Those with memories of Anne Arundel Community College's meager beginnings may be experiencing deja vu this year, as AACC kicks off a low-key celebration of its 30th anniversary.
Three decades ago, the college got off to a paltry start. It had little money, few students and shared facilities with Severna Park High School.
Today, AACC has its own 230-acre campus off Ritchie Highway and plenty of students -- up from 270 in 1961 to 13,000 full-time studentsand twice that
number enrolled in continuing education programs -- but is as financially strapped as ever.
The road was rocky at times -- staff and students often have been called upon to deal with the problem of limited resources -- but Professor Leon Sagan said therewere plenty of good times for the tight-knit college family to enjoy.
Sagan joined AACC as a math professor in 1963 -- his first full-time job after landing a master's degree from William and Mary College in Virginia.
The small college faculty often met in the office of the then-president Andrew G. Truxal, who Sagan refers to as his "academic godfather."
Even though the college has grown and few reminders remain of its inauspicious beginnings, Sagan said the large oil painting of Truxal in the campus library makes him reflect on how farhe and the college have come.
"His motto was 'Love knowledge, andlove it very much,' " Sagan said. "It's something we as professors try to instill in our students."
As senior member of the AACC faculty, Sagan still teaches calculus and college-level algebra to students, whom he said have changed somewhat over the years.
"The students today are more informal," Sagan said. "They are more politically aware. The protests (of the 1960s) didn't touch us here."
And what about the teacher?
"What's different about me is that I'm older andwiser," he said. "When I was a teacher back then, I would insist that students wore shoes. It doesn't bother me now if they don't.
"I miss being able to know most of the students and faculty. The collegehas grown to the point that it is a very large business. Many faces we see that we have never met. We now have a sense of community, rather than one of family that we once had."
What the college also hasis money problems. State budget cuts affecting community colleges have left AACC with an operating budget of $29.8 million -- just 0.4 percent more than last year.
That figure represents the smallest budget increase in recent years and has left few people on campus in themood for a party. A 30th year anniversary banner is strung to the side of the library. A logo was created for campus correspondence. And that's about it.
"In the face of very tight economic times, we decided not to do a lot in the way of public participation," said James Atwell, vice president of academic affairs. "We're celebrating in a job well-done and will continue waiting to see what the situation willbe in the state. There's no question there are tight economic times,and it seemed an inopportune time to celebrate."
John L. Wisthoffis well-versed in the dilemma of balancing the realities of a tight budget with the mission to educate. A former president of the county Board of Education, in addition to teaching math at AACC for 27 years, he has witnessed many an economic battle.
"State cuts will change what the college can do for the community," Wisthoff said. "Hopefully, it is temporary. If it continues, students will have fewer opportunities to get into classes and the college won't be able to expand."
The college already is struggling to find a place to put the influx of students who on occasion have had to take classes in conferencerooms. A new classroom building opened last year, but even that has not allowed the college's physical plant to keep up with the growth: Money is included in the college's $11 million 1992 capital budget for a 60,000 square foot allied health and public service building on undeveloped college
property on Ritchie Highway.
Atwell has worked at the college for 23 years, beginning his career as an English department faculty member. He also helped prepare "A Stepping Stone," abook that records the college's first 20 years.
"When I joined the college, it was well-established in transfer students, but during my first 10 years the college developed technical careers such as engineering, allied health, business and computer science," Atwell said. "This college leads with its finger on the pulse of the community. A good
community college weighs the needs of the community and develops programs around it."
Advisory committees in each of the careerareas offered by the college determine what direction they should take. Satellite locations at Annapolis Senior and the Arundel Center North in Glen Burnie help accommodate students without transportation. The college is preparing to tackle West County, where Atwell said anticipated growth will mean new demands.
And the campus has changed to include more traditional college-age students, who are opting to spend two of their college years at a community college, where the tuition is far less than at four-year colleges.
College head librarian Harry Foster has witnessed those changes. During summer 1961, he was the first full-time faculty member hired.
His concerns focused on making sure the library was well-stocked -- within the confines of the 100 square feet he was allotted at the high school.
And the library wasn't the only facility that felt cramped. Office space had tobe shared, so the college operated 4 to 11 p.m. Some students from Severna Park Junior-Senior High had to be shifted to other schools during the six years the college shared the building.
"We were in borrowed quarters, but (the college) was well-supported by the presidentand the community, which made donations," Foster said. "It's just been an enormous satisfaction seeing the students coming to the college, especially in the early days. You never knew who would show up."
Many AACC graduates are still in the county, working in business andgovernment leaders -- including County Executive Robert R. Neall.
From her accounting firm in Glen Burnie, Frances Anderson has fond memories of a college she said provided an opportunity she otherwise may have missed. Anderson was a member of the second graduating class in 1964 and is a partner with the Clark and Anderson Certified PublicAccounting firm in Glen Burnie.
"It was a very good experience," Anderson, 63, said from her Severna Park home. "I was married and hadthree children and could only go to school at night. If the college wasn't there, I would have had to go into Baltimore, which means I probably wouldn't have been able to go at all."
Today, the college operates on what once was a dairy farm. Few reminders of its original identity remain: a little white building -- the Isaac Cox House -- was once a home and now houses campus security and the planning research department. And an original barn was renovated; students now study art and environmental issues inside.
But the community spirit in which the college was founded remains, insists Babette Bilek, who is responsible for keeping alumni updated and active in college events. Bilek, like many on the staff, was once an AACC student there.
"It's much larger, but it is still as caring as ever," she said. "There'sa nice feeling here. It makes you want to come back, and most (alumni) do return."