Michael Boardman

CCV Business Manager, 1976-1979

I left CCV in 1979. I worked there for three years.   I was hired as an accountant and then was the business manager.  In 1979, I think, CCV was included into the state college budget, and they were going to consolidate the CCV business office with VSC operations in Waterbury.  I knew my position was going to be eliminated so I went to work for International Coins and Currency, which was founded by Dr. Steven Hochshild, who had left CCV days before I started.  It is funny how life is.  My story is:

“CHARGING PEOPLE TUITION”  Are you kidding me?

I started to work for CCV in the days of tuition on your honor.  In those days I think they charged $25-$30 per course.  Yes, per course.  It was on the honor system; at registration students would be given an envelope that could be mailed to the main office (ME) or returned to the local coordinator.  People would pay what they felt they could afford.  We got checks, rolls of quarters, and various denominations in cash and pocket change.  It was an honor system that frankly many students took advantage of; however, that was a guiding principle that Peter Smith, and others had.  CCV’s education was available to all and financial constraints should not stand in the way. I think Nancy Chard, who was a southern coordinator, spoke frequently of this principle with a great deal of passion.  Having only a few years of experience under my belt I knew I was over my head.

Then one day during the legislative session, Peter Smith was on the hill pitching lawmakers for more money. He called me and said, “I need to know how many students pay tuition.  I reminded him that we didn’t have that information, because we didn’t track who paid and who didn’t.  He wasn’t happy with that response, but the fact was we didn’t know.  A few hours later he came back to the office and said we must provide this information to the committee or this will affect our funding.  I had to have the information for a 2:00 meeting with CCV staff the next day.  He knew we didn’t have it and conceded that the days of on your honor tuition payments were over.  I put together the numbers as best I could based on the information we and the committee had.  Number of students?  We weren’t really sure about that either nor total amount collected.  It wasn’t a pretty picture, and Peter realized that this information wouldn’t fly with the committee so the meeting turned into a policy discussion about CCV charging everyone tuition.  Well, that was quite a meeting, and in the end it was decided that we would scrap the honor system and charge everyone a flat rate per course.  We would budget some scholarship money for those who needed It, etc.  Somehow everyone blamed me for this horrible turn of events that our enrollment would decline and the mission of CCV would be unable to be fulfilled, and a scorekeeper should not get in the way of CCV educational mission.  Now I had three months to put into place a tuition collection system.  I really knew I was over my head and people were very upset and some were uncooperative.  However people like Peggy Williams in the Johnson office were a great deal of help.  It appears CCV is alive and well. What does a credit cost now?  $200.00 a credit hour.

Tina VanHelden

Site Office Manager, CCV Chittenden site
July 1983 – July 2003

 July 18, 1983 was my first day of work at CCV as Site Services Coordinator.   Michael Sawdey, the regional director welcomed me and gave me a short version of what the Tina VanHeldendaily routine would be like.  Michael had typed the procedures on legal sized paper.  One of the procedures was telephone protocol which was very precise and very helpful.  It stressed the importance of saying, “Community College of Vermont”, instead of “CCV” when answering the telephone.   During my 20 years at CCV, I often referred back to those instructions and I used them when training new employees.  After my fifteen minute training Michael left the office to attend a meeting in our Waterbury office and I was on my own.   I sat at my desk and thought, “what am I doing here?” and then, “what do I do now?”

The CCV Chittenden county office was located in the Chace Mill in Burlington by the Winooski River.  The office was dark and musty smelling.  The entryway had a desk and some filing cabinets, my area, and there was one small room which was used as conference room and/or classroom.  Michael’s work area was somewhere in the back and there was an office for the Coordinator of Academic Services, Mica DeAngelis.  Mica taught off-site several mornings a week and was not there my first morning.

After a while the phone rang.  I picked it up and out of habit I answered it by saying, “Georgia School”, my former workplace, instead of “Community College of Vermont”.  During the morning the phone rang occasionally and a few people came in to ask questions.  I could not answer any of their questions so I wrote down their telephone numbers and told them that I would call them back with an answer.  Towards late morning I had to go to the bathroom and I had no idea where it was or if I could even leave the office.  Across the hall was a lawyers’ office and I had noticed through the glass in our entry door that their door to the office was open.  I decided to ask the secretary there where the bathroom was.  She was very helpful and told me where it was and offered to watch my office in the meantime.  From then on she watched my office when I had to step out.

Around noon Mica came in. What a relief!  She had been at CCV since January when CCV first started a site in Chittenden County.   Mica showed me around and introduced me to the Zenith Silent 700 computer so that I could read the Waterbury mail.   We had to dial a Waterbury number on our telephone and once the connection was made we put the handset on the computer, typed in our site name and number and the latest Waterbury announcements would print out on thermal paper.  The system did not always work and could be very frustrating.

In the afternoon Gary Steller’s Dimensions of Learning class met in the small classroom in the office.   I met my first CCV instructor and some of the students.    Things were looking up; that’s what I was there for.

“B” St. Peter

My CCV story has to start with VSC, for there is where I spent about half of my 33 (ish) years of employment by the System.


Long, long time ago (approx. 45 years!) in a far away land (I now live in Florida) a young woman was hired

as the Sec. to the Assistant to the Provost and to the Construction Coordinator at the Vermont State Colleges office located on the UVM main campus in Burlington.  It was a small office of about 10 staff, headed by Provost Robert Babcock. Shortly thereafter this office moved into a lovely old house at 322 So. Prospect St. where it remained until moving to the Waterbury State Complex.  It was here that I eventually moved into Payroll/Benefits and got to know the old Burroughs machine that took up half my shared office!  We certainly have come a long way technologically!

