GARDEN CITY — Beth Tedrow, a longtime former Garden City Community College instructor, counselor and dean, rode through the college’s campus Saturday ringing the school’s iconic 118-year-old victory bell that had reverberated through the college’s halls since before Tedrow was a student.
GCCC, one of the oldest community colleges in Kansas, celebrated its 100th birthday ahead of its homecoming game, inviting students, staff and community members to come together for a packed day of parades, food and entertainment on campus.
But before that, the campus, and the other spaces the college has called home over the decades, thousands of students coursed through its halls, learned from its teachers and held onto each other as they shared their first glimpses of adulthood.
When Tedrow came to the school, convinced to enroll by a high school dean, it still shared space with the then-new Garden City High School, or Horace Good Middle today. The college, which had about twice as many students a class than the high school, was on the second floor of the building.
In a lot of ways, the two schools were the same. Both college and high school shared space and teachers and a lot of Tedrow’s classmates had come from the high school, she said.
But other students came from all over, Tedrow said. The class was small enough that everyone knew each other. They talked in class or in the high school cafeteria between classes or on the town in their spare time. The college was at the high school, but it wasn’t the high school, she said, and college students walked around with that swagger of seniority now reserved for 12th graders. It felt like their own world, she said.
Not long after Tedrow left GCCC, the junior college moved to its second campus, a pink stucco building located where Buffalo Jones Elementary School is today. The rosy walls earned the spot its unofficial nickname: Little Pink University, or LPU. In 1963, the school moved again to Sabine and Calkins halls. And in 1967, ground broke on the campus students know today.
That was the campus Rex Oyler found when he came to the college as a freshman in 1979. GCCC had purchased 75 acres that year, expanding its space to the east, and the John Collins Technical Building was barely five years old. Facilities to the east had just been completed the year before in 1978. Sixty years since its inception, the college was still growing.
The community college was “like high school on steroids,” Oyler said. It was the next step up. His classmates were people he had known or known of in high school — fellow GCHS alumni or students from schools he had competed against in high school. Some of them are still his close friends today.