithfield campus from Raleigh in August 1983. Subsequently, a comprehensive fire fighting and rescue squad educational facility was constructed in cooperation with the county rescue squads and fire departments. The training complex was completed in 1988.

An addition to the Wilson Building was completed in the spring of 1985 to provide additional classrooms, facilities for a computer center, and a more adequate student lounge.

In August 1987, the Trustees and Johnston County Board of Commissioners acted to change the name of Johnston Technical College to Johnston Community College.

Construction was begun in October 1987 on a Learning Resource Center/Auditorium building adjacent to the Wilson Building. This facility, initially called the Arts and Learning Center, was formally dedicated on August 20, 1989, the twentieth anniversary of the college. The auditorium was officially named the Paul A. Johnston Auditorium in honor of the facility’s major benefactor.

In the spring of 1995, the College’s Board of Trustees voted to name the Arts and Learning Center the John Tart Arts and Learning Center in honor of Dr. Tart’s service and inspiration in the development of the facility which was designed to serve the citizens of Johnston County and surrounding areas. At the same time, the Technical Building was officially designated the Elsee Building, in honor of the late Walter B. Elsee’s distinguished service as a Trustee of the College.

In 1995 Johnston Community College Trustee Rudolph Howell donated some 2,850 acres of woodlands located in Bentonville Township to the College. Designated the "Rudolph Howell and Son Environmental Learning and Conference Center," the area is being developed into a community-based educational resource. Construction was completed in early 1998 on a facility which houses a classroom, staff offices, and meeting area.

The Johnston Community College Cleveland Center offered its first classes in May 1996. This JCC branch campus features modern classrooms and a state-of-the-art computer lab in addition to a community "meeting hall." This facility makes educational opportunities more accessible to the fast-growing western Johnston County populace. Classes are offered according to community needs.

Construction was begun in early 1998 on a facility to house the Johnston Community College Arboretum located on the college’s campus just off US Highway 70 Business. In mid-1998, construction was completed on a new Allied Health Building and classes were held in this facility beginning with the fall semester. This 37,000 square foot structure houses the Allied Health and Early Childhood programs and a preschool facility serving the students, faculty, staff, and public.

In August 1998, Dr. John Tart retired after 29 years of outstanding service as president of the College. Dr. Donald L. Reichard, formerly President of James Sprunt Community College in Kenansville, was selected to lead Johnston Community College into the new millennium.

Since 1999, the College has witnessed steady enrollment growth leading to a "crunch" for space.  Fortunately, in November of 1999, the citizens of Johnston County passed a $3 million construction bond.  With this construction money, a new physical education classroom building, the Roger A. Smith Building, opened in January of 2003.

In November of 2001, the State of North Carolina passed a $3.1 billion bond referendum (the largest in the history of the United States) for the state's community colleges and universities.  Johnston Community College's share of $10.2 million is being used for new construction and renovations.

As a result of these funds, a new 28,000 square foot industrial technology building, the Britt Building, opened in the fall of 2004.  The Britt Building houses the Machining Technology and Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Technology programs, as well as other industrial programs.

The Workforce Development Center, a collaborative effort between Johnston County, Johnston County Public Schools, Johnston County Economic Development, the College, and local biopharmaceutical industries, opened in July of 2005.  This 30,000 square foot state-of-the-art educational and technical skills training center houses classrooms, computer and science labs, the Small Business Center, and a functioning sterile fill line.

Money from bonds is also being used for additions and/or renovations that are being made to existing buildings on campus.  Thanks to the voters, Johnston Community College will have the space to offer the education and training needed in our service area over the decade ahead.

In the spring of 2008, the college’s Public Safety Services Building opened with state-of-the-art classrooms and labs for fire service, law enforcement, emergency medical, and nursing assistant training.

In July 2009, Dr. Donald L. Reichard retired as president after 10 years of service at JCC and a total of 39 years of leadership at community colleges. Dr. David Johnson, a Raleigh native with 15 years of experience at various community colleges in Virginia, was selected JCC’s third president.

The fall of 2009 started with the opening of the Health Sciences Building addition. The building, now 23,800-square-feet, included the construction of a new building equipped with 12 specialized labs for health sciences programs as well as office space for health sciences faculty and the renovation of existing classrooms and labs. Construction continues on new space for the early childhood education program and child development center.

Johnston Community College | 245 College Road | PO Box 2350 Smithfield, NC 27577
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