CCV came into being with Peter Smith at the helm (’70 I believe);  and eventually would move next door to the Chancellor’s Office in Waterbury, where I joined them as Director of Payroll and Benefits for the next half of my venture.  CCV was a safe haven for growth and professional nourishment.  Days were full and learning ongoing but room was made for fun and fellowship as well;  and working was a pleasure.  I look back with warm thoughts and memories on a caring, steady, efficient team that I will always be grateful and proud to have been a part of.

CCV I commend you on your successful mission of enlightenment.  Rock on!

CCV Business Office (retired)

Peter Smith

peterSmithCCV President 1970 – 1978

Listen to Peter talk about how CCV started.

CCV: In the beginning

We were at the New Careers conference in Stowe, spring, 1970.  And it became apparent quickly that there was a barrier between the needs of poor local learners in rural Vermont, like Head Start mothers, and any organized higher education. We agreed to write a grant to OEO and same was done, asking for $65,000 to conduct a study for a rural, community-based, community college that would take education to the learner, meet the learners’ needs, and do so with existing resources.

Lo and behold the grant came through in the fall of 1970 and the search for a Director began. I was on the planning group and kept arguing that, if we looked for a traditional approach to the task, we would get the same thing and would fail; because the traditional campus-based model wouldn’t work in rural Vermont.

At some point, one of the other team members said, “if you are so clear about this, why don’t you do it?”. So, at age 24+, and with very little experience behind me, I jumped in. I got the job and in retrospect, I think I was actually the best candidate which gives some sense of the pool. I quickly hired my top competition, John Chater, a community organizer from Cabot, and we launched.

Some atmospherics

  1. The governor, a conservative republican, Deane Davis had a son, Tom Davis (still alive and a former Leahy worker) who was a liberal democrat and head of the state OEO office. Otherwise, the grant might never have been accepted.
  2. Gov. Davis appointed Bill Craig, president of Johnson State and new to Vermont, also a founder of the Peace Corps with Sargeant Shriver, to chair the Vermont Regional Community College Commission (VR CCC). Craig was a stout defender of our play, as was Alan Weiss, superintendent of schools in Montpelier who succeeded Craig as Chair of the Commission. (Alan is still alive and lives in either Northfield or Montpelier.)
  3. The first office was in what is now the redone old Montpelier Tavern. At that point it was closed for demolition and we talked the landlord/owner into letting us string an electric cord into one of the second floor offices and there we started. After that, we went across the street into what became the Thrush Tavern on the first floor where we stayed for 2 years.

Initial research showed quickly that there were no operating models of a community-based community college that used the existing human, physical, and programmatic resources of the community to meet learners needs. So, with the commission’s approval, we chose to simply go get some learners and begin. If there were no examples, we had to create one.  And that is how and why we enrolled our first students in the late fall, early winter of 1970-71, some in Barton at the Parent Child Center and some in east Montpelier, at the newly opened U-32 High School.

This was a major tactical coup, as it turned out, because we began to create a Political constituency that a study never would have achieved. Also, at that point we were half way through the grant year and needed to get something done. We were tuition free, had an unpaid faculty, and were using community spaces.

Now it becomes a little more complex. So let me address themes as they unfolded:  funding, expansion, staff, threats, the development of the academic approach, and the merger with the VSC.


I am a little hazy on the exact dates, but between 1971 and the year we Got our first state funding (1975, I think) we raised another $270K from OEO, $750k from FIPSE, $120k from the Carnegie Corp., and approximately $2m from the Kellogg Foundation. This money allowed us to grow and expand without the approval of any state agency or the legislature.


We sent a team to southeast Vermont (Tom Yahn, 1st director, is still in Brattleboro) in 1971 and to Lamoille and Franklin (Peggy Williams) in either 72 or 73. The thinking in all cases, was to go into parts of the state that were either unserved or totally underserved to avoid the politics of competition. The exceptions were Lamoille county, where Johnson State (because of Bill Craig and his successor, Ed Elmendorf (at AASCU in DC) were our friends. Our office there was on the JSC campus. Also, Caledonia County and Lyndon State where Lyndon State operated, they were hostile from day one. But the Northeast a kingdom was the poster child for poverty and remote rural isolation in Vermont, and we had to be in all three counties with offices in Hardwick, St. Johnsbury, and Newport.  With these sites in play, the initial shape of what was to become CCV was set and stayed the same through the end of my presidency.


Inevitably I will forget a few important people. But we were blessed with an extraordinary group of people across the college in these early years. And , as an aside, I can say that the influence that Tim Pitkin, recently retired President of Goddard, had as well as the Goddard Low residency program (GEPFE) were instrumental in informing our approaches to learning and assessment.

In the field: Margery Walker, Clo Pitkin, Don Hooper (still living in Brookfield) and Tim Welch in CVT; Tom Yahn, Nancy Chard,  John Turner, Priscilla Newell in SEVT; Peggy Williams, Pixley Tyler Hill, and Kathi Rousselle (who also worked in The Newport office) in Franklin County; and John Findlay and his team in the NEK.

In the central office, Dot Hanna kept the books and I am sure that is one reason why we raised money. Funders had confidence that she wore the boots and would protect the money. She has passed, but her sister, Julia Northrup is still alive in Underhill. Other critical people were Ken Hood, Larry Daloz, Steve Hochschild, Dick Eisele, and Mary Wade.

John Holden (former commissioner of education who advised us), and later on Myrna Miller who brought professional grade assessment expertise to the college. The current chancellor, Tim Donovan, literally worked every position at the college, beginning at age 26 or so, and became a pillar of its later development.


