Monday, September 20, 2021

In Their Footsteps: Cape Cod History - Cape Cod Community College

    For sixty years Cape Cod Community College has been the go-to for locals wishing to seek higher education. In 2021 it includes 40 degree concentration options, more than 45 certificate programs, and serves more than 6,000 students annually. 4 C’s, as it’s commonly referred to, feels like it has been a part of the fabric of Cape Cod forever. While it has been, surprisingly the road from concept to the opening day took well over a decade. Through various roadblocks Cape Cod Community College managed to not only become a reality but thrive. Here is how 4 C’s came into existence.

    The initial rumblings about a potential community college on Cape Cod began just after World War II. A catalyst for this college was the impending departure of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy from Hyannis.

    The Massachusetts Maritime Academy was originally founded in 1891. First known as the Massachusetts Nautical Training School it resided on Rowes Wharf along Atlantic Avenue in Boston. In 1936 the entire school, now known as the familiar Massachusetts Maritime Academy, relocated to Hyannis. It took over the buildings on Main Street that formerly housed the Hyannis Normal School.

The Hyannis Normal School c.1900(Maxwell Library/Bridgewater State University)

    In 1946 Mass Maritime had acquired land at Taylors Point in Buzzards Bay with the plan to move the school there in the not too distant future. May 1948 saw the first mentions of constructing a community college on Cape Cod. The Massachusetts State Board of Education began discussions with newly elected Senator for the Cape Cod and Plymouth District Edward C. Stone. The discussions centered around the need for a college on the Cape. This led to Stone introducing a bill in the state Senate in December 1948. However introducing the bill, known as Bill 213, was the easy part.

    Mass Maritime officially moved out of Hyannis in 1949 leaving the former campus empty. Interest was gauged in a potential community college with a questionnaire directed toward the graduating Class of 1949. Of the 683 high school seniors who responded 168 expressed interest in attending a possible college based out of Hyannis.

    The potential interest sat at just under 25%. Despite the relatively low positive response there was hope from Senator Stone of ground breaking for a new college sometime by late 1950. The issue of having enough students to warrant such a large project was a sticking point though. Still early in 1950 various towns and organizations on Cape Cod gave their approval at meetings held by Stone to proceed with the community college project.

Sen. Edward Stone c.1953(Wikimedia

    Stone recommended $100,000 for the funding of the school. Incredibly during the summer of 1950 the Senate rejected the bill, then reconsidered and voted yes. The bill’s nuts and bolts were then delayed to another session making the entire process quite confusing. As if in an attempt to remind Cape Codders of his efforts Senator Stone refiled the bill for the college on December 4, 1950.

    The community college project sat in limbo for several years. It was dealt what could have been a death blow when on July 13, 1955 Stone’s bill was voted down in the Senate by a vote of 22-15. The opposed said that the community college was by this time ‘old news’ and that there was a greater need for a state medical school. The hopes of a Cape Cod based college were dashed.

    The success of the Falmouth night school rekindled the desire for the college. It had opened in 1931 and had proven to be a worthwhile investment. In 1956 alone 260 adult students graduated the Falmouth establishment. By 1958 numbers such as these had reopened the possibility of a Cape Cod college.

    Once again at the forefront was Senator Stone. He spoke at many events urging the creation of the community college. Stone said it should be a two-year school allowing Cape Cod students the chance to get a higher education while also not dealing with the exorbitant costs of room and board for living on a campus.

    His desire to bring a community college to Cape Cod kept Senator Stone involved in local politics long past a traditional retirement age. At long last the project became reality in July 1960. The 82-year-old Stone was thrilled to announce that the plan was for Cape Cod Community College to open in September 1961.

The original campus on Main Street.(Sturgis Library)

    As was the original plan the college’s campus was to be the former Hyannis Normal School. The buildings were vacated by the current tenants in time for an October 1, 1960 deadline. From there Dr. Irving Bartlett was named the initial president of the college. Bartlett earned a PhD from Brown University.

    The first person to enroll at the new Cape Cod Community College was 17-year-old Suzanne Kathleen Clowry of Dennis. A special ceremony was held on the college campus on February 16, 1961. Clowry was welcomed by Dr. Bartlett and Senator Stone. Her plan was to transfer to Boston University after two years and become a teacher.

    In all 165 students enrolled for the first semester of college in the fall of 1961. The first Dean of Students was Dr. Elinor Hanna who came aboard after working as principal of Clifton Senior High School in Clifton, New Jersey. One by one the faculty was added with praise heaped upon each of them in the local newspapers.

    Still it could not be smooth sailing for long. Sadly the budget for the college was cut leading to frustration from both Senator Stone and Dr. Bartlett. Leading up to registration day for students $250,000 of renovations were done on the buildings of the former Normal School. The interior was said to bear no resemblance to the old Mass Maritime Academy after the renovations.

    The first day of official classes was September 22, 1961 with an orientation program for the 165 registered students. In keeping with the rocky road that led to the opening of Cape Cod Community College took place in the shadow of Hurricane Esther. Even though classes had begun the students helped out additionally moving equipment that was necessary. However despite the long scenic route Cape Cod finally had its community college.

    Cape Cod Community College was a huge success. The first graduating class of 72 got their diplomas on June 9, 1963. Senator Edward Stone who fought so hard for the college lived long enough to see the first graduating class. He passed away at the age of 85 on June 6, 1964. The school rapidly outgrew its initial home on Main Street in Hyannis. In 1964 plans began for a new location for 4 C’s. It took until 1970 but a new 115-acre campus was opened just off of the Mid-Cape Highway where it still stands today.  Its former campus on Main Street in Hyannis is now home to the Town Offices.

    Six decades of service and thousands of graduates, Cape Cod Community College took the long road to creation. Thanks to the tireless hard work of Senator Edward Stone and the unrelenting support of the Cape Cod community the college became a reality despite countless roadblocks. Rather than coasting on legacy Cape Cod Community College continues to expand and enhance its experience. This dedication will keep 4 C’s a viable option for young and older students for decades to come.


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