Cochise College’s second president, Dr. William Harwood, spent his early time at the college searching for faculty and staff. He interviewed in airports and elevators and developed a team so strong that this institution — your community college — continues to draw praise for both its quality instruction and personal nature.
March 16 is the 50th anniversary of Dr. Harwood’s first day of work at Cochise. He arrived from Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, Calif., just two months after the death of the college’s first president, Dr. T.C. Johnston, who perished in a Whetstone Mountains plane crash along with a local school superintendent and Tombstone pilot and newspaper publisher as they traveled to an education conference in Colorado.
Despite the tragic circumstances, the momentum surrounding the beginnings of the college demanded urgent progress. Dr. Harwood assembled a team that included a business officer, dean of student services, assistant to the president, and Dr. John Eaton, a former high school principal who recognized opportunity in the suddenly growing field of community college administration. Eaton, a current Cochise College Governing Board member, served as director of community services and dean of instruction in those early years and recalls the unshakable enthusiasm among county residents for the new college.
Together, the group set about tackling a daunting priority list: hiring faculty, curriculum development, accreditation, campus development, publicity events, and health insurance for employees. (Not much has changed!)
To Dr. Harwood, the college could only be as good as its faculty, and Dr. Eaton identifies recruitment of the likes of Cecil Orosco, Joe Gilliland, Don Johnson, Allen Peterson, Richard Myers, Don Campbell, George Huncovsky, and Alicya Malik, among other outstanding teachers, as one a significant early success, along with adjusting to a new campus.
It’s hard to imagine the tremendous task that lay before the college and the board. Starting from scratch meant they didn’t know how many students would attend, or how much furniture to buy. Without a completed facility, administrators set up shop in the Gadsden Hotel. Eaton put together a class schedule and catalog only to find out that no local printer could handle the job.
But, the college opened on time – Sept. 21, 1964. I’m not sure the college could have gotten off to a better start, or a better reception. Crowds attended the dedication. Many local businesses placed ads in the newspaper congratulating the college on its opening. Students lined up to enroll and move into the residence halls on the Douglas Campus. It all went on for weeks.
The challenge of making the college a county college, rather than a one-community institution, rings true today. And so does something else.
Harwood’s vision that “Our goal = to be good; not to be big,” as is written in his notes for the first faculty meeting, was set in the first year and continues to inspire us today.
I will take it one step further. Not only do we want to be good. We want to be great.
J.D. Rottweiler is president of Cochise College. Contact him at email@example.com.