Other than the continual search for dollars in the run up to state approval, and the general astonishment among many establishment people and educators that what we were doing was not higher education which led to constant harassment and attacks, There were three sources of threat through the first four-to-six years: University of Vermont College of Continuing Education, Lyndon State ( and more passively the other VSC), and private higher education in Vt.  UVMCE wanted our market, the other VSC wanted our money (federal and state), and the privates wanted us gone because they thought we were low quality. I can elaborate more on this if and when it is important. But the high point was a meeting with Gov. Salmon and UVM administrators in the governor’s office in which he warned them off a strategy that would have put us out of business. Luckily, I saw it for what it was, and we were able to stop it.  This was another completely fortuitous event.  If it were a different governor, it would have been a different outcome in all likelihood. Also, Graham Newell, a Lyndon State professor, had drafted the VSC authorizing legislation and chaired the Senate education committee. He was an ardent and persistent foe.

Development of the Academic Approach

Until the FIPSE and CAEL connections developed, we were flying by our own compass. We were outcomes -based because we know that without the traditional input measures — campus, faculty, library, etc.–we had to show results. The outside money bought us the time to get minimally good at this as well as the assessment of prior experiential learning that we could make the case. We were community-based so we drew on the brains of the community to structure our programs. etc.

Merger with the VSC and State Funding

A clever tactic embedded in a larger strategy.

  1. I approached the Provost of the VSC, Bob Babcock, who I had known since birth (mine), and asked that he and his President’s council approve our courses as being of college level. He agreed and, from then on, we had regular reviews and approvals of all our courses.
  2. We then approached the VSC to enter the system. I had read the statute and it was permissive. In other words they could add colleges when they wanted to. There was no requirement to petition the legislature and the governor for a charter. The logic was that, if the legislature and the governor wanted the college, they would fund it.  If not, they would not. There were three steps to this.
  • First, the board appointed a commission chaired by Sister Elizabeth Candon, with members Frank Smallwood (I think), Ruth Page (board member) and Dick Wadhams. The Candon committee recommended that the VSC Board take us in, that what we were doing was post-secondary.
  • Second, we were taken in conditionally. The deal was that if the legislature would fund us at $50k that year, that was approval and we would become members of the system.
  • Third, we went to the legislature and, ultimately, the deal was done ad we got the $50K. The stories around this process are too numerous to even refer to here. But if you are interested, I can do them in person. The “near death” experiences were numerous and dire.

In the meantime, I had made liaison with a lot of the Agricultural Extension group, Bob Davidson at UVM and State Sen. Keith Wallace from Waterbury. So we had great support from some traditional sources.

There were three affiliations that made a huge difference for us.

Connecting to Out-of-state Networks

  1. The FIPSE grant brought us money and connections.
  2. CAEL, a new assessment group of which we were charter members. It was there that we, through Larry Daloz, began to develop a comprehensive approach to assessment.

Developing In-state Leadership Networks

  1. The Candon Commission led to a network of influential people who, behind the scenes, kept making the case for what became CCV.

Nancy Severance

For the first few years I worked at CCV, I wrote monthly reports to my supervisor.  I still have those reports, which provide quite a bit of detail about what went on in my region of the college during those four years.  I’ve used those reports as the basis for this writing.


I appled for a job at CCV in the winter of 1979.  I don’t remember who was on the search committee, but I do remember they recommended that I be hired.  Unfortunately, CCV’s president at the time, George Bilicic, rejected their recommendation.  Lucky for me, but not so lucky for him, Mr Bilicic was prematurely retired soon after that.  I was then offered the position of Regional Director by Chancellor Richard Bjork, starting in July 1979, at a salary of $13,500 per year.   This was the year CCV was almost closed by the Vermont State Legislature, which apparently did not understand the concept of student-centered, alternative education.  Since my alma mater and my former employer was that hippy college, Goddard, I’m not sure how I got invited to help CCV become more “legitimate.”

Myrna Miller was to be my boss.  She had just been appointed Dean of the College, also part of the legitimacy push, and its major architect, as it turned out.  My monthly reports to her were typed on a typewriter, using carbon paper, and the carbon copies were on the backs of old course descriptions, such as “Jogging for Beginners.”

When I began I was responsible for the Central Vermont Region, which at that time was administered from a small office on Langdon Street in Montpelier.  Not counting me, there were seven staff all together, four of whom (Howard Fischer, Clo Pitkin, Karen Saudek and Judy Tomasi) resigned soon after I arrived.  Judy Cyprian, Terry Knight and Barbara Ploof remained and were soon joined by Eileen Cubit, Theresa Lermond and Dianne Maccario.  In the Spring of 1980, Judy left, and we hired Carol Braswell, Norma Perreault and Carol Peterson.  The coordinators (the two Carols, Norma, Barbara and Dianne) worked on a ten-month contract with summers off.  They did everything:  recruiting and helping students with their financial and academic plans, recruiting, hiring and evaluating instructors and arranging space.  Instructors, who were volunteers during CCV’s early years, were now paid $6.30 an hour.

By the time we launched the Spring 1980 semester, we had split our regional presence between an upstairs office at the corner of Main and State streets in Montpelier (shared with the Central Office) and a second office upstairs over Lash Furniture on Main Street in Barre.   The Montpelier office moved to 5 State Street in March 1981, when Eileen was replaced by Irene Mitchell, and Roger Cranse joined us as a Special Services Coordinator.  In those years, most of our 100+ classes were held in local high schools or in office or studio space provided by the teacher.  A few were held in our offices and we had a couple in Bradford and Randolph.  One winter night, when Dianne Maccario and I were returning from a registration in Bradford, my car broke down.  We had to call my husband from a house nearby (no cell phones in those days) to come and get us.

