by Dr. John Mullens
Welcome to the Summersville Campus of New River Community and Technical College, conveniently located at the intersection of US 19 and WV 41. The Summersville Campus has an admirable history of serving the educational needs of residents from Clay, Braxton, Fayette, Nicholas, and Webster Counties. The origins of the campus date to the early 1970s when Glenville State College began an outreach program for early entrance courses at Nicholas County High School. From a single class offered in the Fall of 1973, college course offerings quickly multiplied to a repertory of general education classes taught at both the high school and the Nicholas County Career and Technical Center, located twelve miles east at Craigsville.
By the early 1980's enrollment in these courses was so significant that the local citizenry and elected officials began to promote the concept of building a center to house all offerings under one roof. With the endorsement of the West Virginia Legislature, the Nicholas County Commission appointed a subsidiary faction identified as the Nicholas County Building Commission and authorized it to construct an approximate ten-thousand square foot structure on property adjacent to and belonging to Nicholas County Veterans Memorial Park, land which decades earlier had been donated to the County for recreational and educational purposes.
Nestled on eleven acres, the low rise building with a white brick facade, inspired by mid-century modern architecture (and as such, tying it to other landmark buildings in Summersville including the U.S. Post Office, Municipal City Hall, and Summersville Memorial Hospital) was officially dedicated on August 14, 1986, and opened for classes several weeks later, with some 300 students enrolled. The Honorable Arch A. Moore, Jr., then Governor of West Virginia, delivered the dedicatory address. The occasion marked the return of higher education housed in a community building at Summersville after a more than seventy-year absence.
Dedicated as the Nicholas County Center of Glenville State College, the branch campus offered the first two years of study for most baccalaureate degree programs offered by Glenville as well as the complete course of study for four associate degree programs. As enrollment increased and more associate degrees were added the need for enhanced library services became evident. Once again the citizenry rallied and advocated the relocation of Summersville Public Library to property adjacent to the College. On November 14, 1992, the new library building was dedicated after its Board of Directors and the City of Summersville raised more than a million dollars for construction costs.
In 1996 as enrollment continued to increase and space was at a premium, the Nicholas County Building Commission agreed to finance an additional eight-thousand or so square feet. One of the crucial goals of the new project was to include laboratory space for science, biology, and chemistry courses (which were still housed at Nicholas County High School), as well as computer laboratories and a commons area for student activities. The dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony for the addition was held June 25, 1998, and After Center as it had come to be known locally, it was inaugurated as the Nicholas County Campus.
The passage of Senate Bill 653 in March 2000 held wide repercussions for the Nicholas County Campus. The Campus began to transform itself to become the headquarters for Glenville State's Community and Technical College. The CTC Provost relocated to Summersville and ten full-time faculty members were transferred under mandates of the legislation. Additional faculty and administrative support positions were added, and the Campus became poised to coordinate the CTC operations in Braxton, Lewis, and Roane Counties as well as the CTC programs at Glenville proper.
Three years later, in March 2003, the West Virginia Legislature passed House Bill 2224 creating New River Community and Technical College by combining the Nicholas County Campus with Bluefield State's community college components at Beckley and Lewisburg, and a year later further refined New River operations with the passage of Senate Bill 448. New River was founded July 1, 2003, and the Nicholas County Campus was rededicated with a ribbon cutting ceremony on September 29, 2003.
Today, the Summersville campus offers five certificate programs including Licensed Practical Nursing (the only program in the state to offer college credit for practical nursing classes) and sixteen associate degrees.
In many respects, the Nicholas County Campus continues an excellence in education that began in 1893, when forty influential business and professional men charted the Summersville Normal School and built a spacious building on the town hill just east of the Court House -- College Avenue still exists today. Although private, Summersville Normal duplicated the same curriculum as the State Normal Schools then located at Fairmont, Glenville, Shepherd, and West Liberty. Diplomas were granted in the areas of Teachers, Business, and Collegiate. By the turn of the twentieth century, more than 300 students were enrolled, representing eleven counties. In his book History of Education in West Virginia, Dr. C.H. Ambler noted, "The Summersville Normal was the most important of all the private or select schools of its kind in West Virginia." He further concluded, "this school might have evolved into another state normal but for a prohibitionary provision of the state constitution." When Summersville Normal disbanded in 1914, due in part to the establishment of Nicholas County High School, much of the school's inventory was donated to Glenville State Normal School -- at least according to local legend. Perhaps, then, with Glenville's founding of the Nicholas County Campus, higher education at Summersville came full circle.