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A Journey Through the Years


     The content for this Web Site is based on A Journey Through the Years: A History of New River Community College, which was compiled by the NRCC Office of Institutional Advancement from June 2001 to August 2002. The idea for a written history of New River Community College was introduced as early as February 27, 1978. On that date, during a meeting of the NRCC Board, NRCC president Randall Edwards suggested that the board commission someone to prepare a history of the College so that future board members and administrators would have access to the story of the College’s development. Although such a document would not be written until some twenty years after Edwards’ request, the pages that follow trace the development and growth of an institution that has, throughout its existence, taken on a unique identity within the Virginia Community College System, as well as within the New River Valley.

     Just as an individual matures, so does an institution, and each stage of the College’s development has refined its identity. However, certain qualities have remained constant since those first days when faculty and staff of the New River Vocational-Technical School were establishing the strong foundation on which the College was built. Perhaps more than any other quality which has prevailed is the College’s unwavering commitment to serving its diverse population of students. In many respects, the College’s identity has developed from a culture which underlies that commitment. That culture has often been described by many as one of compassion, of humor, of integrity, of professionalism, of goodness, and of love. It is a culture of community involvement, endorsement, and support; and it is a culture of allowing change even without always embracing it. It has never been a culture of arrogance or elitism, and when these elements were introduced, they were not long-lived. It has been a culture, however, of pride and of enjoying the College’s success without drawing attention to individual accomplishments.

     The pages that follow may not include specific accounts of these qualities since it focuses more on the chronology of “events” that have occurred since the beginning of New River Community College; however, without those qualities, the College could not have sustained the special atmosphere that has thrived and fostered its continued success throughout several decades. Those of us who have had the good fortune to be a part of New River Community College for many years have frequently heard the College described as “special.” We have also often heard comments like “I just can’t put my finger on it, but there is something different about this place.” If after you have read the narrative of events and still cannot find words to identify the culture, read the comments from the presidents, faculty, staff, board members, and students. Perhaps you will then come closer to being able to understand what it is that makes NRCC so “different” and, yes, so “special.”

     Perhaps it is already evident that I can make no claim to objectivity, for the College has been a source of opportunity, but not just for its students. It has given its employees the opportunity to engage in continuous professional development and to be a part of a team working toward a common and noble goal. Equally important, it has afforded us the opportunity to work with, and learn from, students who have made such a difference in the quality of our lives. Furthermore, it has allowed us to work in an environment of integrity and goodness with colleagues who have served as mentors, friends, and family.

     Neither can I make any claims to originality. The following pages are a compilation of the hard work and creativity of so many individuals—Joyce Taylor and others in the Office of Institutional Advancement, past public information officers, the Office of Planning and Research, and so many more. It is also a result of the thorough coverage by reporters for New River Valley newspapers who have so diligently reported the College’s activities. All of these individuals have written the history of New River Community College.

     Finally, I also cannot make claims to all-inclusiveness. There are many events not mentioned, as are many individuals who have contributed so much. I ask that the readers please accept the ones that are included as representative documentation of a college that has changed the history of thousands of individuals who have passed through its doors.


     Compiling a forty-year history of New River Community College was made easier with access to the minutes of all college board meetings, as well as to the thousands of news releases and newspaper articles that have been carefully catalogued by the College Relations Office, the Office of Institutional Advancement, and others who began this task when the College opened.

     Certainly, the history of New River Community College could not have been completed without the help of numerous individuals, including Murray Bosniak, who wrote an early draft of Chapter 1, and Whitney Earles, who researched the 1990’s and wrote an early draft for that chapter. Special thanks go to Mark Rowh and to the NRCC History Editorial Committee, who offered ideas for content and format, who read and reread drafts, who helped revise drafts, and who helped select and identify photographs to include. Serving on this committee were Roger Adkins, Peggy Galloway, Eddie Goodson, Hilda Haga, Doyle Lyons, Bettie McMillan, Sara Olsen, David Poteet, Joyce Taylor, and Peggy Taylor. Two other individuals, Cecil Wynn and Marian Lockard, who willingly and kindly offered proofreading and editing assistance, were also invaluable in the preparation of this history.

     Another individual was in the process of reviewing the drafts and suggesting revisions at the time of his death. This person, William J. Dawson, Jr. (Bill), typified the spirit and the culture of New River Community College. In so many ways, his contributions and influence perpetuated this culture, and the College shall continue to reflect his legacy.

     Many other individuals contributed to the preparation of this document, including Katherine Martin and Linda Brillheart, as well as the numerous people who dropped by my office to share books, journal articles, files, photographs, and stories that they felt might be helpful. A testament to this widespread cooperation lies in the more than one hundred comments that were shared for inclusion in this publication.

