HISTORY OF EDUCATION IN PASCO COUNTY
Pasco-Hernando Community College/
Pasco-Hernando Community College was established in 1967 by the state
Legislature and is the newest of Florida’s 28 community colleges.
|1972-1994||Dr. Milton O. Jones|
|1994-2005||Dr. Robert Judson|
|2005-||Dr. Katherine Johnson|
By CAROL JEFFARES HEDMAN
DADE CITY - In 1967, the Florida Legislature designated Pasco-Hernando Community College to become the 28th and final link in Florida’s community college system.
It would be five years before classes were held, and at that time, PHCC’s president called it the "college without walls."
It wasn’t until 1971 that a state survey team selected the Pasco County seat of Dade City for the community college. That year, the first board of trustees was appointed, and then-New Port Richey lawyer Wayne Cobb was chairman.
The board searched for a president, narrowing 300 applicants down to four before selecting Milton O. Jones, a dean at St. Petersburg Junior College. During the selection meeting, Cobb called Jones and offered him the job with a salary of $17,500, $5,000 less than he was making. Cobb needed an immediate answer.
Jones accepted but wanted to talk about the salary the next day. Before the trustees left that day, they agreed to pay him $22,500. The contract required Jones to teach a course called Personal Growth.
Starting a college would normally come with problems, but Jones also faced obstacles that had been brewing in Pasco County for years. The selection of Dade City as the site of the community college met with opposition from folks in west Pasco who thought that area was on the brink of a population boom.
Jones had a solution - a multicampus facility that would include sites in Dade City and New Port Richey in Pasco and Brooksville in Hernando County.
Despite opposition, state funding was approved in the fall of 1972 and after only four months as president, Jones managed to have the community college operating in Dade City, New Port Richey and Brooksville. However, PHCC was operating as what Jones called the "college without walls."
Classes at the east campus in Dade City were held at Saint Leo College, now Saint Leo University, and the First Baptist Church of Dade City.
In New Port Richey, classes were offered at the old Gulf High School and in Brooksville, a vacant Gateway Furniture Store, served as classroom space.
Enrollment the first semester was 712. By fall 1973, enrollment had risen by 200; by fall 1973, enrollment had reached 1,245, a 75 percent increase in 1 1/2 years.
Construction on the east campus began in 1973 on 100 acres of ranch land purchased from local pharmacist Charles Touchton. The first phase of the project was ready for fall classes in 1975. Buildings have been added. In 2002, 20 acres were purchased for a new entrance.
The west campus site also was selected in 1973, an easy decision with the donation of 140 acres by rancher Alric Pottberg. Construction began in 1975, and the campus opened in 1976. Buildings such as the modern performing arts center have been added. In 1998, the district offices moved to the west campus.
In 1974, the board of trustees received 100 acres of state- owned property in Brooksville. The pasture once was slated for a state mental hospital. Construction at Brooksville started in 1976, and the facility opened in 1977.
A Spring Hill center opened in 1988 on land leased from the PHCC Foundation - founded in 1975 by Jones and Cobb, now a Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court judge, to raise money for programs and activities where financial support was unavailable through other sources. Ten years later, the state Legislature approved $1 million to buy land to develop a full-service center in Spring Hill.
PHCC is seeking land in Wesley Chapel for a permanent site. Afternoon and evening PHCC classes begin in August for the fall semester at Wesley Chapel High School.
Jones retired as president in 1994, and although trustees accepted applications from across the country, they selected a man who had come to PHCC in its first year to recruit students.
Robert Judson Jr. was a student at the all-black Southern University in Louisiana during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Concerned for his safety, he dropped out of school. He returned home and married his high school sweetheart.
He enlisted in the military, and after serving in the Army overseas, Judson enrolled at Florida A&M University in 1966 to study European history. He graduated in 1969 and began teaching while working toward a master’s degree in counseling at Florida A&M, which he completed in 1972.
Skeptic Accepts Job
It was at that time that a professor recommended Judson to Jones, who was searching for a student recruiter. The 30-year-old was skeptical but accepted the job.
In 1976, Judson took a sabbatical to earn a doctorate in education. He advanced to dean of the east campus the next year, to provost in 1983 and to executive vice president in 1986.
Judson retired as the second PHCC president in January. He was replaced by Katherine M. Johnson.
Johnson had been president of Nash Community College in Rocky Mount, N.C., since 2000. Before that she had been at Indian River Community College in Fort Pierce for 17 years where she worked her way from a guidance counselor to vice president.
Johnson and her two predecessors participated in graduation ceremonies last month. There were 68 in the first graduating class at PHCC in 1974; this year, there were 525.