LCCC Morgan Center celebrates 20 years
Dozens of people gathered Tuesday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Lehigh Carbon Community College’s John and Dorothy Morgan Center for Higher Education in Tamaqua.
On hand were those who helped make the center possible, and those who have successful careers because of it.
“This was merely an idea in 2000, 2001, and 2002,” former Gov. Mark Schweiker said. “And 20 years later, think about this, 11,000 students, traditional and nontraditional, have come through the Morgan Center.”
Schweiker visited Tamaqua on Aug. 28, 2002, and from the steps of the former Tamaqua High School, he helped unveil plans for the college.
The John E. Morgan Foundation had committed $4.75 million to the center, and would provide free scholarships to Tamaqua Area High School graduates. The state chipped in with $5 million in funding secured from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program by state Sen. David Argall, R-29, and Schweiker.
The project cost $9.75 million, and saw the former school at 234 High St. transform into the state-of-the-art facility. The center was dedicated on Aug. 26, 2003, and fall semester classes began soon thereafter.
“This is an example of the strength of the community, demonstrating what can be accomplished when people work together toward a common goal, which is to improve the lives of the people in our community,” said Dr. Ann Beiber, LCCC’s president.
Beiber credited Argall, Schweiker, the Morgan Foundation and the community for recognizing the need for higher education. But most important, she said, was the involvement of the late John Morgan, founder of the John E. Morgan Knitting Mills.
“He was particularly interested in finding ways to improve postsecondary education in Schuylkill County as well as attract industry to the area,” she said. “In this building, and in the students’ lives this center has changed, Mr. Morgan’s dreams have been realized.”
She noted that the Morgan Foundation scholarships were the first of the kind for the nation - and many are taking advantage of the free education.
Because of the center and the scholarships, Argall noted that the Tamaqua area has a higher percentage of residents with an associate degree than almost any other county district. Over the past decade, he said, the rate of those receiving degrees has increased by 50%.
Argall remembered a “visioning” session held more than two decades ago at a local fire company hall.
During it, residents were asked for a wish list for their community’s future. Improved access to higher education was among them, he recalled.
“We didn’t imagine that that ‘visioning’ would lead to $5 million in state funding and an immense, 20 years and counting investment from the Morgan Foundation to make higher education a reality right here,” Argall said.
He commended all who worked together, including the Tamaqua Area School directors who voted to turn over the school rather than see it lie vacant for years.
“This is one of the most successful efforts at breathing new life into an old town that I have ever witnessed - ever,” Argall said.
Since the center opened, 7,720 credit students have attended classes there. Of these credit students, 2,233 have earned an associate degree and 364 have earned a certificate or diploma. In total, 10,866 students have attended credit, noncredit or workforce classes at the Morgan Center.
According to information from LCCC, the Morgan Foundation has provided nearly $4 million in scholarships for Tamaqua graduates either attending LCCC or other approved colleges and universities, and recently extended financial support to students in workforce, or noncredit, programs.
Brian Faust, a 2003 Tamaqua graduate, was one of the first to take advantage of the free scholarship.
“My parents couldn’t afford college, so this scholarship was crucial,” Faust explained.
He earned his associate degree from the Morgan Center, and went on to earn his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Faust is the career and technical education supervisor at Lehigh Career and Technical Institute.
Kaitlyn Herling received her associate degree in education from the local campus in 2012, and has continues to further her education as she teaches at the Hazleton Area School District.
Herling, now a doctoral candidate, returned to the Morgan Center as a Success Coach to help students reach their full potential.
“The Morgan Center taught me the importance of giving backing and sharing with others what I have learned,” she said.
George Zubey, a 2008 graduate, is an account manager for Olympus Corporation of Americas.
Without the scholarship, he said, he wouldn’t have been able to explore different classes and pathways.
Dr. Melanie Turrano, professor of English, said she has taught at the center since it opened.
“Even if I tried, I could never fully convey what an absolute blessing it has been to work in my community with the wonderful students of Schuylkill and Carbon counties,” she said.
Over the past two decades, the college has provided an educational hub with offerings including general education coursework, business, criminal justice and more, housed the SHINE after-school administrative offices and the former Business and Entrepreneurship Center, and held a number of noncredit/workforce courses. The site has expanded to encompass the Lisa Jane Scheller Student Center, which houses the state-of-the-art nursing simulation center.