In the beginning

Iowa Central Community College has served a nine-county area for more than 50 years

— Daily Freeman-Journal file photo The Webster City campus of Iowa Central Community College is pictured in this photo from the mid-1980s. The college has served Hamilton County and other eight counties for more than 50 years.

Back in 1966 there were only two employees of what was then the Area V Community College-Vocational School: Donald Klucking, of Webster City, and Edwin Barbour, of Eagle Grove.

Klucking was the school’s secretary and business manager.

Barbour, who at that time had been Eagle Grove’s superintendent of schools for more than a decade, became the first superintendent of what is now known as Iowa Central Community College.

Fifty years later, he was named to Iowa Central’s Hall of Fame as humanitarian, perhaps the greatest honor that could be bestowed on a man whose professional life was dedicated to an expanding avenue of education. The honor was posthumous; Barbour died March 29, 1993, at the age of 76. He retired as college president in 1983.

“A native of Beaconsfield, a tiny Ringgold County hamlet, which had a high school from which he graduated in 1934, Barbour started teaching at Arispe in 1936 after two years at Parsons College Fairfield,” according to a story published by The Messenger. “He earned his bachelor, master and doctor degrees in education by summer and special studies while continuing to teach school and coach. The bachelor came from Parson’s in 1941, the master’s from the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, in 1948 the doctorate from Iowa State University in February 1966 – only months before he accepted the Area V position.”

Barbour recalled the beginning this way: “When I became superintendent in the summer of 1966, only the foundations of the science and library buildings on the north end of our complex had been poured. Those buildings had been authorized by voters of the Fort Dodge Community School District which was then operating the two-year college. There was a soybean field where our administration and voc-tech buildings and parking lots now are, a vacant lot bordering U.S. 20 where the dormitories are.”

The comments were made in 1978, long before the four-lane U.S. 20 was more than simply an idea.

There were 46 school districts in the nine-county area comprised of Buena Vista, Calhoun, Greene, Hamilton, Humboldt, Pocahontas, Sac, Webster and Wright.

The principal centers were in Fort Dodge, Webster City and Eagle Grove.

“We were scattered all over,” he recalled. “The Dodge Building — a former bowling alley bordering U.S. 169, which later became Iowa Central Rehabilitation Industries — was one of our centers. We had seven temporary metal buildings as classrooms, we rented the old 4-H building on the grounds and the Shaffer Building near the Expo Pool.”

Long gone is the beanfield and the two-employee startup.

As Iowa Central anticipates a Feb. 6 vote on a $25.5 million bond issue to take it further into the 21st century, Barbour’s legacy literally surrounds it.

The investments funded by the bond issue would not be limited to the college’s main campus in Fort Dodge. Improvements are planned at the Eagle Grove, Storm Lake and Webster City centers also.

The bond issue must be approved by 60 percent of those voting in Buena Vista, Calhoun, Greene, Hamilton, Humboldt, Pocahontas, Sac, Webster and Wright counties.

Paying off the bond debt would cost the owner of a home with an assessed value of $100,000 just $12 a year, according to Iowa Central’s President Dan Kinney.

The bond money would pay for security and electrical upgrades, changes needed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and a new biofuels testing lab, according to Kinney.

The biggest part of the proposed bond issue is $6 million for the planned Greehey Family Student Success Center on the Fort Dodge campus. It would house enrollment, financial aid, academic advising, counseling and career planning services in one place. Bill Greehey, a Fort Dodge Senior High graduate who was the chief executive officer of Valero Energy Corp., donated $3 million in 2016.

It was a desire to benefit Iowa Central students and make sure that the college continues to thrive that motivated Greehey — through the Greehey Family Foundation — to make a $3 million gift. The gift is the second major donation the foundation has made to Iowa Central. In 2015, it donated $1 million to be used for scholarships for students who are the first members of their family to attend college.

Greehey, who grew up here and is a 1954 graduate of FDSH, retired in 2007 as the chairman of the Valero’s board of directors. He now lives in Texas but has family members who still call Fort Dodge home.

“It’s nice to be able to do something in Fort Dodge where I grew up,” Greehey told The Messenger after the latest donation.

He views community colleges as “absolutely critical’ to ensuring that all people can get an affordable education, he said.

In the 52 years since it became a regional community college serving a nine-county area, blending together sites of former junior colleges to create one system, thousands upon thousands of students have benefited.