Brevard Junior College “From The Ground UP” The birth of a College – 60 Years

[MUSIC] NARRATOR: One of the greatest and most fantastic stories of sudden and unbelievable community growth took place on the
Central Eastern coast of Florida. The place was Brevard County. The time
post-World War II. When America moved into the great
missile age it was Cape Canaveral in Florida’s Brevard County which was
selected as the nation’s missile launching center. As the once lonely spit
of land called Cape Canaveral sprouted skyward more and more derrick like
launching pads and gantries the nearby towns of Cocoa, Titusville, Melbourne and
others underwent phenomenal growth which, by comparison, made the legendary boom
towns of — almost insignificant this was moon port, USA. Seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, zero. Brevard County, which in 1950 had a total
population of 23,000, found itself a mere decade later with that many school
children alone. And with a 1960 population of some 111,000. Each month thereafter an estimated 1,000 newcomers poured into
the Cape Canaveral area. The moon base boom brought the inevitable growing pains. There were housing shortages. Traffic became a nightmare. Nightspots sprang up along once empty
highways. Beaches became more and more crowded. The boom placed severe strains too on the educational facilities of the county.
Schools which one day met the needs of the citrus belt county were the next day
hopelessly outmoded and pitifully overcrowded. County Superintendent of
Schools Woodrow J. Darden together with a far-seeing board of instruction built
school after school. Recruiting top faculty members to meet the challenge.
The five-member board keenly aware of the importance of quality education was
determined to see that Brevard County school children were provided with
educational opportunities second to none. As yesterday’s missiles roared from the
pads and straight into history, as newer missiles came into being and the old
ones became display pieces, the harassed Brevard school system kept pace. The population upsurge brought with it a
thousand new educational needs. Not the least of which was the desperate need
for a publicly supported institution of higher learning. Through an act of the
Florida State Legislature Brevard County moved swiftly to develop a county
operated junior college. Clubs, civic minded groups and individuals rallied
enthusiastically and tirelessly to aid the plan. A Junior College Advisory Council was
named. The five members of the council were to make specific recommendations to the County Board of Public Instruction concerning the operation of the college. Finally in 1960 Dr. J. Bruce Wilson was
named president of the institution and a nucleus of faculty and administrators
was painstakingly gathered. Brevard Junior College was born into a county
where higher education was needed as never before but where every classroom
already was needed long before it could be built. So it was that in the fall of
1960 the new college opened its doors in what had once been a condemned and
abandoned elementary school in the city of Cocoa. Crude and temporary though its
physical plant was Brevard Junior College proudly enrolled in day and
night divisions 768 students that first fall. It also launched an ambitious group of
extension division classes in the nearby towns of Melbourne and Titusville thus
bringing higher education to those who could not readily reach its main campus. As college enrollment surged upward
plans were launched for a new physical plant. One design to keep pace with the
space age and with the area’s needs, demands and progress. An 80-acre site donated by the city of
Cocoa along with monetary aid from other nearby communities was selected and land cleared for three initial structures. So it was that even as plans for
enlarging tremendously the Cape Canaveral missile base were announced
Brevard Junior College with a rightful upsurge of enthusiasm held its
groundbreaking ceremonies at the site of the new campus. A site which bordered on a quiet blue lake just to the north and west of the city of Cocoa. The voices of
the college choral group echoed optimistically that day across acres of
white sands and among scattered vines which only weeks before had been
hopelessly hidden in dark tangled undergrowth. As students and guests looked on board and college officials symbolically
turned the first Earth and Brevard Junior College’s next step forward was
taken. A new campus for a youthful institution was born. [MUSIC] [APPLAUSE] The speaker’s platform for the
groundbreaking ceremony was soon replaced by tiny red flags which marked
what one day would be the corners of the college’s first three new structures.
Great drills bore deep into the campus site to determine what foundations would
be required to support the massive structures. Soon the first steel rods reached bony
fingers to the sky. May 1962 found Brevard Junior College in its second year of
operation. On its temporary campus classes continued as if the new site
were but a dream. Crowded into three inadequate buildings nearly 2,000
students studied and learned for a better tomorrow. Basing its academic
philosophy on the sound belief that the good junior college serves many needs
Brevard Junior College offered numerous career and terminal programs for those
who needed or wanted but two years of college work. For those who perhaps wished only a
single college course the missile area institution provided also credit and
non-credit courses carefully geared to the demands of the community and for the students who wish to take his first two years of higher education close to home
Brevard Junior College provided a high caliber program of university parallel
courses, in effect the first two years of senior college. Whatever program a student chose
pre-testing, counseling and aptitude tests were available to him. From early morning until late at night
the good community college serves so it is at Brevard Junior College. On June the
1st 1962 Brevard Junior College’s first graduating class numbering some 60
students received their degrees. That evening in a solemn and impressive
ceremony County Superintendent Woodrow Darden joined other important officials
in honoring the school’s first graduating class. The group also heard the University of
Florida’s president Dr. J. Wayne Reitz as guest speaker. Finally the college registrar John
Easley and college president Dr. J. Bruce Wilson conferred the degrees. Another educational milestone for
Brevard County had been past. While all this was taking place the Brevard areas
boom spiraled astoundingly upward. To meet the impact of the accelerated nova
or moon base at Cape Canaveral a new causeway was being flung across the
Indian River in a feverish attempt to cope with the tangle of traffic created
by the missile base. At the same time to cope with a growing educational need of
the region construction surged steadily ahead on Brevard Junior College’s new
campus. For its first three buildings alone 120 tons of steel were needed. A caravan of trucks shuttling rapidly to
and from the new campus came laden with a total of some 12,000 yards of concrete
which whitened and solidified into massive columns and into walls. The first
three structures the administrative, classroom and science buildings all were
to be air-conditioned and completely flexible in design. Yesterday’s dreams
were being rapidly transformed into tomorrow’s realities. [MUSIC] Even when its students were crowded into
facilities long since outmoded a spirit of pride in the school
dominated the atmosphere. A college newspaper, a yearbook, clubs, social and
educational groups were organized and flourished. And even though it had no
gymnasium of its own the college managed to offer a well-rounded sports program. There was an undercurrent of excitement
about the new campus which by mid August of 1962 was well underway. Like some
giants anatomy laid bare a complex of tubes and conduits shaped themselves
into the veins and arteries which connected one new building with the next. And with watchful vigilance each step of
construction was checked and rechecked. A college must be built to endure
forever. Toiling under the Florida sun labored the
men who shaped sketches and plans into solid reality. Fashioning the college’s
initial structures from lengths of steel and pipe and the thousand other things
from which buildings are made. The first three structures comprise the
opening phase of an overall plan which would provide for continued growth of
the institution. Day after day through most of 1962
BJC’s permanent campus moved toward completion. The servere challenge of a swiftly
growing areas means for higher education were met through the founding of Brevard
Junior College. Its beginnings at its first campus mocked a modest but sincere
start. From the thoughts and through the labors
of those who cherish the ideals of a community college for Brevard County the
institution was fashioned. At the hands of capable leaders and talented
masterful teachers the college from it’s very beginning fulfilled every goal set
for it by those who hammered and shaped it from a dream and a desire. Through its
students who wanted desperately an institution of higher learning which
they could call their own Brevard Junior College is proving its
worth again and again. For those who came in search of learning Brevard Junior
College at the front door of America’s gateway to the moon serves a powerful
need. The quest for new learning never ceases. That is why Brevard Junior College continues to serve to grow and to reach
searching arms into the farthest expanses of the space age. [MUSIC]

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