www.vernoncollege.edu

HISTORY OF VERNON COLLEGE

 

1970 marked the beginning of Vernon College.  Throughout this decade the College continued to grow and more students enrolled in both on- and off-campus courses.  On January 20, 1970, a majority of the citizens of Wilbarger County voted to create the Wilbarger County Junior College District.  Following that decision, Vernon Regional Junior College was established and on April 9, 1970, the newly elected Board of Trustees appointed Dr. David L. Norton as the College’s first president.  Campus construction began in May 1971, and included an Academic Science Center, Administration-Fine Arts Center, Applied Arts Center, Library, and Student Center.  The following year, on September 5, 1972, classes met for the first time on the Vernon campus with a total of 608 students.  On August 1, 1974, Dr. Jim M. Williams became the College’s second president.  In the fall semester of that year, combined on- and off-campus enrollment exceeded 800 students.  During the 1975-76 academic year, the College expanded its services to include a learning center on Sheppard Air Force Base.  During this year, enrollment in credit courses, both on- and off-campus, rose to a level of 1,199.  The scope of the Vocational Nursing Program was enlarged during the 1976-77 academic year with the assumption of the Bethania School of Vocational Nursing in Wichita Falls.  In August 1976 the Physical Education Center was dedicated in honor of Dr. and Mrs. Thomas A. King longtime benefactors of Vernon College.      

 

Growth and changes continued during the 1980s.  In August 1980 a Student Residence Center, designed to house 128 students, opened for occupancy.  Further expansion of program offerings in the Wichita Falls area was accomplished through absorption of an existing proprietary school that was renamed the Vernon College Technical Center and the integration of the nursing program from the Wichita Falls Independent School District.  On March 22, 1982, Dr. Joe Mills took over the leadership of the College as the third president.  That fall, the College fielded its first intercollegiate rodeo team. During 1983-84, the Department of Cosmetology and the Career Development Center (previously known as the North Texas Skills Center) were established in Wichita Falls.  On the Vernon campus, the Chaparral Center was completed, and the Pease River farm purchased through a state land trade.   The following academic year, 1984-85, Vernon College reached a record credit enrollment of 1,863 and a record continuing education enrollment of 7,056 registrations.  A Vocational Nursing Program opened in Seymour, and the Board of Trustees established a college foundation and approved an agreement to allow construction of the Red River Valley Museum on the Vernon campus.  In February 1987 the College played its first intercollegiate baseball game on the Vernon campus.  During May of that year, the new Natatorium was opened in the King Physical Education Center. A newly constructed Athletic Dormitory opened to house 28 athletes in August 1988.  In October, Trustees voted to add women’s volleyball as a varsity sport, effective with the fall 1989 semester.  In May 1989 Vernon College moved all Wichita Falls programs to one centralized location—Century City Center.

 

Three campus buildings were renamed during 1989-90.  The Wright Library was renamed in memory of Leroy and Una Lee Wright, founders of Wright Brand Foods.  Lloyd and Madelyn Osborne were recognized when the Administration Building was renamed in their honor.  The Arts and Sciences Center was renamed the Electra Waggoner Biggs Arts and Sciences Center in honor of Electra Waggoner Biggs.  On September 5, 1990, the Board of Trustees appointed Dr. Wade Kirk as the fourth president of Vernon College.  In February 1996 the first intercollegiate women’s fast pitch softball team was fielded.  In spring 1996, the College completed the installation of the infrastructure necessary for computer networking and Internet access.  Providing training for area industries, the Skills Training Center opened in Wichita Falls in January 1997. Fall 1998 saw the College expand the use of technology throughout its operations; offering a full range of distance learning courses via interactive video, Internet, and video tape.  Internet access for students became available in libraries and resource rooms at every major instructional location.  A mid-range computer system and an integrated software package were installed at Vernon College to serve administrative computing functions.  During 1999 two campus buildings were renamed.  The Student Center was renamed to the Colley Student Center in honor of members of the Colley Family.  The Applied Arts Center was renamed Sumner Applied Arts Center in memory of Joe C. and Mary Anderson Sumner.

 

Entering the 21st Century, the softball facility on the Vernon campus was named Wade Kirk Softball Field on June 5, 2000, in honor of retiring President, Dr. Wade Kirk.  That same day, Dr. Steve Thomas was named by the Board of Trustees as the College’s fifth president.  The following year, Vernon Regional Junior College was renamed Vernon College on May 23, 2001.  The College purchased the Century City Center complex as a permanent Wichita Falls location on July 13, 2004, to provide space for expansion of the College’s academic and career and technical education programs in the Wichita Falls area.  Vernon College achieved a record credit enrollment of 2,803 during the fall 2005 semester.  Work also began on the renovation of the Osborne Administration Building, which enabled the consolidation of administrative offices under one roof.  In late 2005 the newly renovated King Physical Education Center was reopened.  In September 2006 the new wing of the Osborne Administration Building opened.  Throughout the year, Vernon College continued to add new programs and classes to meet the needs of students and area business and industry.  During 2007-2008 Vernon College celebrated 35 years of teaching, learning, and leading.  Five new classrooms, several offices and a new student lounge opened in recently renovated space at Century City Center.  The Sumner and Biggs buildings on the Vernon campus also underwent renovations that same year. In addition donors established five new endowed scholarships and the Vernon College Foundation reached the $1 million investment milestone in April 2007. Work also began on establishing the Vernon College Ex-Students Association.  The 2008-2009 academic year was one of changes.  Dr. Thomas resigned as president and after an extensive search, the Board of Trustees and the college community welcomed Dr. Dusty R. Johnston as the sixth Vernon College president.  Another enrollment milestone was achieved during the spring semester when 3,636 students enrolled for credit courses on the Vernon campus and the Vernon College Learning Centers. 

 

Since the College opened its doors 38 years ago, many individuals, corporations, foundations, and organizations have made an investment in our students through the creation of endowed and annual scholarships. As of this year, more than 100 scholarship funds are available to help students pursue their educational dreams.