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MCC Grads Get Special Invite

Associate Professor Richard Stetson, left, and George C. Knox, director, observe an experiment in the electronics laboratory at the New Hampshire Technical Institute in Manchester, probably in the 1960s. Associate Professor Richard Stetson, left, and George C. Knox, director, observe an experiment in the electronics laboratory at the New Hampshire Technical Institute in Manchester, probably in the 1960s.

Posted: February 22, 2010
by John Clayton

Unless you suffer from short-term memory loss, you may recall that just a few years ago, the radio station known as The Mill -- back when it was called COOL 96.5 -- put on a series of pop culture scavenger hunts that created a minor frenzy here in town.

I was "of counsel," if you will, and in putting together the list of coveted items, we included some obvious things (such as "Velvet Elvis" paintings) and really obscure, hard-to-find things such as Waleeco candy bar wrappers and ticket stubs from the Beatles' 1964 concert at Boston Garden.

Alas, the radio station contest is no more, but if you enjoy taking part in scavenger hunts, my very close personal friend Janet Phelps is conducting a rather wide-ranging search and she could use your help.

Jan is the director of marketing for Manchester Community College -- as a proud Queen City native, I love the sound of that name -- and rather than inanimate objects such as old paperback copies of "Peyton Place," Jan is looking for people.

More specifically, Jan is looking for alumni and alumnae, the thousands of men and women who have attended Manchester Community College and its many, many incarnations.

"That's one of the problems," Jan explained. "The institution we know today as Manchester Community College was actually founded in 1945, but one of the biggest problems in identifying our alumni body is that the school has had eight different names over the years."

Some folks remember it as the New Hampshire Technical Institute in Manchester. Others know it as the New Hampshire Vocational Technical Institute, still others went there when it was the New Hampshire Community Technical College at Manchester/Stratham -- tell me that name wasn't a stroke of marketing genius! -- but as they say, a rose by any other name...

The school was founded to serve a noble purpose.

In order to help returning World War II veterans find their way into the workplace, the State Board of Education chartered two schools -- one in Portsmouth and one in Manchester -- and dubbed them the State Trade Schools (which demonstrates once again the innate marketing genius of educational bureaucrats).

The Manchester school was originally established in rented space in the Cohas Building, a defunct shoe shop at 252 Willow St. On Dec. 4, 1945, the students -- all male, and all on the G.I. Bill -- began studying things like auto mechanics and radio repair, with courses in refrigeration, welding, drafting and sign painting ready to roll.

Then the building was sold out from under them.

The new owners were the Salvage Shoe Company, and the firm ordered the school to vacate the premises by May of 1946. Fortunately, the city of Manchester -- eager to keep the State Trade School here in town -- offered space in the old Webster School building (when the school was actually on Webster Street) and by 1947, things started to roll.

The G.I. enrollment was supplemented when the first non-veterans were admitted in August of that year, and local businesses -- quickly recognizing the benefit of having such a trade-based school in town -- asked that evening classes be offered for plumbing, carpentry and textile apprentices.

Over time, students requested (and businesses needed) courses in applied math and science, then business management and labor relations, and as the offerings became more sophisticated, so did the school's name.

In 1949, according to a manuscript prepared by alumnus and long-time instructor Walter Ryan, the State Trade Schools were renamed the New Hampshire Technical Institutes, and over the years (as five other institutes were added around the state), students came by the thousands.

For more than half a century, these schools helped those thousands of students develop great skills and secure good jobs, while still others used the technical institutes as springboards for further education, but, the lesson of the day is the importance of developing a sense of community.

And Manchester Community College is a rapidly growing presence in this community.

Since the schools were given the autonomy to market themselves under their own names -- it started in 2006 and became official in 2008 -- MCC has seen its enrollments soar by as much as 26 percent (and the guarantee that course credits can be transferred to Keene State, Plymouth State and the University of New Hampshire has been a huge incentive for MCC students who wish to go beyond an associate degree upon graduation).

But who -- and where -- are those graduates?

"Our research indicates that 90 percent of our graduates stay local," Jan Phelps explained, "but because the college has never had an alumni association or an alumni director, it's difficult to get more solid data.

"That's why we're making this push -- asking our alums to contact us so we can create a vibrant alumni association -- for our 65th anniversary."

Jan has a batch of old yearbooks and boxes of old photos, rich memories for so many students compiled over so many years, but what she's seeking is the human component that can bring those mementoes to life.

Plans are being formulated for an anniversary celebration in the fall, and Jan's eager to compile a guest list that's packed with the names of alums.

"I'd love to hear from someone who graduated with the first class in 1946," she said. "For that matter, I'd love to hear from graduates from every class so we can show them what their college has become."

She knows you're out there. I do, too, and I know you're reading this, so why not reconnect with the place that helped shape your future when your future was there for the shaping?

If you prefer the telephone, Jan has arranged for Joyce Ozelius to take your calls at (603) 206-8050. If you're even more old-school, you can write to Jan at the campus -- that's Janet Phelps, c/o Manchester Community College, 1066 Front St., Manchester, 03102 -- or lastly, if you're wired for the modern age, you can simply drop an e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

"We'd like to know their names, their year of graduation, the program they studied in -- accounting, welding, management -- and I'd really love to have a sentence or two about what they're doing now," she explained.

"And," she added, "I'd love to show them what we're doing now."

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