Delaware Tech celebrates first 50 years

During a brunch on Tuesday, Dr. Mark Brainard, president of Delaware Technical Community College, talks with founding family members who started the school a half-century ago. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

During a brunch on Tuesday, Dr. Mark Brainard, president of Delaware Technical Community College, talks with founding family members who started the school a half-century ago. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER –– As Delaware Technical Community College celebrates its 50th year, the time has come not only to plan for the future but to reflect on the past.

On Tuesday morning DTCC President Dr. Mark Brainard hosted a forum at Terry Campus featuring those who knew founders Gov. Charles L. Terry, Jr., Dr. William A. Carter and Dr. Paul K. Weatherly best.

“Gov. Terry knew that Sussex County was the only county at the time with no institution of higher learning,” said Harry Terry, nephew of Gov. Terry.

“And he heard about community colleges at a National Governor’s Association Conference in Georgia and came home motivated to create a

Delaware Tech board member Bill Bush recognizes board members during a brunch at the college on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Delaware Tech board member Bill Bush recognizes board members during a brunch at the college on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

community college system in Delaware.”

In June 1966, Gov. Terry signed House Bill 529 establishing Delaware Tech which first opened its doors in Georgetown in September of the same year, serving 375 full-time students.

Tuesday’s forum was only one of Delaware Tech’s events this week, all celebrating the college’s 50th anniversary and inauguration of Dr. Brainard as president.

After assuming the role at Delaware Technical Community College on Aug. 4, 2014, Dr. Brainard will be officially inaugurated on Thursday at the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington.

Usually presidential inaugurations in academia take place about one year after the president assumes office but Dr. Brainard’s was further pushed back to coincide with the college’s 50th anniversary.

How it started

Fifty years ago, Dr. Carter and other community activists in Sussex were gathering several nights a week, trying to plan new education opportunities for young people in the area.

Delaware Tech board member Louis “Bucky” Owens, left, shakes the hand of Superior Court Judge Richard Stokes as Jerry Cain, center, looks on during a brunch at the college on Tuesday.  (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Delaware Tech board member Louis “Bucky” Owens, left, shakes the hand of Superior Court Judge Richard Stokes as Jerry Cain, center, looks on during a brunch at the college on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“My father came back from World War II, like a lot of other guys, with the idea that the sky’s the limit as to what they could accomplish after what they’d been through,” said Dr. Carter’s son, Dick Carter. “He had this real vision of public service and trying to reach out to the community to make life better for the people not only in Sussex but the whole state.”

Gov. Terry and Dr. Carter realized their common ground and decided to employ the help of Dr. Weatherly –– second in command at South Carolina’s Technical and Community College System.

After Dr. Weatherly moved his family up to Delaware, the founders agreed that since Sussex was the area most in need of higher education, it was the logical starting point for a new community college.

“It was about a decade after Brown v. Board of Education and there was this centrally located school in Georgetown –– William C. Jason High School which was for African American students in Sussex County, but the students had been integrated into the formerly all-white schools in their area,” Mr. Carter said. “So the Jason School was looking for a new purpose.”

The perfect opportunity

The school offered the perfect opportunity for a Delaware community college get off the ground –– but not everyone was happy about turning a formerly all-black school into an institution that could potentially be mostly or all-white.

“When these concerns came up, the founders made a commitment to them that if a college were to take its place, it would be a completely colorblind institution,” Mr. Carter said. “It would be open to all regardless of race and any other factors.”

When the college did start, it actually took on many of the administrators and staff from Jason High School, some of whom after integration found themselves unemployed.

According to Beverly Weatherly, daughter of Dr. Weatherly, the founding of a community college was more than just a job for the founders, it was an all consuming passion.

“I don’t think you can imagine how much the founders loved the idea of Delaware Tech,” she said. “It wasn’t only about starting a college, it was about doing something that mattered –– something that was good for Delaware.”

Dr. Mark Brainard, center, talks  with Delaware Tech founding family members Dick Carter, from left, Barbara Weatherly, Harry Terry and Mary Terry during a brunch on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Dr. Mark Brainard, center, talks with Delaware Tech founding family members Dick Carter, from left, Barbara Weatherly, Harry Terry and Mary Terry during a brunch on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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