Tuition was $45 per credit in Spring 1980.  Before registration, everyone on the staff drove and distributed course lists throughout Washington and Orange counties.  We hosted meet-the-instructor and registration nights before our classes began.  We gave our first basic skills tests in September 1980.  We were all responsible for visiting classes at the beginning and end of each semester.  We bought and sold all textbooks and packed and returned unsold books to the publishers at the end of the semester.  We laughed a lot.

Up until Myrna took over, CCV did not give credits or letter grades. The Fall 1981 semester was the first in which teachers were required to use course descriptions that were standardized throughout the college, and students were asked to initialize the class attendance sheets if they wanted a pass/fail rather than a letter grade.  Try as I may, I can not remember what our student records looked like in those early years, even though they became my responsibility for most of my CCV career.  I do know that they were on paper, and we prepared them by hand.  We got our first administrative computer in the spring of 1982, a clunky-looking thing we called the “blue egg.”  I think it was a Zenith. Jean Gilman became our recorder and trainer.  We were connected to the central office via telephone lines; our long-distance charges were exorbitant because the computer would often lock-up, and we couldn’t log off.

In June 1981, the Central Vermont Region was expanded to include St. Johnsbury  (where Rhonda Barr, Leonard Foote, Michael Murphy and Aprel Woods were coping with cockroaches in their office space).  In June 1982 our region became the Northern Vermont Region and included Newport (Lisa Daigle-Farney and Kathy Rousselle), Morrisville (May Bottomley, Penny Domina, Gary Moore and Jan Roy) and St. Albans (Pixley Hill, Joan Kaye, MaryEllen Lowe and Michael Sawdey).  Over the objections of the other colleges in Burlington, we added the Burlington site office later that year; it was located in tiny office space at the Chace Mill, which is across the river from the Champlain Mill in Winooski.  Mica DeAngelis, Michael Sawdey and Tina VanHelden became the staff, and they offered 14 classes in the Spring of 1983.  Myrna Miller had left to become president of Mohegan College in Connecticut and the Chancellor was our acting leader.

By March 1983, I was writing my monthly reports to President Kenneth Kalb.  Before my career as a regional director came to an end in June 1983, I had hired Gabrielle Dietzel, Vivian Cullen, and Sue O’Neill in Barre (1982) and

nancySevDavid Buchdahl and Ellie Byers in St. Albans (1983).  Carol Braswell, Leonard Foote, Theresa Lermond, Terry Knight, Michael Murphy, Carol Peterson and Barbara Ploof were gone.  The Montpelier office was closed, and its staff moved to Barre.  The St. Johnsbury office had new, spacious and cockroach-free accommodations. The Northern Region coordinators had prepared 450 courses for the fall of 1983, including three weekend courses and eight Johnson State College courses; and they had developed a two-year curriculum for the new, soon-to-be issued college catalog.  Site secretaries were upgraded to Site Service Coordinators to reflect their increased computer and bookkeeping responsibilities.  A large percent of our enrollment was in computer courses.

Computers turned out to be my thing, and I am thankful that Ken Kalb recognized my bean-counting proclivities and moved me away from the politically challenging work of a regional director.  I started as Registrar in July 1983, and my new boss was Director of Administrative Services, Tim Donovan.

Dr. Michael R. Sawdey

MichaelSawdeyRemembering CCV – Coordinator of Instruction and Advisement (1980-83), Director, Western Region (1983-85)

I moved to Vermont in 1979 when my wife, Dr. Laurel Church, accepted a visiting professorship at the University of Vermont. In this tag-along situation I taught speech at UVM in the fall of 1979, along with working on a number of editing and publishing projects left over from my business in Illinois. During that fall term I got a call from the Student Activities office at UVM wondering whether, pretty-please, would I help out a student who was attempting to restart the yearbook at the University. In due time I found myself serving as yearbook advisor, working with the editor, Alida Bryant, who often seemed hard to find because, as she explained in her rapid-fire Boston fashion shehadaninternshipatCCVinStAlbans. Once I translated I learned that, yes, there was a community college system in Vermont, that it worked out of regional offices throughout the state, the nearest one of which was in St. Albans, 28 miles north of Burlington, where I lived.

When Alida learned I had a doctorate in English she shifted into full recruiter mode and got me to agree to teach a couple of classes for CCV, and, although she tried to get me teaching locations near Burlington, she made veiled references to some mysterious prohibition on actually holding CCV classes in the city itself. For the spring semester of 1980 I ended up teaching a developmental composition class in the VFW hall in Milton, 9 miles north of Burlington, and a class in Modern British Literature in a public school classroom in St. Albans. The mileage to and from was more than an academic consideration, since the compensation was a princely $234 per class.

The Modern British course was one I had taught before at other schools, and was even related to my doctoral specialty; one might remark, however, that it might be the first and last time that Lady Chatterley’s Lover received an in-depth treatment in St. Albans, Vermont. The Developmental Composition class was a bit more of a challenge. I had never taken a composition course in my life, since I placed out of it as an undergraduate, and I had only taught it a couple of times before, in a very different institution, and as a regular freshman comp. course, not as a remedial exercise. When I showed up at the VFW hall, I found a group of ten tough-looking women and one very scared male veteran, possibly a bit the worse for Agent Orange. Before I could introduce myself, one woman asked “You married?” “Yes.” “Shit. Just my luck.” It was more or less uphill from there. In fact, that was one of the first Vermont language facts I learned. After having the students write a bit about “why they were there” (did I need to ask?) so I could gauge their existing writing skills, I found I needed to go back to square one with the exercises I set them. One that worked well was to have them write out directions for getting from their homes to the classroom. That’s when I discovered that Vermonters may not necessarily know “east” or “north,” but they do know “up” and “down,” and these words appear much more often in driving directions there than they do, for example, on the Illinois prairie.

