If local residents were asked what single act has had the most impact on the region over the past 25 years, what happened on April 3, 1990, has to rank near the top.
A quarter-century ago, voters approved the formation of the Junior College District of Central Southwest Missouri. What has taken place as a result of that vote has been nothing short of remarkable.
OTC, with nearly 15,000 students, has had a major impact on the Ozarks’ education and economic landscapes in addition to earning state and national notoriety.
The college will celebrate that anniversary on Friday, April 3 at 2:30 p.m. on the student plaza at the OTC Springfield Campus. In addition to hearing from college dignitaries, OTC’s time capsule will be opened and items for a new time capsule, to be opened in 2040, will be collected.
Charlie O’Reilly, who was on the fact-finding committee to establish the college, has been overwhelmed by OTC’s success and impact.
“OTC has had a huge impact. Every business needs trained people. I would go so far as to say that some companies would not have located here or would not have grown as much as they have without OTC being here,” he said.
“In my opinion, without OTC, it would have caused the relocation of some companies. They look at real closely at available workforce and trained workforce.”
Dr. Hal Higdon, the college’s chancellor, came to OTC in 2006 when enrollment was 9,000 and said the college should have had 15,000 students.
“I think in the next 10 years we should have 20,000,” he said. “I never worked for an institution that is more innovative than this one. We’re young but part of it is southwest Missouri’s mentality of innovation and growth. We’re lucky to live where we live and work where we work.”
Dr. Norman K. Myers, the college’s first president, said the growth has been remarkable.
“I always felt it would grow but I had no idea that the first 15-16 years that I was active that it would grow by 10,000 students. We made news nationally as the fastest growing community college,” he said.
Myers said that today, the natio
nal conversation on education is focused on jobs and job training, and that OTC is in a position to provide the educational needs of the workforce.
“That’s the forte of the community college. I think we’re positioned for greatness,” he said.
Students line up for classes at Cox North.
Steve Koehler is coordinator of media relations for Ozarks Technical Community College.