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‘Part of the Family:’ Dalton State Celebrates 50 Years

It was a night of reminiscing, enjoying the present, and looking to the future at Dalton State Monday as the College celebrated its 50th year as an institution.

Hundreds of people gathered under the bell tower on the quad to share stories and honor the pioneers and leaders who saw the need for a college in Northwest Georgia back in the early 1960s, as well as honor past and current students, faculty, and staff.

“Being there led me to thinking of the life-changing impact that the College has had on so many lives in Northwest Georgia, beginning with me and continuing with everyone on the quad celebrating,” said Cheryl Nuckolls, administrative assistant for the Department of Nursing. “I’m glad to be part of the Dalton State family since 1977, first as a student, and now as a staff member.”

The College first opened its doors as Dalton Junior College in 1967. At that time there were 524 students, and 52 members of the faculty and staff. The College has grown to more than 5,000 students, and 456 members of the faculty and staff.

Dalton Junior College went from helping students earn college credit in core classes so students could transfer to finish their degrees to offering 23 baccalaureate programs.

Through growth, though, the essence of the College has remained the same.

It still has a family feel, something the early administrators and faculty worked to establish. And that feeling was evident Monday night as former colleagues, classmates, and administrators joined with current students, administrators, and faculty and staff in food and fellowship. Mini reunions between people who hadn’t seen each other in years sprang up as music from the 60s on played in the background.

“Every time I think I can’t possibly be more proud and more in love with this college, its students, faculty, and staff and this community, I realize I was wrong,” said Dr. Margaret Venable, president. “Last night was incredible because I saw so many people who love the college come together and celebrate the past, present, and future together.”

Venable and past presidents Dr. John Schwenn and Dr. Jim Burran were recognized, as well as the families of the late Dr. Derrell Roberts and Dr. Arthur Gignilliat. All had a hand in cutting a five-tiered cake provided by Metz Culinary Management.

Several members of the charter faculty attended, including Eileen Fitzgerald Harris, an instructor in English and Spanish.

Harris walked around the quad carrying a yearbook reminiscing with former colleagues and students.

A time capsule containing letters to future educators and administrators, photos, and some pieces of modern technology was on display for one last look before it is sealed for the next 50 years. Emcee Jerry Drye, associate professor of communication, was quick to insist Venable would still be president when the College celebrates its 100th birthday and would be the one opening the capsule.

 Much of the College’s history was on display through photos, yearbooks, and newspaper clippings. There were activities from each of the decades of the College’s existence, including Twister and pet rocks.

“The celebration was like a walking time capsule as I interacted with alumni,” said Diego Alvarado, a member of the Orientation Team and a student ambassador. “The 50th celebration was unlike the other events we have had on campus because this was a tribute to the last 50 years of Dalton State’s history. The fireworks were an amazing way to celebrate the glory of turning 50, but my favorite part was when they ended and the bell tower rang out the Alma Mater. It reminded us we were there to celebrate Dalton State.”