An Homage to Community Colleges


A little over 10 years ago I decided to deal with some unfinished business.

For a brief while in college (40 years ago) I had been a Phys Ed major, but after about a year of coursework, I decided that the material was too hard, and so I switched to Economics.

That led me down the path of then pursuing an MBA, and eventually a PhD in Accounting. I then began a career in academia, where I have been for the past 30 years.

However, my passion for health and fitness, and in particular, the science behind all of it, had never subsided.

So when the opportunity arose to pursue a degree in Health and Fitness Promotion at the local community college, I was all in.

The experience I had at Montgomery County Community College (Montco) was, to put it simply, the best academic experience I had ever had, for several reasons.

First, I was now taking courses that were exactly what I wanted to study, and since I was just taking one course at a time most semesters, I was able to devote all my energies to just that one course. I was that old guy in the classroom that wouldn’t stop asking questions, and was blowing the curve for everyone else. It was an amazing experience to actually be pursuing my passion.

Second, the teachers I had were phenomenal. The two best teachers I have ever had were two of my community college teachers. They were dedicated to what they were teaching and to the mission of the community college. They held the students to high standards, but they were willing to do whatever it took to help the students achieve those standards. I think I became a better teacher as a result of having been a student in their classes.

Third, I fell in love with the mission of community colleges. Such colleges offer an opportunity to students of all abilities and all income levels to pursue a wide variety of coursework. Whether it is someone in his mid 40s looking to change careers, or an 18-year old planning to spend two years at community college and then transfer to a four-year institution, community colleges can help you achieve your goals.

Fourth, I think community colleges are the perfect example of one of my favorite phrases, “Think Globally, Act Locally”. Community colleges excel at getting people ready for being a productive member of our global economy, but they do so by focusing on the local community.

I just received my Alumni Magazine from Montco, and there were several stories of successful people who got their start at the community college. Here are a few brief profiles:

  • Patrick C. spent his first four semesters of college at Montco and then enrolled at Temple University to earn his bachelor’s degree. Patrick is now the President and CEO of Advanced Sports International, a $100 million company best known for its Fuji brand of bikes.
  • Mary Ann P. first enrolled in classes at Montco in 1975, and graduated in 1978. From there she went on to earn advanced degrees in Math from Gwynedd Mercy and Arcadia universities. Twenty-five years after graduating from Montco, she retired as a beloved professor where it all started.
  • Jan K. graduated from Montco in 2009, then went on to graduate magna cum laude from Columbia University, with membership in Phi Beta Kappa. He now works as a project manager at Vanguard.

In addition to all the student success stories, the faculty have also achieved excellence. Many faculty have received both local and national recognition for their excellence in the classroom, some teachers have had their work published, others have had their films shown at international festivals, and many have been chosen to serve key roles in national academic associations.

And the college itself is always moving forward, looking to offer state of the art education in fields that are in high demand. The college has received multiple grants from the NSF to bolster its biotechnology and biomanufacturing curriculum and to create state of the art labs.The college has also broken ground on the construction of a state of the art Health Sciences Center, which will help to position Montco as the regional leader in health and wellness education, which is personally quite exciting. The college has also partnered with several local four year colleges to help make the transition easier from Montco to a four year school, as well as offer options to complete a four year degree at the community college in partnership with a local college.

There are a lot of great things going on at Montco, and I am sure it is the same at most community colleges across the country.

I often think of community colleges as your local library; this great untapped resource that offers a world of knowledge and opportunity for anyone who wants to pursue such goals.

I am convinced that if you are going to pursue a college degree (which I do not think is necessary for everyone), then I think one of the best ways to do so is to spend your first two years at a Community College, and then transfer to a four-year school.

I think such an approach not only saves money, but I think it makes you a more serious student and helps you to better appreciate the value of a college degree. I think it also gives 18-20 years old more time to think about what they may want to study, without the pressure often imposed at four-year schools to pick your major relatively early on.

I am in full support of President Obama’s America’s College Promise — the initiative to make two years of community college free, and I hope it becomes a reality.

My time at Montco was priceless, and I thank the teachers and administration for all they do for their student and community, and I wish them, and their students, continued success.

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