Monday, January 30, 2012

Fifty years ago Tri-County Technical College made South Carolina history by becoming the first multi-county technical institute in the State. The College kicked off its golden anniversary celebration with a community reception January 26 on the Pendleton Campus. During the program, leaders from the three-county area talked about Tri-County's important role in the community. Pictured from left are Clemson University President James F. Barker; George B. Patrick, III, deputy secretary of the South Carolina Department of Commerce; Senator Larry Martin, chair of the Pickens County Legislative Delegation; Senator Thomas Alexander, chair of the Oconee County Legislative Delegation; Rep. Mike Gambrell, chair of the Anderson County Legislative Delegation; and Tri-County Technical College President Ronnie L. Booth.

Tri-County Technical College Celebrates 50 Years



(By Lisa Garrett)

Editor's Note: You can view the 50th anniversary website by visiting and clicking on the 50th Anniversary logo. Photos from the reception are under the "Anniversary Highlights and Photos" link.

PENDLETON --- At a community celebration to kick off Tri-County Technical College's golden anniversary, Senator Thomas Alexander quoted the late Senator Marshall Parker, one of the College's founding fathers, in an excerpt from a 1991 speech the Seneca senator gave to Tri-County graduates. He read: "Education and economic development are inseparable. Education without job opportunity is folly; a good job without education is impossible."

"We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us," said Senator Alexander, who is chair of the Oconee County Legislative Delegation. Looking back at photographs from 1963 when Tri-County Technical Education Center opened its doors and attracted 919 students during its first year of operation, Senator Alexander noted how things have changed aesthetically, but emphasized that the College's focus of providing educational opportunities for all citizens remains the same. "The great thing about Tri-County Tech is that it has changed as the needs of the community and the needs of its students have changed. "We're better today because of the 50 years Tri-County has been part of our community."

Tri-County President Ronnie Booth recounted the history of the College. "In the early 1960s, there were not a lot of opportunities. The state was rather poor and undereducated and wasn't attracting industry. We needed a better educated workforce."

South Carolina's 16 technical colleges were created as tools for economic development. In 1961 S.C. faced a bleak future. During the early 60's, young people were leaving in droves because there were few jobs for them.

Senator Ernest Hollings, who was then governor, commissioned a group of legislators and representatives of the State Development Board to look at the state's depressed economy at that time. The committee traveled around the United States viewing technical education systems in other states. After a year-long study, they filed a report that said the only way for South Carolina to improve its economy would be to develop its most valuable resource - its people.

Tri-County was founded in 1962 when the tri-county residents pooled their resources to plan the College after Act 323, Section 23, of the South Carolina General Assembly established the State Committee for Technical Education and provided for the establishment of regional centers. Governor Hollings signed Act 905 of the General Assembly on April 7, 1962, creating what would eventually become Tri-County Technical College.

"We were created with a mission to fuel economic development and I'm proud to say we still do that," said Dr. Booth. "By forging partnerships, we are where we are today."

Rep. Mike Gambrell, chair of the Anderson County Legislative Delegation; said the state's technical college system is recognized as one of the best in the nation. "Tri-County provides the best in technical education and has become an invaluable tool in industrial recruitment. Knowing that there is an educated work force here makes this area an easy sale to industries and businesses. We couldn't make it work without Tri-County."

"Clemson University is proud and grateful for the partnership we have with Tri-County," said Clemson President James Barker. "I'm inspired by what you are doing. I'm excited about the future of our Bridge to Clemson program. I'm also proud of the role Clemson played in founding this institution. One of our proudest moments was the hand we had in the beginning this institution," said Mr. Barker, referencing former Clemson President R.C. Edwards, who was instrumental in Clemson College, at that time, donating acreage that was outside Mr. Clemson's willed land to serve as the site for Tri-County.

"Tri-County is leading our community to a better quality of life," said Larry Martin. "Congratulations on a tremendous five decades. So much lies ahead. The technical college system is an easy sell on our front in Columbia."

There is no more important member of the state's team than the technical colleges, said George B. Patrick, III, deputy secretary of the South Carolina Department of Commerce. "Colleges like Tri-County make South Carolina unique and attractive for investment. When I ask manufacturers what keeps them awake at night, the answer is always running out of a trained, skilled workforce. I can't think of a more valuable partner for the Department of Commerce than the technical college system," he said.

"The need for Tri-County Technical College is greater now than ever before," said Senator Lindsey Graham. "For many families, this is the place to start. Working together is increasingly difficult these days, but Tri-County represents that when we work together, we can be better than we are individually. I hope to be here for the 75th anniversary."


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Lisa Garrett
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