Celebrating 40 years of Adult Higher Education
The Adult Higher Education Division celebrated its 40th anniversary with events around the nation, including St. Louis, the first AHE campus.
On Aug. 29, Columbia College celebrated 40 years educating adult learners at its first Nationwide Campus in St. Louis, whose renovated campus was rededicated at the event.
“Simply put, the college is serious about education and the future,” Dr. Bob Steffes, director of the St. Louis campus, said. “Today, our college demonstrates that seriousness as well as our commitment to continuously enhancing our mission of teaching and learning by the rededication of this building.”
The Adult Higher Education division formed with the creation of the St. Louis campus in 1973 after a request from the United States Army to provide education for service members in the area. In 2000, the military indicated the college needed to provide enough online course work for military members to earn residency status. So in October 2000, the college ventured into online education.
“It is clear that the move to serve adult learners would not have happened had it not been for the critical nudging of the U.S. military,” said Dr. Terry Smith, Columbia College interim president.
Brig. Gen. Dave Newman of the Missouri Air National Guard said Columbia College was destined to have a partnership with the military. The principles of excellence that Columbia College has established work well for military service members, he said.
“As a Missouri National Guardsman, thank you for your commitment to our long-lasting partnership,” he said. “Columbia College makes the Missouri National Guard and the U.S. military stronger, which makes us a better nation, and it makes us safer.”
Smith gave sincere thanks to the military for “assisting in not only the forming of the division and the St. Louis campus 40 years ago, but also propelling us into 21st century education. Thank you for changing the trajectory of our institution.”
Susan Solovic ’80, who serves as a member of the Columbia College Board of Trustees and graduated from the college just seven years after the establishment of the AHE Division, said education is the most valuable asset a person can have, and she recognized the college as the path to everything she’s done in her career.
“As a graduate of Columbia College, I am proud to know our institution is one that has been forward thinking with a strategic vision for many, many years,” Solovic said. “Because of the foresight and strategic thinking, we are not only thriving, we are prospering. So, I think we’re doing something right.”
At the main campus in Columbia, an event was held at the end of the day in Atkins-Holman Student Commons. Mike Randerson, vice president for AHE, spoke about serving underserved populations and how Columbia College was formed to fill that need.
Rene Massey, associate dean for AHE, spoke as the longest serving AHE staff member. She talked about the differences between the division in 1981 and today. Then David Miller, the longest serving Evening Campus adjunct faculty member, spoke about his experiences.
Miller, who began teaching for the Evening Campus in 1977, remembers teaching a course on probation and parole on the third floor of Dorsey Hall, but he also remembers teaching a course at Jefferson City in a church’s classroom where smoking cigarettes was still allowed. Miller then moved to St. Louis and began teaching at the campus there. “Everywhere I went, there was Columbia College,” he said.
Randerson, who will retire in January, ended the event with a request for the college.
“Keep the faith in this mission, because Adult Higher Education has its best days ahead,” Randerson said.