Our View: RCTC Foundation has 235 reasons to celebrate
The students crossed the stage and were warmly greeted by presenters at the Rochester Community and Technical College Foundation's annual scholarship ceremony.
By the end of the evening, 235 scholarships, valued at $270,000, were awarded, with the recipients ranging from high school seniors in the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options program to 20-somethings who make up a large proportion of the student body to middle-aged adults looking to change careers. It was an unmistakable reminder that Rochester Community and Technical College remains as relevant as it did when it opened as Rochester Junior College on Sept. 13, 1915.
"A community college is a uniquely American experience," said Peter Sandberg, president of the RCTC Foundation's board of directors, noting you won't find the educational opportunity of a two-year college within a short drive of one's home in European and Asian countries.
That's been true at RCTC for nearly 100 years. It's also true that Minnesota's oldest community college continues to be a higher-education innovator by offering nearly 30 percent of its courses online, making it accessible for students of any age, especially adults who need to work full time while going to school.
Several presenters reinforced the maxim that education isn't just for the young.
John McLaughlin, who with his wife, Sandra, presented two scholarships, encouraged the audience by telling his story of returning to school when he was 56 to become a nurse.
Nancy Bateman, whose family awarded seven scholarships, said her father, Walter, who taught social sciences at the school for nearly 40 years, was an advocate of lifelong learning and that her mother earned a master's degree when she was 80.
Other venerated names from RCTC's history were present at the ceremony. Rebecca Hill, daughter of Charles Hill, the school's longest-serving president from 1953 to 1982, presented three of the four scholarships associated with her father. Eleven scholarships were founded by Bill Brunner, a 35-year business instructor who operated the college's textbook buy-back program that committed proceeds to an endowment.
You don't have to be a hallowed figure from RCTC's past to play a vital role in the college's future. Most of the scholarships were founded by former students who want to help the next generation and community residents who dedicate an endowment to a loved one. Every donation, no matter how modest, is appreciated and tax-deductible.
Established in 1961, the foundation has a broader mission of supporting RCTC's programs, connecting alumni and raising funds for the Rochester Regional Stadium and other campus facilities. Its next event is the 21st annual Yellowjacket Golf Classic, a tournament that benefits RCTC athletics and scholarships. The foundation also oversees Beat the Odds, a poignant annual event affiliated with the Children's Defense Fund that awards scholarships to disadvantaged young people who have overcome personal and academic difficulties.
As the college nears its 100th anniversary, the RCTC Foundation intends to establish dozens of new scholarships to meet the educational needs of Rochester and the surrounding region for the next 100 years.
After witnessing the 235 scholarships presented this week, we have no doubt the dedicated people at the RCTC Foundation will make it happen.