In the process of setting up the courses, I got to meet Pixley Hill, who said she was “the CIA in St. Albans.” I knew that St. Albans had the distinction of being the site of the northernmost battle of the Civil War, but I didn’t know they had their own intelligence service. Anyway, as the Coordinator of Instruction and Advisement, Pixley was the (CCV) law in town—obviously doing a lot of things (hiring instructors, ordering textbooks, evaluating transcripts, arranging veterans’ benefits, filing financial aid forms) that would have occupied about a dozen people in a traditional school. This began to look interesting (I bore easily). During the semester, Pixley mentioned that the college was adding a second CIA in St. Albans that year, and in due course I applied. I was also applying elsewhere, and was offered a faculty position at Clarke College in Iowa, but Laurel was offered an extension of her visiting professorship at UVM, and since she also offered to leave me if I took the job in Iowa, it “worked out” for me when I was hired by CCV starting in the fall of 1980.

At the time, the St. Albans CCV office was in space shared with the Agricultural Extension Service. The  downside was that we had only two tiny cubicles and some shared space to meet students, provided our schedule didn’t conflict with a session on re-using canning jars. If there was an upside, it was that government offices shut down at 4:00 p.m., so we had an excuse for a comfortably short work day. But business was booming and the first order of business that fall was to find larger quarters. We looked at a number of unpromising premises that met the criterion of low rent. (One was a gutted shell of an old municipal building, where our offices would be on the second floor. When we pointed out that there would need to be an elevator to meet accessibility requirements, the landlord snorted, “Elevator’s $40,000…hell, for that I could buy a forklift.” It was unclear whether he thought the forklift would alleviate the need for an elevator. In any case, we kept looking.) We finally settled for a one-story building on Main Street, an 1860s feed store that had undergone a number of transmogrifications, most recently as the home of the local telephone company. Once it became the home of CCV, we (almost affectionately) dubbed it Hungerford Hall, in honor of the landlord, who, it was rumored, had won it in a poker game. We moved in time for the Spring 1981 semester, luxuriating in our own private offices, a large front lobby, secretarial space, and a couple of sort-of classrooms, thus slightly reducing our dependence on rented space in the community.

In the friendly confines of Hungerford Hall, Pixley and I were joined by the newly hired Special  Services Coordinator, Joan Kay, and secretary Suzy Campbell (her day job: she and her husband were also the official keepers of the Swanton swans, a present from Queen Elizabeth II). Special Services was a federally-funded program to meet the needs of under-served college populations and those with multiple obstacles to success in college—a definition that pretty much fit every CCV student. The program director, Roger Cranse, built some remarkable educational features into the two-semester sequence of coursework, based on liberal arts principles. However, for some students, the issues were more down-to-earth. Joan reported that, when she explained to one student that the goal of the program was to help remove the obstacles to getting a college education, the student asked whether it would pay for fixing the brakes on her car, since that was the main thing that was keeping her from getting to class.

As I’ve noted, in that era CIAs did everything—it could be a steep learning curve. What does that stuff on a DD214 mean for a degree-seeking student? What’s transferable from an out-of-state school you’ve never heard of? When should a student be encouraged to fill out financial aid forms? The answer to the last one was easy: 100% of CCV students were poor enough to qualify; in fact, 100% of the forms came back for verification because the computer in faraway Iowa couldn’t believe that anyone could live on so little income. Little did they know Vermont.

Then, of course, there were all the “other duties as assigned.” Setting up the curriculum each semester—what we offered was determined not only by what we thought students might need, but also by who was available to teach. On more than one occasion, Pixley and I went to one or more restaurants in town and went from table to table finding out who had a master’s degree and might like to teach something.  The upside was that there were a lot of people in Vermont who had advanced degrees, even teaching experience in higher education, but were hiding out in the boonies doing something else. Once we’d screened and hired some folks, there was also the matter of instructing them in the “CCV way” of doing things. At that point, it was almost better to have people who hadn’t taught in college before, since they were less likely to balk at having to write learning outcomes for the course or design assignments that actually spoke to those outcomes. Those who were “experienced” college teachers tended to come with their own syllabi and their own presuppositions about how to teach. For these we took on an “unlearning” task in some cases. Pay was low. At one point, when faced by a prospective teacher who appeared to be trying to make a living from this, I recall paraphrasing Groucho Marx to the effect that I wouldn’t want any instructor who wanted to teach for our wages. In fact, almost all CCV instructors did it because they enjoyed it—what an opportunity to work with a class of 10 or 12 highly-motivated adults, sharing with them something that you did in your “real life.”

