LRCC: 50 Years and Still Growing

Don Morrissey was working as the director of admissions at Lakes Region Community College in the early 1990s when a prospective student and his parents visited the campus, which consisted of just a single building at the time.

“Is this it?” Morrissey recalls the student’s mother asking him.

Morrissey, who had developed an easy-going rapport that included plenty of friendly banter with his visitors, came back with a joke.

“Oh no,” he responded. “We have two more buildings; one for the snow plow and one for the lawn mower.”

He was being playful, but the quip came with a ring of truth.

“The school was very small and compact at that time,” says Morrissey, who spent 17 years at LRCC before retiring as Dean of Students in 2007. “Students either came from the local area for financial reasons or for specific programs like electrical, fire science and graphic arts.”

As LRCC marks its 50th anniversary with a year-long celebration that kicked off at the May 13th commencement ceremonies, times have clearly changed at the community college.

Today, LRCC boasts such state-of-the-art facilities as the CAT (Center for Arts and Technology) building, the Automotive Technology building and the Health and Science building. LRCC is also one of only two New Hampshire community colleges to offer campus housing.

“People now know that we are much more than five or six key programs, but that we have 20 or more, so there is lots of variety,” Morrissey says. “I think the growth was due to the combination of some high-powered people with great connections and to industries realizing that if you want an electrician, a plumber, a firefighter or a chef, you needed to go through the community college system. But the big break came when the University System of New Hampshire began giving automatic acceptance to our graduates. All of a sudden, doors started opening up for our students.”

LRCC currently offers 30 associate degrees and 35 certificate programs. The expansion of academic facilities has led to such programs as Electrical Systems Installation, Advanced Manufacturing, Accounting, Media Arts and Graphic Design, Fire Science, Nursing and Automotive Technology.

When LRCC opened in 1968 as New Hampshire Vocational Technical College — Laconia, it contained academic classrooms, the library and administrative services within the 47,000-square-foot Turner building. While there were minor expansions in the 1980s and ‘90s, the first dramatic changes began to take place in 2005 with the opening of the 35,000-square-foot CAT building. That allowed the graphic arts and electrical programs to return to the main campus after a decade at the Powell Building in another part of the city.

“That’s what really started things,” Morrissey says.

In 2013, there was a second expansion with the completion of the $6.4 million, 24,000-square-foot Health and Science building, which houses the nursing program, the fire science classrooms, faculty and student space, as well as the Academic Commons, which serves as the college’s 140-seat auditorium.

Another dramatic change came last year when LRCC began offering campus housing at the Apple Ridge Student Apartments. Students can choose between two- and three-bedroom apartments that include a living room, fully equipped kitchen, overnight security, laundry and parking. The complex abuts the campus and the apartments are affordably priced per semester at $4,450 for a single and $3,950 for a double.

“LRCC has truly seen big changes,” Morrissey says. “It has gone from a small, regional community college with a relatively small faculty and students to a much larger operation.”

That operation grew again last year when the $3.3 million Automotive Technology building opened, featuring 17 lifts and space for equipment, along with three classrooms spanning nearly 9,000 square feet. Two of the classrooms are large enough to accommodate automobiles. The third classroom serves as a lecture hall.

LRCC has partnered with General Motors for 25 years in its “Automotive Service Excellence Program,” in which students can become certified GM technicians. With the opening of the state-of-the-art facility, Toyota USA and Toyota-Lexus dealerships have now come aboard.

LRCC will begin offering the Toyota Technician Training and Education Program in August. The program will provide intensive technician training by combining automotive diagnosis and repair education in the classroom with hands-on work experience in dealership settings through paid internships.

"LRCC is excited to continue and expand our tradition of building partnerships with the community,” says Marsha Bourdon, chair of the LRCC 50th Anniversary Committee. “Those partnerships are a driver of new programs meeting the labor demands of industry in the region and providing students with an opportunity to continue on their path to success."

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