By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
BELOIT -- It was billed as a night of golden opportunities.
Saturday's dinner and auction commemorating the 50th anniversary of North Central Kansas Technical College was exactly that, in more ways than one.
The 250-some people who attended the anniversary kickoff event on the Beloit campus helped earn $28,000 for the school's educational fund, bidding on items in the silent or oral auctions.
But they also viewed it as a golden opportunity to connect with former classmates and teachers and acquaintances from long ago.
"It was really enjoyable seeing everyone, especially Dr. Severance," Sandy Gottschalk said of 87-year-old Bob Severance, one of the school's first instructors and longtime director before he retired in 1992.
Gottschalk, director of nursing and interim dean for the Hays campus, started teaching at the college in 1990, four years before it was elevated from vocational school to technical college status.
"It was a great way to kick off the (50th) anniversary," she said. "And it's cool to think I've been here for half of it."
Eric Burks, in his third year as president of NCK Tech -- now with campuses in Beloit and Hays -- was pleased with the overall results.
"It's amazing to think this school started in basically what was a wheat field," he said. "It was good to see so many alumni have a chance to catch up with instructors and the college in general."
One of those was Dan Watson from Hunter, a member of the first graduating class of North Central Kansas Area Vocational-Technical School in 1965.
Watson obviously was enjoying himself talking about old times as he sat beside John Lackey from Beloit, one of the first instructors in charge of the welding program.
"I came to school to study welding, and I remember enrolling late, in July," Watson said. "When I was asking where the classes would be (held), their answer was, 'We don't know yet.' "
When the school started, various locations had to be found for the six beginning programs -- auto mechanics, business/secretarial, carpentry/cabinetmaking, heavy equipment, vocational agriculture and welding.
Classes were in various locations in Beloit for several years before the campus began to grow on the north end of the city.
Burks said while he thought Saturday was a good night of reminiscing about the "good ol' days," he also is looking forward to progress.
"It's like those banners say, 'Celebrating our past, securing our future,' " Burks said of huge banners displayed at the dinner and auction.
"That was perfect. We are definitely going to reconnect with our past this year, celebrate the strong foundation we have."
But he admitted he is just as excited about the next 50 years because NCK Tech "has got a bright future."
And Burks predicted there would be more auctions similar to Saturday's, long before 2064.
"It was great to see all the support," he said, "and I don't think we'll wait until 50 years to do this."