The “as assigned” stuff went on and on. After we opened our very own St. Albans office, there was the matter of equipping it, with almost no budget. Donated tables and chairs, for a start. Then, a copier—in the old office we had shared one with the Extension Service. After much lobbying I was told that the central office in Montpelier was getting a new one and we could have the old one—if we figured out how to get it to St. Albans. Step one was to borrow a battered farm truck from the brother of another CIA and nurse it to Montpelier. Once there, I found the copier ensconced on the fourth floor of a building with no elevator. After finding enough able-bodied colleagues to tug and lift, the next problem was that the copier had protruding legs that were too wide to fit through the doorway of the office. Removing them would require a socket wrench—not standard issue in community college offices. I located a nearby repair shop where I did some fast talking to convince the proprietor to loan me one, leaving my driver’s license as security. Back up to the fourth floor, on my back, crawling inside the bottom cabinet of the copier to reach the bolts. At this point, then-president Myrna Miller (known for her vocabulary) came by and asked what the &*^%$$^ I was doing. “Other duties as assigned.” So, narrowed copier horsed down four flights of slippery stairs and into the pickup. Now back in St. Albans, how to get it from pickup to office—no stairs this time, but all my colleagues suddenly pleading gender disability. I believe I ended up pulling a few bucks out of my own wallet to entice a couple of young loiterers to help me with that final few yards of schlepping.

Publicity for CCV programs had what one visiting accreditor called “a home-made quality.” Indeed. This was before the days of desktop publishing or graphics software, so we often had to design our ads, have the newspaper typeset them, then reshuffle everything to get it the way we wanted it. Posters were usually, in fact, home-made, with clip art, press-apply type, lots of cutting and pasting. Things got a bit easier when the local newspaper, the Daily Messenger (known locally as the Daily Mess), which had been part of the infamous William Loeb/Manchester Guardian empire, was sold to a nice young couple who were actually interested in what we were doing. We wrote articles, fed material to free-lancers, enticed students to write letters-to-the-editor, manufactured events to become news. Radio stations in the area  got used to expecting that, a few weeks before the start of each term, we would be calling and cajoling to get some interview time, as well as peddling PSAs—though usually the best deal we could get was one free PSA for each paid ad (we always wondered whether this was normal FCC practice).

Enrollments did grow steadily in St. Albans—usually in ways we wanted. I do recall that, in the wake of the Iranian hostage crisis, we noticed an influx of young middle-eastern-looking men driving expensive cars with out-of-state license plates and desiring earnestly to enroll quickly as full-time students so they could keep their student visas. In most cases, after they had paid cash for their courses, we never saw them again.

The student-centered nature of the CCV enterprise defined both the best and worst aspects of our life as all-purpose academic administrators. I hadn’t been there very long before I learned that no staff meeting was complete without someone or other pounding on the table and shouting, “CCV is NOT a social service agency!” What this meant, of course, was that it most definitely was. There was even an emerging research basis for what we were experiencing, in the work of K. Patricia Cross and her colleagues on the experience of adult students in college. What she found was, simply, students go back to college within 18 months of experiencing one of life’s standard crises: having a child, or having the last one leave home; getting a job, or losing a job; being promoted, or missing a promotion; getting married, or getting divorced; being diagnosed with a life-threatening condition, or recovering your health; becoming addicted to something, or shaking an addiction. At CCV, we saw it all, and learned to accept that students frequently saw us, and their education, as the one thing that was going to save them from whatever was afflicting them in life. We found that when we asked students to write about what they wanted to get out of college, the most frequent answer was not to get a job or make money, but “to make better decisions in my life.” Whatever the proximate crisis was, it had taught the student that her previous decisions were lousy—now, how to make better ones? CCV was, for most of our students, the only available answer.

“Her decisions”—yes, a large majority of our students were female, years ahead of the same trend in the rest of American higher education. And they brought every vulnerability arising from gender inequality in our society—spousal abuse, vulnerability due to lack of marketable skills, situational obesity, substance abuse, miserably-low self-esteem, and all kinds of despair related to failed relationships, failed child-rearing, not to mention intractable economic issues. The amazing thing was the extent to which higher education did in fact address so many of these issues, though not always in predictable ways. It saved some relationships and terminated others. In general, children did better in school when their mothers and fathers were also studying. Some took off weight, while others decided that wasn’t the main problem. Some got off substances, some switched substances. But on balance, I generally concluded that the experience of going to college did far more than put facts in heads—it did help a surprising number of people change their lives in ways that might not have seemed tightly tied to English or math or history. And, in “Corn is Green” fashion, students sometimes did amazing things. Some transferred to prestigious colleges (two I can recall went to Smith). I bought a dozen copies of Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” and began to give them to young women who seemed ready to do something extraordinary with the education that had begun at CCV—most, I think, read it and grasped it, but all said the title alone affirmed what they needed to seek in their lives.

I learned that Commencement at CCV was a peculiar institution in itself: students traveling from all over the state, accompanied by huge numbers of family members—since they were usually the first in their extended families to graduate from college, and CCV put no limits on the number of guests they could bring. And there was the custom of giving each graduate a single rose, which the graduate was, in turn, to present to the person who had been most responsible for the student managing to complete a degree. Not unexpectedly, the rose often went to a parent, spouse, best friend, but sometimes to a child who had helped take up the slack during the years of part-time study. And at times to a CIA; one year, I took home six. Many students were overcome by the emotion of graduating, but I remember in particular one big, strapping state police sergeant who nearly fainted out of shear nervousness at having to walk across a stage “in front of all those people,” as he put it afterwards.

CCV was not a very old institution in those days, less than ten years from its founding when I began working there. And in those few years it had undergone more sea-changes than most colleges do in a hundred years. Instructor pay was laughably low in the early ‘80s, but in the first days it was nonexistent: a collection envelope was passed around to the students and they put in whatever they thought the class was worth to them. I wonder how the W2s were handled? Also, the curriculum and the degree program were entirely competency-based. There were no credits and no grades and a student’s degree portfolio might well include “things” as well as “words”—jars of jam demonstrating cooking competency was an oft-cited example. When the college switched to credits and courses in the more usual sense, sometime in the late ‘70s, all the “old plan” students were supposedly given a deadline to complete their degrees, but still, from time to time, someone would arrive from Burke Hollow or Victory Bog and bring a degree portfolio, literally, in a steamer trunk. Some accommodation was always made for them—they were, after all, the original ancestors of the place.

