On Sept. 23, The CCP Six jazz ensemble serenaded an appreciative crowd gathered to celebrate the countdown to the College’s 50th anniversary.
Faculty, staff and administrators in the band harmonized on jazz melodies and entertained the crowd, as many munched on donuts and pastries, ate anniversary cookies, wore anniversary buttons and sipped their morning coffee in the Bonnell Circle.
The band, which had only rehearsed once, included music instructor Mary Ellen Desmond on vocals; instructor Grander Smith on the keyboards; instructor Tim Schilling on guitar, student Kayla Brewer on the saxophone, and a guest Shane Aaserud on bass. Dr. Donald “Guy” Generals, wearing dark shades, kept the beat on the drums. (He formerly served as a back-up drummer for Cissy Houston, mother of Whitney Houston.)
On September 23, 1965, the College first opened its doors for classes. To mark its upcoming 50th anniversary, it is hosting a year-long celebration to commemorate the past, with events both solemn and festive, and to reimagine the future.
Alfred Nicholson drove to campus that morning as he has done on many occasions over the past decades. The College not only provided him with a strong educational foundation, it served as a career springboard for his family. “I went here. My former wife (a nursing graduate) went here –my grandson, and my two daughters,” said Nicholson.
A year after he received his associate’s degree, as a part of the College’s second graduating class, the institution he grew to love gave him a job in human resources, and that opportunity would transform his life.
“I loved it. Still love it. I enjoyed working at Community College and working with the College Family. It was like a family. It was a great place to work,” said Nicholson who retired as affirmative action officer.
And it was a great place to make lasting friends. Alfred’s grandson, Rodney Nicholson, an officer at PNC Wealth Management, met the woman he would later marry on campus. Rodney also found a professional mentor and friend in Richard S. Downs, an alumnus, philanthropist and retired executive who regularly invests in the College’s students.
Throughout the year, the College is encouraging students, faculty, alumni and staff to share stories on the microsite, www.ccp.edu/50. The 50th anniversary website features a detailed timeline of College history, video clips and photos, and interviews with standout alumni, along with a place to post congratulatory messages and share memories.
The 50th anniversary coincides with the Golden Anniversaries of legislation expanding access to opportunity, civil rights and voting rights in America. The Civil Rights Act was signed into law July 1964, and the Voting Rights Act was enacted in August 1965, just seven weeks before the College opened its doors to Philadelphians like Downs who had limited options for higher education.
Over the next year, the College, its faculty and its Student Government Association will be highlighting this era of expanding opportunity, and this institution’s integral connection to it, by hosting a series of events and voter registration drives. The first drive was held on Sept 23, when 82 new voters were registered.
Other events over the next 12 months will reflect upon rich moments in history, and celebrate America’s diverse voices. U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr. will accept the Edward R. Becker Citizenship Award during an invitation-only event at the College on January 15.
The Fox Rothschild Center for Law and Society will host a year-long retrospect on the city’s interaction with MOVE, a black liberation group, including the City’s decision to bomb a house on Osage Avenue. Lectures, panel discussions, films and other activities and exhibits are planned.
Philadelphia, you’re invited.
Check out the 50th Anniversary site or join us on #CCPedu.