Book to chronicle Kellogg Community College’s history
Battle Creek — It was 1956.
Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin performed their last comedy act together, Norma Jean Mortenson legally changed her name to Marilyn Monroe, and Rocky Marciano gave up boxing without losing a single fight.
It was also the year that Kellogg Community College opened for business in Battle Creek.
Retired KCC history professor Elizabeth Neumeyer is penning a book this year that chronicles KCC’s history in the Cereal City, just in time for the college’s 60th anniversary.
“The theme of the book is that community is our middle name, and, as I’m writing the book, it’s just proving my point,” Neumeyer said. “I’m finding I know more about KCC than I did when I taught there.”
The book, titled “Always a Bruin: The History of Kellogg Community College — 1956-57 to 2016-17,” is the second book that digs into KCC’s roots. Neumeyer hopes to finish the book by the end of the year.
Former KCC English professor Neva Bartel wrote the first book, “A Celebration of Progress: A History of Kellogg Community College, 1956-1991,” nine years before the end of the 20th century.
KCC celebrated its 60th anniversary with a summer community gala on campus. Neumeyer’s book will be the icing on the cake.
Neumeyer said KCC President Mark O’Connell requested the book when he was vice president of finance and caretaker of the college’s history and records.
O’Connell, who has been with the college for nearly 27 years, said the book will cover the college’s history from 1992 to the present.
“We felt it was very important to document the history after (1991) because we were losing many of our faculty and staff who had been employees for 20, 25 years,” O’Connell. “We’re very blessed to have one of our former instructors here to help us.”
The Battle Creek Public Schools Board of Education established Battle Creek Community College on Sept. 1, 1956, in the Grand Army of the Republic Hall to meet the area’s need for higher education.
In the beginning, the college used science laboratories in the high school, the second floor of the W.K. Kellogg Junior High School for a library, the Willard Library as a bookstore and the YWCA as a student center.
Ninety-four daytime students and 82 evening students enrolled that first semester.
The college expanded in 1959 with the help of a $1.75 million gift from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. KCC trustees responded to the gift by naming the college in honor of company founder W.K. Kellogg.
By 1981, 2,907 students were enrolled in day classes, 3,925 students were taking night classes and 924 were doing a little bit of both. In 1990, the college opened its Regional Manufacturing Technology Center to house an industrial trades program and connect graduates to local companies.
In 1998, voters approved a $75 million millage to renovate the campus and upgrade campus buildings. In 2012, the college opened an office in downtown Battle Creek.
KCC demolished the Miller Physical Education Building this year to build a $10 million athletic facility.
Leo Weeks, a KCC retiree from Olivet who graduated in 1961, remembers when he had to use a computer punch card to register for classes.
Back then, he said, the college’s computer was as big as today’s student center.
Weeks moved on to Michigan State University in 1964 and finished a bachelor’s degree in business in 1966.
He then spent 25 years of his life teaching economics, statistics and computer classes for KCC before retiring in 2003.
“The people are always friendly here,” he said. “The people make the place.”