But in the early ‘80s there still was no such thing as a college catalog, and courses were all pretty much made up out of whole cloth: an introductory composition course in St. Albans didn’t necessarily bear much resemblance to one in Barre or St. Johnsbury. All higher education is sort of a cottage industry, of course, but the variance at CCV was particularly dizzying, since there wasn’t even the usual leaven of a full-time faculty to snarl at each other until they agreed on some kind of pattern for courses. So around 1982 or 1983, sometime after Ken Kalb arrived as president, we spent an ungodly number of months assembling the first more-or-less uniform curriculum, to be ensconced in an honest-to-gosh printed catalog. We read existing syllabi until we were cross-eyed, begged-borrowed-stole catalogs from other schools (sometimes by getting our students to write letters requesting copies, as though they wanted to apply for admission!), argued in endless meetings, sometimes after spreading out dozens of variants of “the same” course on the floor to attempt comparison and collation. There were a few screaming matches with disgruntled instructors who threatened never to teach for us again if we so much as hinted what should be in their courses. In the end, having a catalog and some uniformity to courses probably demystified things a bit for students, perhaps even for the ever-scrambling CIAs.

Up in St. Albans, I was fairly far from the center of power (such as it was) of the Vermont State Colleges system, but we all had some vague sense that we had important support from Richard Bjork, the chancellor of the system. There were numerous Bjork stories floating about, even though most of us had never met him. He was known as a hard-driving, AAAAAAA type personality. At one point, he had been a Coast Guard officer, choosing that service because it was the only one where a young officer could command his own ship. In honor of that time, some of the central office staff gave him a gift of a tie decorated with nautical signal flags. He accepted it graciously, but during the first staff meeting where he wore it, he looked down and deciphered what the flags said: TGIF.  He would have preferred more working days in the week, not fewer, and he tore off the tie and threw it away in disgust.

As mentioned earlier, when I began working for CCV there was some kind of unwritten agreement that no classes would be held in Chittenden County, aka Burlington. Putting my composition class in Milton, just inside the northern edge of the county, was sort of an I-dare-you move, not to be repeated. However, around 1983 there began to be noises that the chancellor had said to go ahead and give it a try. The issue was not with University of Vermont (although an interesting contretemps would arise later), but with a number of the private institutions in Burlington, all of which depended on adult degree programs to make the budget. But, in the event, I was assigned to go ahead and work something out.

Initially, I found quarters in the Chase Mill on the northern edge of Burlington, thanks to the fact that another state-sponsored program was being phased out and there was unexpired time on the lease. The office suite was small, and occupancy was tense because the previous inmates were unhappy about being moved out and terminated.  At first, I took to interviewing potential instructors at my home, which made some of them nervous. And I had no staff, so I hired a secretary and then went looking for a CIA. At the time, there were a good number of in-house jokes about the fact that nearly all of us on staff were from the Midwest or from New York, and that, therefore, our affirmative action plan was that we needed to hire a certain number of genuine Vermonters. Mica DeAngelis, whom I hired for the Burlington operation, became known as our token Vermonter.

Getting on with potential instructors and prospective students wasn’t all that difficult, and bore some resemblance to activities at other sites. Getting on with the other local institutions was another matter entirely. The local deans had a sort of informal council, to which they felt obliged to invite me; I got used to being pumped constantly about our “intentions” in Burlington.  What did they THINK we were going to do there? The staff at Burlington College was particularly worried, apparently, since they were completely dependent on the adult market. At the deans’ meetings there were often fireworks, but it was often hard to tell who was the intended target, since everyone was being Vermont-nice about it. Sister Janice Ryan, then president of Trinity College, was known for her meeting style: arrive late, let off a bombshell, then storm out. At one deans’ meeting, she swept in half an hour late, stopped whatever we were talking about, made a sweep of her hand around the room so that everyone knew they were included, declared “Whatever you do, don’t screw the students!” and left. I took it as a good omen. At another meeting, there was a veiled discussion about academic quality, which I chose to misunderstand, since CCV was, after all, accredited by the same group that accredited all the rest of the bunch. But suddenly, the dean of one of the four-year colleges began waving a brochure from one of the other two year colleges in the face of its hapless representative, wanting to know how, as a two-year college, they dared to grant graduate credit in education for a seminar they were hosting. I took that, too, as a good omen.

It was soon clear that we needed to find larger quarters, preferably where we could also have some classroom space of our own—one byproduct of the interinstitutional rivalry in town was that the rental prices for school classrooms had been driven up, beyond our means. We eventually settled on space to be sublet from Vermont Student Assistance Corporation in yet another gentrified 19th century mill, this one just across the river in Winooski. The space was “raw,” needed to be built out, but at least it would be built out to meet our needs, practically palatial compared with the usual CCV real estate in those days. We did, at times, have some strange bedfellows in the old mill. Directly above us was an aerobic dance studio, where large herds of energetic but overweight clients set up a regular ruckus of bumping and thumping, often enough to drown out classes completely. We eventually came to some kind of agreement about quiet hours. One day, however, the thumping dislodged several pounds of liquid mercury, left over from some 19th century industrial process, from between the floor boards over our heads, followed, of course, by workers in hazmat suits vacuuming miles of floor cracks. One good spinoff for our students was that many were introduced, for the first time, to the pleasures of middle class life—coffee from Green Mountain, ice cream from Ben and Jerry’s, and other treats and baubles from the shops in the upscale mall downstairs in the mill.

