By Carol Vaughn —
Eastern Shore Community College celebrated its 50th anniversary Friday, Oct. 22, with a homecoming event and a ribbon-cutting ceremony to formally open the college’s new $22 million academic and administration building.
Virginia Community College System Chancellor Glen DuBois was among officials participating in the ceremony.
“It’s the finest one in the commonwealth,” DuBois said of the new building, calling it “a quantum leap forward.”
DuBois said Virginia’s future “depends on us being able to educate as many people as possible” and that community colleges play an important role in that.
Student Government Association President Kelsey Killmon read a resolution from the SGA commemorating the college’s 50th anniversary.
Additionally, ESCC President Jim Shaeffer signed a memorandum of understanding with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Wallops Flight Facility during Friday’s celebration.
Goddard’s primary role is to do scientific research, said Dennis Andrucyk, director of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, before signing the memorandum.
“To make all these missions happen, to study the science, we need awesome people,” Andrucyk said, noting Wallops Fight Facility is the second largest Goddard facility and that “it serves as a launching pad for the STEM students that are developing to get their careers going. We have quite a few people employed at the Wallops Flight Facility who started their educational careers right here.”
NASA Wallops Flight Facility “truly is an economic engine here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia,” he said.
NASA WFF accounts for around 2,000 jobs and $1.4 billion in annual economic impact on the region,, according to Dave Pierce, NASA WFF director, who also spoke at the event.
Pierce noted “the longstanding partnership between NASA Wallops Flight Facility and Eastern Shore Community College.”
“It’s a very exciting time for aviation and aerospace in the commonwealth,” he said, adding, “…Where we are going in the future as Virginians is on our way to being the number one aerospace provider in the country, accelerating economic growth on the Eastern Shore and our region.”
“We’re very, very grateful for this relationship, this launch pad, from the Eastern Shore Community College, that sends careers on … out into the stars. We’re very grateful for the legacy of all of our employees that started their lives and their careers right here,” he said.
According to a statement from NASA, “The objective of the non-reimbursable agreement is to enable a sustained pipeline of diverse talent for science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. In addition, the agreement seeks to advance the understanding of suborbital and aeronautical science as well as research and development projects involving the research range at Wallops, to further advance NASA’s mission.
“This new partnership will benefit ESCC students through opportunities leveraging academic studies with hands-on experience through internships, on-site project engagement activities and opportunities to support mission work alongside Wallops professionals.”
To cap off the celebration, ESCC Vice President Patrick Tompkins and a group of Johnsen Scholars students buried a time capsule in front of the new building.
Inside the time capsule are a YES (Your Eastern Shore) pin, an ESCC challenge coin, photographs and a program from the 2021 commencement ceremony, a program from the 50th anniversary celebration, an ESCC Foundation newsletter, a NASA challenge coin and pin, and an ESCC face mask handcrafted by Stephanie Zodun.
The celebration also included a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new food pantry located in the student lounge, bag lunches, giveaways and prizes, a cornhole tournament, guided tours of the new building, a photo booth, and retro music representing the decades since the college was founded.
Former Del. George N. McMath, who played a significant role in the college’s early successes, recounted its history during the ceremony.
Eastern Shore Community College began in the 1960s as the Eastern Shore Branch of the University of Virginia School of Continuing Studies, located at the Navy base near Wallops Island.
In July 1971, the branch campus became Eastern Shore Community College and joined the Virginia Community College System.
ESCC continued to be located at Wallops, which offered classroom space and student housing. The first graduating class in 1972 included seven people.
In July 1972, ground was broken for a new building south of Melfa; the building was dedicated in October 1974.
The new building was constructed to update and replace that first academic building.
Additionally, the college several years ago saw completion of a Workforce Development Center on campus.
Click on any photograph below to view gallery.