NEOSHO, MO.--- Faculty, students and staff at Crowder College are celebrating the school's 50th anniversary. It started with humble beginnings and is now the fastest growing college in the State of Missouri.
"The start was really Bob Anderson, who was superintendent of schools in Neosho and he was the light bulb guy. He had the idea because he wanted that for Neosho," said James B. Tatum, Board of Trustees Founding Member.
In 1963, junior colleges were only in school districts that could afford them. With high hopes for education in their community, a committee formed in Neosho. They petitioned for a state bill allowing school districts to join together to form a college.
"We went to Jefferson City, and I had a good friend who was a lawyer here. He introduced the legislation so we could have the community college, because up to that time, there wasn't any legislation for it," said Fred Clark, Crowder Foundation Founder.
Once legislation passed, it was time for voters in Newton and McDonald counties to decide if a junior college was right for their area.
"We had an election and we had to vote for it. The people in the two counties voted almost 4 to 1 to tax themselves 40 cents," said Tatum.
The vote in April 1963 made it clear people in the area wanted to give their children and grandchildren a better education locally. Another obstacle was finding a place to house the new junior college, until the committee came across Camp Crowder.
"It took considerable remodeling. It took a years worth of taxes to get all that done before we could open the door to have school," said Tatum.
During the school's first semester in 1964, roughly 360 students showed up for enrollment. Since then, Crowder has transformed from a junior college to a community college.
"We had five thousand dollars to build scholarships. Now, we're working with somewhere near 4 million," said Clark.
"We've been the fastest growing college in the state for a number of years now," said Dr. Kent Farnsworth, Crowder College Interim President.
With more growing left to do, a new campus in McDonald County is set to open in January, named James B. Tatum Hall.
"It doesn't make me mad, no, it's very flattering," said Tatum.
Both Tatum and Clark have been a part of the college's success since the beginning, and while Tatum plans to retire from the Board of Trustees soon, Clark will continue to serve on the Crowder Foundation.
"They defined the mission, and vision, and values of the institution and those guys have been the heart of both. Both Crowder and the Crowder College Foundation are very much what they are because of each of them," said Dr. Farnsworth.
"It just warms your heart to see some of these kids that might not have gone to college at all, getting two years, and then they just can't get enough, they want to go to four," said Clark.
"It's access, where they can go to school where they live," said Tatum.
Crowder College now has five campuses and five more satellite locations. The McDonald County campus will officially open for classes January 13th.
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