James P Lucas Speech on June 23, 2010
What a wonderful way to end the day. Thank you for this meaningful and prestigious award. It is a great honor at this stage of my life not only to be a recipient, but also to associate and meet with people who have given so much of their time and energy to the well being of Miles Community College.
Community Colleges have been my love and passion for over a half a century. It has been a long road with many wonderful moments, along with the opportunity to be involved with the Community College movement at every level, and then to culminate this by being here this evening is a most profound and inspiring high point, for which I again express my gratitude and deep appreciation. As I think through the years and the activities of the College, I realize how many people I met along the way, who became life long friends.
And I must declare that we have this building and campus only because of the help and impact of these many people, who if they were all assembled here this evening, would easily fill this campus from corner to corner, and whose numbers could easily run into the thousands. This wide a range of people would include our many Boards of Trustees, serving both now and back through the years to the time the first shovel of dirt which was turned in 1967; our Presidents particularly three of them who together spent a total of _____ years, including first President Ken Smith (then referred to as the Dean of MCC), Vern Kailey and Judd Flower, and then to put the topping on the cake along came our first lady President and who for a time was the youngest lady community college president in the land, and who is a vigorous and imaginative and supercharged visionary – a president for the times. Certainly, among these thousands who have stood tall would also be a strong faculty who provided our college students with the ability to compete and who gave meaning to our slogan “start here – go anywhere” and then when added to the mix many excellent students certainly gave impetus to our claim that student success is our power.
And now, as in any great enterprise, it is a good time to take stock in our college, and where we might be going. Education has always played an important part in the inevitability of social change, and with the rapidly accelerated changes of the past two decades this is even more true. We find ourselves in a different world than that of 20 or even 10 years ago and I am reminded of the words of Margaret Meade, the eminent sociologist, who declared:
“No man will live in the kind of world into which he was born, and no man will die in the kind of world in which he worked during his mature years.”
In addition to change, another modern day phenomena with which Americans have grown accustomed to living, is crisis. Crisis in world relations – economy – employment - inflation, etc. We hear a lot today about crisis is education. Not enough people being taught well enough to meet the new requirements of the space age. Not enough college classrooms to go around. Too many people to be educated, indicating that before too long, we may find a “no room” sign placed on some of the doors of our major schools and universities. We are short on teachers – short on facilities, and long on students.
But fortunately, as a product of World War II, we seem to have found some answers for these educational crises, and one of them is the 2-year college. This crisis might have closed the doors of opportunity to countless young people, were it not for the development of community of junior colleges like Miles Community College.
This history of our own Miles Community College is quite remarkable. Established in 1939 in the face of adversity, with a first graduating class of 6 persons, it has survived over a half century of wars, booms, recessions and other ups and downs. During the time the first few facilities were constructed on campus, it was necessary to rent a church, public library, and even the abandoned Milwaukee Railroad Depot and other nearby facilities in which to hold classes as well as leasing mobile trailer homes for various faculty offices. Those were growing pains which were not allowed to become obstacles, but rather challenges, symbolizing our determination to provide accessible, high qualify, low cost education for its citizens. With the American Legion donating the land in 1965, followed by ground breaking ceremonies two years later, the campus began to develop and Miles Community College was born and stepped into a world filled with wonderful and exciting technology. The advantage of instant communications, instant transmission of information, and with television providing an instant awareness of the problems of the day, no matter where or what happens on the face of this globe and knowing all the details within the hour. The marvels that technology has created are endless; the computer; data processing; cellular communication; artificial heart; travel into space; the science of electro-optics which can turn night into day – and many others. No doubt this is a world of rapid change and sometimes in this world of rapid change, we cant keep up.
Story of LA fellow with breakfast in LA, lunch in New York, dinner in Paris, and his luggage ends up in South Dakota.
And so we stand here tonight thinking of the past as well as the future, we might mimic the advertising phrase that’s going around these days, ask ourself what’s in our wallet now that we’ve come this far; what’s in the wallet of education tonight. ARE WE EMPTY – OR ARE WE FULL?
Just a few things for us to consider:
- Credits earned at Miles Community College transfer easily to other institutions in Montana, and to most colleges and universities in the US;
- Accreditation is extremely important. Continued top rankings and accreditation with the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges;
- Long distance learning;
- Community courses added to meet local and area needs (truly a community college)
- And with it students are exposed to a philosophy of life;
- Students are prodded to place excellence above mediocrasy, and to accomplish mediocracy and how to live, as well as how to make a living;
- Open the minds of students to free the spirit – follow the observation of Winston Churchill:
“A pessimist has difficulty in every opportunity – but optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”
What’s in our wallet?
In closing, we count our blessing as we gather together on this beautiful evening, in an area surrounded by vast collection of books and knowledge in an excellent College and in a wonderful country.
Still many battles to be fought – challenging times –
“IF IT AINT BROKE – DON’T FIX IT”But the American dream and its ideals are not a thing of the past, and that we still realize that our College and the individuals who enter its halls, can still make a difference.