By Joyce Helens, SCTCC President
For decades, St. Cloud Technical & Community College has been a leader in producing skilled health sciences workers in Central Minnesota. But October will mark a pivotal point in our history as we celebrate the grand opening of a new 53,000-square-foot Health Sciences Building.
The new space is equipped with the technology, tools and trained instructors needed to continue to develop programs to fit the staffing needs for the area’s health care facilities. The college will showcase these new opportunities at a business open house from 4:30- 6:30 p.m. Oct. 6.
Building these programs and graduating students who secure good jobs in the area is exciting, but behind those successful outcomes is a history of hard work that stretches back to the institution’s beginnings decades ago. Start with people like Robert Miller, the first director of vocational education in St. Cloud. In 1948, he created programs to provide skilled workers for local industries.
And then there is James Wakefield, who served as director of the St. Cloud Area Vocational-Technical Institute in 1964. He immediately increased the number of technical or “applied learning” programs offered by the school. As a result, the school began a rapid climb in enrollment and the current campus on Northway Drive was constructed. The first building was dedicated in the late 1960s.
New programs continued to be offered in sync with the local employment needs, and two more major additions were built. During this time of phenomenal growth, Wakefield hired 150 faculty and staff who, because of their excellence, he knew could carry out the vision. One such faculty was Mary Stangler, hired in 1974 as a math teacher. Wakefield served at the college more than a decade and Stangler for almost four decades.
They both passed away this past year, which, in the midst of opening our newest addition, gave us pause to look at these leaders who went before us. We are grateful for their contributions and accomplishments.
Wakefield and Stangler epitomized what good education is all about: Clear vision, stamina to carry out that vision, positive attitude, competence and a deep caring for students to meet their needs so they could be successful.
Wakefield created the change when he saw how important it was to respond and meet the needs of business and higher education, and Stangler created and adapted the curriculum to meet the needs of her students. Both told me about the changes they saw, created, adapted to and worked with. But it was that which did not change that kept them focused and successful and that was the student.
Wakefield’s philosophy was that his job was not done at graduation, but rather only after all students had found good jobs in their fields of study. He worked tirelessly to make sure programs offered were relevant and robust.
Stangler’s philosophy was that every student deserved to understand and apply math skills so that they could be successful. Students Stangler touched left not just with a good understanding of mathematics or an ability to do higher work, they also left with greater self-esteem and a knowledge that whatever life brought them, they could adapt and learn.
This is why we recently created the Mary Stangler Center for Academic Success, a place all students can access additional academic assistance.
These are the shoulders we stand upon and the foundation upon which SCTCC continues to build its success. It is because of their contributions — and others — that we are able to keep that vision of excellence in applied learning alive and continue to serve students and our community.
I know both Jim and Mary would be proud of our new facility and their work that we continue.