     Certainly, special appreciation must be also expressed to NRCC President Jack Lewis, whose love for, and commitment to, the College—and to this project—made this a rewarding endeavor for all involved.

     Finally, now that the published history has been posted as a Web site, acknowledgment must be made to two other individuals, Tammy Lewis and Jonathon Surratt, who offered creativitity, technical skill, and hard work to the design of this site.

     To all of you, I offer my heartfelt “thank you” for a job well done.


     The primary sources for this history included publications by NRCC and the VCCS, minutes of college board meetings, personal interviews, news releases and articles prepared by the NRCC Information Office, and articles published in local newspapers. The comments which have been included within the text of the chapters came from personal interviews and from written responses to a questionnaire which was distributed early in the preparation of this document. By consensus of members of the editorial committee and the Office of Institutional Advancement, we have not included in-text documentation because we felt it would interfere with the readability of the document. However, the printed sources that were used are listed below:

     VCCS Publications: Illuminator, Vol. 46, No. 4, January 1995; Looking Back . . . Moving Forward, Virginia Community College System 1990-91 Annual Report; VCCS Directions May/June 1994; VCCS Directions, March/April 1996; The Times, AACJC, September 1, 1989

     NRCC Publications: GED ITEMS, Vol. 8, No. 3, May/June 1991, The Newsletter of the GED Testing Service; Minutes of meetings of the New River Community College Board (1969-2000); NRCC annual reports (1979-80, 1980-81, 1981-82, 1989-90, 1990-91); NRCC Insitutional Self-Study Report, 1976; NRCC Schedule of Classes (spring quarter 1984, summer quarter 1984); New River News (May 1991, October 1993, February/March 1994, December 1998); New River Valley Center for Training and Development Communique, Volume V, Issue 1; New River Community College Master Plan: Planning for Progress (1992-93); New River Community College Institutional Self-Study Report Update and Action Plan 1997, Prepared for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; The New River Rambler, March 15, 1991, Vol. 1, No. 6; Restructuring and Resource Management at New River Community College 1992-1996

     New River Valley Newspapers (1958-2000): Blacksburg-Christiansburg News Messenger; Blacksburg Sentinel; Blacksburg Sun; Bluefield Daily Telegraph; Cougar Prowler; Floyd Press; New River Current; News Messenger; New River News; New River Newspapers, Inc.; News Journal; Radford Messenger; Roanoke Times; Roanoke Times & World News; Southwest Times; Sunday Times Journal, Pulaski-Radford; The News; Virginian-Leader

Bonnie V. Wynn
Associate Professor of English
Employment at NRCC: 1970 - present

A Note from Dr. Jack M. Lewis

    Sprinkled throughout A Journey Through the Years: A History of New River Community College, you will find tributes to some of the people who have made New River Community College such a special place. But the history would be incomplete without a few such comments about its author, Bonnie Wynn.

    It may not be widely known, but there were several false starts in developing a history of NRCC. It was no one’s fault, but for a variety of reasons we just couldn’t seem to get this project off the ground. Then it occurred to me that the answer was right in our midst. For a truly comprehensive history, we needed a writer who had been with the institution from its early days. We also needed someone who had a real passion for the mission and vision of New River Community College. And of equal importance, we needed an individual with superb writing and organizational skills.

    I didn’t exactly have a vision from above, but when I thought of Bonnie Wynn, it seemed that way. Anyone who knows Bonnie will agree that she certainly has the essential qualities noted here. On top of that, she is one of the hardest workers I have ever known. Too, her consummate skill with language would be the key in illuminating the culture of this college and the spirit that dwells among us. If anyone could make this project a success, she was the one.

    When I asked her to take on this daunting task, my only reservation was that she might decline. But Bonnie, always the unselfish contributor, responded with typical grace that she would give it a try.

    Well, the rest, as they say, is history (pun intended). Bonnie read and interviewed and wrote and edited. She spent countless hours, including many evenings and weekends, working away at what turned out to be a huge project. How does one commit the essence of an institution to one small book? How does one present not just factual information, but also the stories that reveal the character of a college that has served over 80,000 students since its inception as a small vocational school? Bonnie struggled with these questions, but in the end, she prevailed. I think the reader will agree that this history is much more than a dull report to be stuck on a bookshelf. Rather, it is a dynamic look at where we’ve been, and perhaps an indication of where we’re going.

    This would not have been possible, I’m convinced, without the herculean efforts of Bonnie Wynn. I have been privileged to work with Bonnie for some thirty years, and so I should not be surprised by the quality of her work. But I am deeply impressed. I am proud to be able to call her not only a colleague but a dear friend, and to add these heartfelt comments to this history of New River Community College.
As an additional small gesture, it is my pleasure to contribute the photo shown here. If I do say so, I think it captures the spirit of this wonderful lady.

Jack M. Lewis
NRCC President