Northwest County Community College surrounded by farmland began the college known today
BY CASEY SAMYN AND LAUREN LUKENS
CAMPUS LIFE EDITOR AND EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
In the 1960s, Haggerty Road between Six and Seven Mile Roads had a much different look. One could drive down Seven Mile Road and experience farmland all around, turn left on Haggerty Road and see the Esch farm property. Eventually, after several construction delays, Northwest Wayne County Community College, eventually changed to Schoolcraft due to length, first hosted students in four complete buildings on Aug. 31, 1964.
A SOLID FOUNDATION
Ultimately, the current site was chosen because the only area city that offered to pay for sewage and water construction was Livonia. Schoolcraft was bought for $1,732 an acre, totaling at $237,284 for 137 acres. Today, the estimated total cost for the college’s original 137 acres would have been $1,855,458.
The college’s founding principles were to provide terminal two-year programs, transfer two-year pro- grams, continuing and community education and to cooperate with other departments in the school system to give an educational advantage to the community college district.
At the time, there were less than 100 students. Peo- ple of all ages came to Schoolcraft for its convenient location, price and variety of options. Residents were charged $8 a credit hour, while non-residents were charged $12.
Marguerite Kirby, Livonia resident, was a member of Schoolcraft’s only sorority, Sigma Gamma Phi, which was meant to create high morals and stan- dards among women. “The campus was pretty bare. You could walk to the Southeast corner at night and see the Detroit skyline,” said Kirby.
Schoolcraft College began as an idea in the late 1950s. On Aug. 31, 1964, despite several construction delays, the college was able to host students with four completed buildings; the library, the Forum for classes, the administration building that housed the President and other faculty and the service building for shipping and receiving.
Shortly after construction of the buildings, a bell tower was completed with one big bell and five bells from 19th century schoolhouses in Clarenceville, Garden City, Livonia, Plymouth and Northville, which all make up the districts that represent the college today.
Due to construction delays, there was no heat in the buildings until December 1964. Also, students were not provided a cafeteria for the first semester of enrollment.
Alan Tope of Garden City, the valedictorian from Schoolcraft’s 1966 class, recalls the college open- ing a temporary ply wood food counter that served sandwiches and other similar food items during that period. “We named it the Ptomaine Tower. Ptomaine is Latin for food poisoning,” said Tope.
The culinary program known today’s roots began in the fall of 1966 with only 29 students.
In Schoolcraft’s first year of operation, there were three sports teams; men’s swimming, cross country
and men’s basketball. By the end of the 1969, men’s soccer, golf and tennis had been added to the ath- letics program. There were no established female sports in the 60s.
Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) is one of the oldest clubs on campus, and Schoolcraft began the Omicron Iota Chapter in 1966.
In 1967, Randy Carr and Dan Macier set up WSYK, a radio station run on student donated records. After a while, the call letters were changed to WSCC and then WKMX because WSCC was a station used in Kentucky, eventually the radio station became the Amateur Radio Club, which ran until around 1983. Another club was a Schoolcraft Sports Car Club, which was established 1968 to promote safe auto sports and for sports car enthusiasts in the college area.
Due to limited college-sponsored sports and clubs, prime doings included having a blast with friends, dancing, racing cars and more.
Doug Parnin, who grew up in Livonia near Plymouth and Stark Roads, said he and his friends cruised down Plymouth Road between Big Boy and Daly’s for fun. “We would drag race from the light at Hubbard, but somehow never went over the speed limit,” said Parnin. “Many times for lunch we would drive, or sometimes walk, down Seven Mile to Northville Road and eat at Bohl’s Restaurant. Great little hamburgers—always had mine with mustard and pickles.”
President Lydon B. Johnson pushed a Civil Rights Act through Congress in 1964 that prohibited dis- crimination in public places. This, as well as change in public opinion about gender roles, encouraged more and more women and minorities to enroll in college in the 60s.
Kirby and her friend, Rachel Rion, started a day- care for fellow women attending college with chil- dren, which allowed women to attend school and not have to worry about their children while doing so. The building was located across from the college on Haggerty Road.
Now, a Children’s Center is located by the south parking lot and helps members of the community in similar situations today.
Kirby, now 77 years old, said, “I never dreamt that I could get an opportunity like that.”
The forefathers of Schoolcraft College had a plan to turn the campus surrounded by farms and fields into an environment that could sustain growth for years to come. Due to extra land purchased for expansion, an evolving location and the increasing de- sire to get a college degree, the 60s laid a foundation that would serve college students for years to come.