Vignettes about Events & People


1970 campus master plan.

Proposed New Campus Location

When Dr. Paul Johnson, the college's first president, became ill and died in March 1968, the Board of Trustees appointed dean William S. Scott as interim president while a permanent replacement for Johnson could be hired. One of the more significant achievements during Scott's two months as interim president was an option taken on approximately 80 acres of land on the northwest edge of Arkansas City. A portion of the land was owned by Ohio State University; the remainder by the Williams estate. Plans were in the wind for a possible bond election to build an entirely new campus complex at that location.


When Dr. Gwen Nelson was hired as the college's second president, the college put together a three-phase proposal whereby technological needs would be met in two phases, and the third phase of the $5.1 million bond issue was to move the entire operation of the existing college to a new location, providing voters would approve. On Oct. 28, 1969, Cowley County voters rejected the proposal by 952 votes. A second bond issue was submitted to voters, one that was reduced to $2.5 million for the construction of a new campus, on Feb. 2, 1971. It, too, failed, but only by 78 votes. Four months later, Nelson and the college's Board of Trustees reached an agreement with Unified School District No. 470 to obtain the building now known as Galle-Johnson Hall, the property surrounding it, and the 1890 school house now known as Ireland Hall. The college was fewer than 100 votes away from possibly relocating where Arkansas City High School is today. Instead, with usable property gained in the deal with USD 470, the college remained just off downtown Ark City, where it continues to grow today.


Not long after that agreement in summer 1971, Arkansas City Junior High was about to move into its present location on Kansas Avenue and C Street. Portions of the old junior high school were made available for the college to teach business and agri-business classes. By 1972, it seemed even more logical to develop a college campus within the environment of the present location, especially since USD 470 was seriously considering building a new high school on the property acquired from the land and money exchange with the college in 1971. Plus, the college had just received a gift from the estate of Oscar Renn for more than $260,000 to construct a college library. It was the start of a building frenzy that has spanned 30 years.

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