On December 8, 1966, the Board of Regents and the Trustees of the State University of New York ordered the establishment of a college to serve Columbia and Greene counties and granted a charter and funds.
Temporary offices were opened in Catskill in February of 1968 and later in Athens in January 1969, under the leadership of the institution’s first president, Edward Owen. The first graduation, held at Catskill High School, saw 35 students awarded associate degrees in a dozen areas of study.
The permanent campus, a 131,355-square-foot single-building design, was opened in 1974. Accreditation was awarded by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools in December 1975.
Roger A. Van Winkle took the College’s helm in September 1978. Under his administration, the campus rounded out its basic curriculum in science and liberal arts with new vocational programs, non-credit classes, training for business and industry, and training for disadvantaged students through the Federal CETA program. Enrollment swelled over the next several years to a record peak of 1,428 credit students in 1982 and more than 6,000 non-credit students by the mid-1980s.
Following a standard review by the Middle States Association in 1980-81, the College was granted reaccreditation for a ten-year period.
Under the leadership of Dr. Robert K. Luther, who took over the presidency in July 1984, the campus saw sweeping expansion in the arts and technologies, with the addition of three new campus buildings: a day care center, in 1988; and arts and technology centers, 1990. With the inclusion of new programs in fine arts, automotive technology, and nursing, and creation of a traditional college quadrangle, Columbia-Greene was on its way to becoming a comprehensive community college.
In April 1989, Dr. Terry A. Cline became the College’s fourth president. With more than 40 degree and certificate programs on the roster. In 1992, the Ford ASSET program was added as an option for automotive technology students, which complimented the department’s core program and Toyota option.
In 1994, Columbia-Greene celebrated its 25th anniversary with an open house that showed off the College’s programs and facilities. Meanwhile, the College experienced a decline in enrollment during the mid-1990s, reaching a low of 1034 FTEs in 1996-97. During the same period, the College revised its master plan to include a major renovation of the original, main campus building.
With support from the sponsoring counties, groundbreaking for a $13-million reconstruction plan – which was titled Project Renew – was undertaken in the spring of 1996. The project included a major reconstruction of the 100,000-square-foot main classroom and administration building as well as a restructuring of the facility’s use plan.
In the process, two unused courtyards were filled in to make room for a totally rewired and revitalized facility that included: a sky-lighted Student Services Court with centralized student services, including registration, bursar and financial aid; an Academic Support Center with 140 Internet-connected computers, which was built adjacent to the library to create a university-style research center; four new science laboratories and a nursing center, including state-of-the-art fixtures and ventilation, and “smart” teaching stations ready for connection to computers, multimedia equipment and the Internet; renovated classrooms, lecture halls, and administrative offices; spacious and sky-lighted student lounges and study rooms; and an environmentally-friendly geothermal heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system.
And with Project Renew’s bricks, mortar and electronics, came new academic programs. An automotive-technology certificate program for service and parts professionals was begun in the fall of 1997. A certificate program in computer graphics and design was launched fall 1998, and both an associate-degree program in massage therapy and a certificate program in Webmaster were introduced with the fall 1999 semester.
From the mid-1990s to 2000, the College also saw the addition of a Hudson River field station in Athens. In addition, a 20-year commitment to business and industry training was reaching a new threshold, highlighted by the Saland Employee Educational Development Program (SEED), implemented with the assistance of New York State Senator Stephen Saland who, by 2000, had secured $540,000 in state funding for the plastics-industry program.
Also during this period, the College continued to administer Federally-funded job training programs, under the Job Training Partnership Act and, lately, the Workforce Investment Act. Non-credit programs also experienced growth through the 1990s, showing overall annual enrollment of more than 8,000 by the decade’s end.
Dean of Community Services James R. Campion, a 26-year veteran of C-GCC, became the College’s fifth President on December 20, 2000. The Campion administration has revitalized the long-range planning process, revised the master plan and the marketing and recruitment plan, developed new academic programs and furthered the mission of higher education through the diverse communities of Columbia and Greene counties.
Columbia-Greene has come a long way since its beginnings in 1969. By the fall 2000 semester, the institution had graduated 5,729 students, the faculty had grown to include 98 full- and part-time members, and the staff had come to total 87.
A degree program in teacher education was launched in 2002. The curriculum is a dual enrollment program with the University at New Paltz.
C-GCC was reaccredited in 2000-2001 for a period of 10 years.
In the fall 2004, Columbia-Greene reached a high water mark in enrollment, with 1,800 students. The enrollment trend since that time has skewed more toward the traditional-aged student.
In 2006, the college dedicated the Professional Academic Center. Funded with assistance from state Sen. Saland, the facility completes the college’s master plan as it also rounds out the campus’ quadrangle. In addition, the SEED program reached the $1.1-million mark in support in 2007.
The college is currently in the process of an infrastructure renewal plan, which recently saw repaved parking lots, improved outdoor lighting, and a renovated main entrance.