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In 1961, South Carolina launched its unique program of Technical Education. Time and economic progress have proven the value of this exciting step forward. The success of the system of Technical and Comprehensive Education in this state soon became a model for the entire nation.
In 1966, the eighth Technical Education Center, Piedmont Technical College, was established to serve Abbeville, Edgefield, Greenwood, Laurens, McCormick, Newberry, Saluda and surrounding counties.
Classes met for the first time at Piedmont Technical College on September 6, 1966, with some 300 students enrolled in day and evening classes. Dedication ceremonies were observed on October 23, 1966, with Governor Robert McNair delivering the principal dedicatory address.
Since that time, enrollment has increased dramatically. This phenomenal growth in enrollment necessitated the implementation of an ambitious program of physical expansion.
On October 2, 1972, five new buildings representing the first phase of a 30-year master development plan were occupied. These facilities housed classrooms, laboratories, a learning resources center and faculty offices. A general renovation of the main campus included a student lounge and recreation complex.
On April 10, 1974, the institution’s name was changed from Piedmont Technical Education Center to Piedmont Technical College to more accurately reflect its post-secondary educational mission.
During that same year, the effects of the nation’s fuel shortage and widespread recession resulted in the enrollment of large numbers of working adults in career upgrading programs at the college. While funding to accommodate additional students was unavailable from traditional resources, Piedmont Technical College students took matters into their own hands and provided the manpower to increase classroom/ lab space for fellow students by 8,000 square feet.
The 1981-82 year saw six new additions to the Piedmont Technical College campus: a health sciences facility, conference center, continuing education complex, student center, multi-purpose building and automotive technology facility. In 1986, a 10,000-square-foot addition to the Conference Center made it one of the finest facilities of its type in the state.
Construction began on a new Engineering Technology Building and on a 10,000-square foot addition to the Continuing Education Building in 1987. The new Engineering Technology Building was built adjacent to the Industrial Technology Building and housed laboratories furnished with state-of-the-art equipment as well as classrooms. The Continuing Education addition housed classrooms and offices.
An existing facility on Kateway was renovated for the use of Building Construction Technology majors by students, faculty and maintenance staff in 1987. This building provided 6,250 square feet of workshop and laboratory space.
The 1988 year brought approval for capital improvement bonds, which allowed another step toward completion of the college master plan. Developed in 1970 to project facilities needs required by the student population through the year 2000, the plan called for additional space/floors in three existing structures: General Education, Library and Health Science Buildings. Construction on the three projects, which added approximately 40,000 square feet to campus facilities, was completed in the fall of 1991. As part of this same project, a bell tower was constructed on the front campus to commemorate the institution’s 25th anniversary, and renovations were made to several classroom buildings.
Another expanded opportunity for area residents served by Piedmont Technical College is the availability of college transfer programs, the Associate in Arts and Associate in Science degrees. The two degrees were added to the college curriculum in 1990.
The 1991 academic year also brought added opportunities to Laurens County residents in the form of a new center located in the county seat. Area students may choose from full-credit associate degree courses, professional upgrade or personal interest offerings.
Further expanding active partnerships with supporting counties, Piedmont Technical College celebrated the grand opening of centers in Abbeville, Edgefield and Newberry in 1995. The historic Community House became the college’s McCormick County Center in 1997, and early in the next year, the Saluda County Center made the dream of local sites in each of the seven counties a reality.
Also initiated in 1995 was an innovative plan to connect that 3,500-square-mile area with educational opportunities available on Piedmont Technical College’s Greenwood campus, at any of the county centers, at Lander University and area high schools and via SCETV through the Piedmont Education Network (PEN). Another vital component of this pioneer effort was the establishment of the Ernest F. Hollings International Teleconference Center, which allows business and industry to communicate with colleagues and customers worldwide. The video teleconferencing center is two-way interactive and has full-motion transmission.
In spring 1998, more than 60 student services and administrative offices, formerly located in the John S. Coleman Administration Building, were moved to the Multi-Purpose Building to await the completion of construction that brought the 1970 master plan full circle. Additions and extensive renovations to the Administration Building added centrally located, full-service facilities to students and brought total usable space to 66,061 square feet. In the Francis B. Nicholson General Education Building, new classroom and laboratory additions added 16,099 square feet to the total of that facility. Dedication ceremonies for the newly refurbished facility, which featured a showcase for regional artists in the Solutia Gallery, were held September 29, 2000. On October 16, 2001, the Greenwood Campus was officially named for long-time president Dr. Lex D. Walters.
Through unique partnerships with county and state government, together with the generosity of businesses, industries and private citizens, Piedmont Technical College has established itself as an institution that is responsive both to immediate and future needs. With an eye toward the projected needs of employers and employees in its seven-county support area, the college has as its goal continuous improvement in the provision of educational programs and services. As a recognized leader in two-year education, PTC constantly searches for effective ways to more fully serve the citizens of its support area.
The 1970s master plan projected a total, full-credit enrollment of 3,000 by the year 2000. That goal was surpassed in 1994. In the late 1990s, distance learning opportunities, expanded course offerings at all six county centers and growth in partnerships with area employers resulted in one enrollment record after another. In recent years, fall enrollment exceeded 5,000, and spring enrollments remain at all-time highs.
In August 2006, the college celebrated its 40th anniversary. Although much progress has been made, the institution recognized the need for change. For fall semester, students were presented with new opportunities: massage therapy and pottery. The pottery program was housed in PTC’s new Center for Creative Economies at the Edgefield County Center to highlight the tradition of pottery that began 200 years ago in that community. The horticulture program included a new 2 + 2 articulation agreement with Clemson University.
The 2007 year continued to bring historical milestones to PTC. In the spring, more than 400 students received certificates, diplomas and degrees to mark the largest graduating class in college history. In July, long-time president, Dr. Lex D. Walters, announced he would retire at the end of the year. Honoring his 39 years of service to the technical college system, Dr. Walters was the commencement speaker at summer graduation.
The college prepared itself to continue educational growth and kicked off the fall semester by introducing two new programs, Veterinary Technology and Gunsmithing. A new lab facility was built for the Veterinary Technology certificate program at the Newberry County Center. The gunsmithing lab was set up on the Greenwood campus and is the only program of its kind in the state.
As the search for a new president was in progress, the college continued to forge ahead on new opportunities and in December, it announced a new educational venture for high school students. In collaboration with Greenwood District 50, Piedmont Technical College Middle College was established and set to launch in fall 2008. It would offer five programs for early entry with the credits received transferrable towards the chosen field of study at PTC. In late 2007, the library added a new computer lab to form the Information Commons and opened up a whole new world of information for students.
January 2008, the PTC Foundation received the largest grant ever, 1.5 million dollars, from the United States Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA). The award was matched with funding from Saluda County to construct a new county center. On the heels of such good news, a new leader was named for the college and Dr. Walters, who had remained on staff, set a date to begin his retirement. Dr. L. Rayburn Brooks, a current sitting president in the Georgia technical college system, would take the reins beginning in March.
Dr. Brooks joined PTC just as the college signed an agreement under the direction of the South Carolina Technical College System to provide a Bridge Program to the University of South Carolina. This program would give students the opportunity to attend PTC and bridge a seamless transfer to USC. The bridge idea would soon open up the door for other colleges to develop similar agreements and create even more transfer opportunities for students.