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September 28, 2011

Poor Tom's Almanac: Here's to NECC's 50th — a rich milestone

It's hard to believe that 50 years have passed since Northern Essex Community College first cut its teeth inside a tiny Bradford schoolhouse.

History tells us this was the fourth community college established in Massachusetts, welcoming 181 students to its first campus, before launching a 106-acre campus at the other end of town a decade later.

Today, it stands as a prodigious educational complex at 100 Elliot St., home to more than 15,000 students, a strong and diversified teaching faculty, more curriculum than you can count inside a development that would rival any institution throughout the country.

To say that Northern Essex is a sleeping giant which has withstood the test of time is putting it mildly. It has broken its mold, like that tiny puppy you brought home from the pet shop one day which suddenly grew into a Marmaduke. You know, that Great Dane that looks more like a horse than a dog.

Three recent developments proved to be the coup de grace on this campus, with the appearance of a $9.5 million technology center, a proposed allied health and technology center and the NECC Riverwalk, a newly-renovated facility offering credit programs in business and technology.

Growth is great, especially if it's controlled. And Haverhill's own community college isn't about to rest on its laurels, always plotting and maneuvering toward a better end. What it does for young students it also has done for golden-agers and everyone in between, be it on the Haverhill or Lawrence campuses.

For me personally, it's been my panacea on a number of occasions, whether through stories and photographs of a human nature, teaching extension courses, exhibiting my photographs, lecturing to students and Life Long Learners, or teaching journalism when my good friend Betty Arnold was under the weather.

Betty was the consummate journalism teacher as many of her students who secured good jobs would attest. That might also be the case for other curriculums. Ask most any graduate what success is all about and they'll look back upon their days here with gratitude and conviction. Three NECC grads once shared the same Gazette newsroom with me.

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