WHEELING - It has been 40 years since the creation of West Virginia Northern Community College, and founding president Daniel Crowder is pleased its leaders are sticking to the college's mission - to serve the community.
Crowder was honored Thursday during a luncheon at the school's downtown Wheeling campus, at which time the creation of the Crowder Legacy Society also was announced. Those who choose to become a member of the society can list Northern as the beneficiary in their will, life insurance policy or other accounts.
Crowder, 85, a Tennessee native and current resident of Clermont, Fla., described the event as a ''delightful affair,'' noting he had a good time seeing old friends and meeting new people who are helping to lead the college. President Martin Olshinsky and his wife, Dianne, were gracious hosts, he said.
Daniel Crowder, founding president of West Virginia Northern Community College, visits the school’s Wheeling campus this week with his wife Wreatha.
''As far as I can see, the staff does a fantastic job in the community. I'm grateful they invited me back,'' Crowder said. ''I think they're doing a terrific job expanding the campus and developing programs to complement it.''
The school's latest undertaking includes renovating the former Straub car dealership properties, located near the main B&O Building. The former Honda building will become the college's new Applied Technology Center while the former Hyundai building will be turned into a Barnes & Noble bookstore, coffee shop and student center. The college also has campuses in Weirton and New Martinsville.
Crowder served as the college's president from 1972-85. He said he was hired after a nationwide search for a president to lead the new school. Taking the job required Crowder and his wife of 62 years, Wreatha, to move from Miami, Fla., to Wheeling. Wreatha Crowder also worked as a teacher in Wheeling during her husband's time as president.
Crowder said serving as the founding president was ''the peak of my career.'' In addition to this week's visit during the 40th anniversary celebration, he has come back to see the school three other times - for its 25th and 30th anniversaries and for the 2009 commencement exercises.
''I love the people and the community. I love the friendliness of the people in the community and the caring they have for one another,'' he said.
During the school's first year, 300 people enrolled as students. When Crowder left in 1985, enrollment had reached 3,800 students, he noted. The school currently has about 2,081 students enrolled.
''Dr. Olshinsky is doing exactly what we started out to do. We promised to serve the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia as well as possible,'' Crowder said.
Olshinsky said he was happy Crowder and his wife could attend the celebration.
"They shared memories with us and we were able to bring them up to date on what's new at our three campuses. It has been a special week," he added.
Crowder was born in Tennessee and later lived in Muncie, Ind., where he earned his bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees from Ball State University. He became a secondary school teacher and later a tenured professor, teaching in various states including West Virginia, Florida, California and Indiana. He retired as regents' professor from the West Virginia College of Graduate Studies.
He is founder of the Ideas Association of America, www.ideasusa.org. Crowder also has written several books including his 2009 autobiography titled ''An Improbable Journey: The Life and Thoughts, Faith and Determination of an Indiana-Imprinted Tennessee Farm Boy, Supernal and Mundane.''
In his autobiography, Crowder said Northern was created when the West Virginia Board of Regents combined the Wheeling and Weirton branches of West Liberty State College, establishing the new school on July 1, 1972. According to information from the school, the college's first building was the former Hazel-Atlas Building in East Wheeling, which had been used by then West Liberty State College. Northern has since sold the Hazel-Atlas to Youth Services System, though it continues to rent some space for its table gambling dealer classes. The B&O Building started being used in 1975.