The Evolution of a Higher Education Institution

Students sit in a business class at what is now Kennebec Valley Community College in 1983. Business is one of the five original programs offered by the college since its founding in 1969 as Kennebec Valley Vocational and Technical Institute.

Community colleges have grown exponentially in the past few decades. More and more students flock to them as alternatives to pricier and more exclusive traditional colleges and universities–and as the number and types of programs offered at community colleges have expanded considerably.

Under a Maine Memory Network grant, Kennebec Valley Community College (KVCC) librarian David O. Smith recently created complementary exhibits about the early inspiration for a vocational school in central Maine, and once established, the dramatic growth of what used to be known as Kennebec Valley Vocational and Technical Institute (KVVTI).

Carlton Fogg with Edmund Muskie, ca. 1967

More than 2,500 full-time and part-time students currently attend the Fairfield-based institution, all of whom owe some measure of thanks to a man who championed the mission behind what would become KVCC, although he never had a direct hand in its creation. The exhibit “Carlton P. Fogg, Advocate for Vocational Education” delves into the life of this man, who went from being a machinist at several major Maine companies to leading the industrial education department at Waterville High School. He lobbied hard for vocational education in the Waterville area, and in Maine generally, writing opinion pieces, giving speeches, and forming important alliances. It was partly his advocacy that led to the founding of KVVTI in 1969.

KVVTI students sit in front of the main doors of the Gilman Street campus in 1983.

By 1978, the Institute had outgrown its shared space at Waterville High School. Its relocation is the subject of Smith’s other exhibit, “KVVTI’s Gilman Street Campus, 1978-1986.” The Gilman Street building was constructed, in 1913, to house Waterville High School. When the high school moved to new quarters in 1958, Gilman housed the junior high. Eventually that, too, grew too big for Gilman. But it was just right for the young, but expanding, KVVTI, which needed its own identity separate from the high school. In the ultimate example of experiential learning, students in the “Trades and Technology” program helped renovate the building. Eventually, even Gilman couldn’t contain KVVTI and the institution started moving in the early 1980s to property it had acquired in Fairfield.

The Gilman Street building has recently undergone new renovations to turn into affordable housing as “Gilman Place.” Kennebec Valley Community College, meanwhile, is on the cusp of expanding quite significantly once more, onto the 690 acres of Good Will-Hinckley’s campus in Fairfield it purchased–with significant support from the Harold Alfond Foundation–earlier this year.

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About mainechp

Maine Community Heritage Project at Maine Historical Society
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