Columbia College Global honored its past, celebrated the present and envisioned its future during the kickoff celebration for its 50th anniversary on Thursday, March 23.
Directors and program coordinators from Columbia College’s 43 nationwide locations gathered in Dorsey Gym with members of the faculty, staff and college community to celebrate the occasion. More anniversary events will be held around the country over the course of this year.
“This is truly a landmark day as we celebrate the kickoff of this yearlong celebration,” President Dr. David Russell told the crowd, which included attendees via Zoom. “Columbia College Global will continue to play a pivotal role in Columbia College’s success. We remain committed to fulfilling our mission to improve lives by providing quality education to traditional and nontraditional students.”
Columbia College Global primarily serves nontraditional students, providing flexible education to students balancing work, family and school. Its footprint spans 15 states in addition to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. About half of the locations are connected to military installations.
More than 75,000 students have graduated from the network over the past 50 years, and more than 20,000 Columbia College alumni are affiliated with the military.
Dr. Shadel Hamilton, vice president of Columbia College Global, shared about the origins of the program, which originally was called Extended Studies and later Adult Higher Education.
Columbia College’s nationwide locations began in March 1973, with evening instruction at Troop Support Command Headquarters in St. Louis. A separate civilian location in St. Louis opened in October 1973; it remains the college’s longest-running nationwide location. In January 1974, the college began operations at Fort Leonard Wood, CC’s oldest continuing military location. The college established its landmark Evening Program in March 1975, forever changing the trajectory of both the college and the lives of thousands of adult learners.
The first decade of what is now Columbia College Global brought the opening of 10 locations that will be celebrating their respective 50th anniversaries by 2025. In addition to the aforementioned locations, these original locations include Jefferson City (Missouri), Lake County (Illinois), Denver (Colorado), Orlando (Florida), Redstone Arsenal (Alabama), Fort Worth (Texas) and Salt Lake City (Utah).
Dr. Hamilton recognized leaders who helped form the trajectory of Columbia College Global, including retired Air Force Col. Mike Randerson, who was in attendance. Col. Randerson served as vice president of Adult Higher Education for 18 years until his retirement in 2014 and now serves as a member of the Board of Trustees.
“The rest of our history remains to be written,” Dr. Hamilton said. “As I look around this room and at those joining us online, I see the people who will be instrumental in authoring our next chapter. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do for our students.
“We look forward to building upon this strong foundation for a bright future.”
Boone County Presiding Commissioner Kip Kendrick, a 2006 alumnus of the Columbia College Evening Program, attended the ceremony as a special guest and congratulated the college on its milestone on behalf of the Boone County government.
Kendrick shared his personal experiences as a nontraditional student who worked a full-time job while completing his bachelor’s degree in Psychology.
“This place is very near and dear to my heart,” Kendrick said of Columbia College. “I am a product of Columbia College Global. The experience that I had through CCG allowed me to get to where I am today and to become who I am today.”
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson sent the college a letter of congratulations in honor of the occasion.
Parson acknowledged the college’s service to adult learners and military-affiliated students, writing the college “has prepared students for rewarding careers and provided them with a strong foundation for a wide range of professional opportunities.”
“Your students have learned the skills it takes to achieve success in any area of life,” he wrote. “I know the skills your students have developed throughout their time at Columbia College will serve them well, and I look forward to seeing what they accomplish in the years ahead.”
To conclude the event, Drs. Russell and Hamilton cut a commemorative cake with an Army saber donated by retired Army Lt. Col. Rob Boone, who serves the college as associate vice president of Strategic Partnerships and Projects.
For more information about Columbia College Global’s 50th anniversary, visit www.ccis.edu/events/50th-celebration.