Tuesday, May 06, 2014
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Interviews capture community college history
Oral history project for Lincoln Presidential Library gathers memories of community college system

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[May 06, 2014]  SPRINGFIELD – The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library’s Oral History Program is proud to release a new collection of interviews telling the story of an important and often-overlooked part of Illinois’ education system: community colleges.

Education is Key – Community Colleges features 62 interviews of teachers, administrators and legislators who helped build a network of colleges serving nearly one million students each year. The interviews cover the creation of the community college system 50 years ago and touch on a multitude of issues, including its role in civil rights, educating women and serving older students.

Volunteer Philip Pogue, former superintendent of the Greenville School District, conducted the interviews in 2013 and early 2014. He traveled the entire state and visited every community college district.

“Phil has done a great service for the people of Illinois,” said Dr. Mark DePue, director of the presidential library’s Oral History Program. “His hard work preserves the voices and memories of those who saw the need for colleges that would provide an affordable education and enrich their communities.”

Illinois has 39 community college districts operating 48 individual colleges and one consortium. The colleges ensure a quality education is available to Illinoisans throughout the state. In fact, more students are enrolled in community colleges than in the state's many four-year institutions.
Community colleges perform many functions beyond preparing students for traditional four-year institutions. These include worker retraining, adult education, and certification programs. They are a point of pride for communities across the state.

“As we prepare to recognize our 50-year anniversary as a system in 2015, we want the people of Illinois to recognize the value of our excellent community colleges,” said Karen Anderson, executive director of the Illinois Community College Board. “Illinois community colleges touch the lives of almost one million students each year. We are fortunate to have the best community college system in the world right here in Illinois.”

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The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library’s Oral History Program can be found at www.oralhistory.illinois.gov. The community college interviews are at http://tinyurl.com/CollegeOralHistory.

The interviews explain how community colleges sometimes struggled to improve their campuses and escape derogatory labels like “Tinker Toy Tech.” They include student memories from an all-female college in the 1950s and from an aide to the governor who oversaw creation of the community college system.

Michael S. Monaghan, executive director of the Illinois Community College Trustees Association, added: “The history of the creation and evolution of the Illinois community college system is an important chapter in the story of higher education. I commend the staff at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum for their diligent work to record and preserve this important part of history.”

[Text received; CHRIS WILLIS, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum]

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