The University of Vermont ignored us, for the most part. However, there was one interesting point of conflict. CCV always had to get “creative” about library resources, since we had none. In some towns, we bought books to add to the local public library. In Burlington, it seemed natural (to me, anyway) to send students to the UVM library, since UVM, after all, was publically funded. When our students tried to used the library, however, they were told that, sorry, you can’t, because UVM is only 29% funded by the state and is essentially a private institution with a land-grant ag school grafted onto it. But the hapless UVM library staff hadn’t reckoned on CCV students, whose bureaucracy-navigating skills had in many cases been honed through years of battles with the social service system. I very soon got a call from the UVM library director informing me that “your students have been coming over here and demanding to check out books—and they are NOT very nice people!” However, it eventually worked out that students who lived in Chittenden County could in fact get library privileges, thanks to a local state legislator who had already made a stink to get such privileges for her own children.

In due time, we expanded from Burlington down the west side of Vermont, establishing an office in Middlebury. I hired Betty Matkowski as the local CIA and, as usual, we went about trying to find appropriate office space. At one point, the realtor with whom we were working showed us an abandoned (cheap) motel. As Ken Kalb, the male realtor, and I trudged into the motel with Betty in tow, she looked around, visualized the scene and remarked that if anyone happened to be looking, there went the rest of her reputation. In the event, the motel didn’t make the cut and we ended up with office space on the second floor of a downtown office block.

Our reception from the local college in Middlebury was a bit different than what we had experienced in Burlington. At an early stage I sent a note to Stephen Rockefeller, the dean of Middlebury College, laying out for him what we were planning to do in town and asking to meet with him. Sometime later, I got a nice call from an assistant letting me know that he was too busy to meet, but was delighted that we were starting an office in Middlebury. As we began to get students coming in to register, I found out why he was so delighted. Like most private colleges, Middlebury had a tuition benefit for children of employees, but had always restricted it to children of faculty, given the rather steep price tag of a Middlebury education. This had led to a good deal of grumbling among the non-academic staff, so, when CCV came to town, Middlebury immediately gave all their non-academic staff a tuition benefit for themselves and their children—at CCV.

Regardless of location, the early ‘80s were the time of greatly expanded computerization in higher education, and CCV was no exception. Registration operations were conducted on a central machine in Waterbury, a Digital Equipment Corporation VAX, running software that worked some of the time. Connecting to the VAX was always iffy, since “real” modems and data terminals were beyond our means. Instead, office secretaries used a device called a Silent 700, which had a keyboard and an acoustic modem, a pair of rubber muffs into which one stuffed a telephone handset, and hoped for the best. There was no display, just a thermal printer that supposedly showed what had been entered as the confirmed data came back from the remote computer. But everything was so slow that even a mediocre typist would typically be several pages ahead of the system—with intervening errors along the way. When, around 1982, we began getting Zenith X100 PCs in the offices, it became a little easier to manage the data flow, but the VAX was still the subject of a good deal of cursing and some sardonic jokes about the need for a VAX-ectomy.

May Munger

My journey back through CCV history, my, where do I start?  First, I have to confess that the journey started with Vermont State Colleges starting in April, 1985 at Castleton State College.  In August, 1997, I applied at CCV for the position of financial aid counselor and was hired for the position.  At that time, Barbara Murphy was president at CCV and today she is the president of JSC.  Bette Matkowski was my Regional Director, who today is retired after being president of Lamar Community College, Colorado, then Johnson and Wales University, Denver.  Shortly after starting, Tim Donovan became my new Regional Director, who today is the Chancellor of VSC.  What does this all mean?  Working at CCV opened the doors for many who were eager to ask, “I wonder” questions.  If you had an idea, the motto was run with it until you were tackled!

At the time I was hired, I was “assigned” a mentor who I found interesting.  At CSC, I had a mentor but one of my choosing.  My assigned mentor was John Sweeney, who not only showed me the ropes of financial aid, but to this day is one of my greatest friends.  He was there to not only teach me financial aid regulations, but to be my sounding board as I moved my career forward.


In 2003, I was appointed to the High School Committee which would later become my passion.  The appointment was the beginning of my involvement with the class, “Introduction to College Studies”.  This class was offered free to high school students to learn the skills needed to become successful in college.  Students completing the course at that time could apply for a scholarship to take a free class at CCV.  The scholarship was given out to only several students due to funding.  Today, this class continues to be offered, but now all students completing the course can not only take a free class at CCV, but they can take the college class at any of the VSC colleges.  Years of developing partnerships has enabled this class to be a great success for CCV.

I remember the day that I was asked to teach ICS (I kept asking “I wonder what it would be like to actually teach this class!), was a defining moment for me.  I could work all day at CCV, but at the end of the day when I walked into the classroom was like I had a new life.  I did not start my college career until I was 35 due to the fact I had no one to help me through the process.  At 18, for many of us girls, the choice was either go to college to become a teacher, nurse, or get married.  While I was accepted into nursing, I was so scared of going to college, leaving home and figuring out what I needed, I declined and got married.  The day I started teaching, I made a promise that every student I taught, I would make sure they knew the resources available to them to help with these difficult decisions.  Even in retirement I get calls from friends who have friends who have someone needing help with a college issue.

My second passion at CCV was working with TRIO.  I remember almost begging for a chance to be a TRIO advisor and I think I even promised I would stay 5 years in that position!  Working with TRIO students was extremely rewarding as I watched them work through difficult situations to finally walking across the stage to receive their diplomas.

I think one of the most defining moments at CCV was when the college was about to begin major changes in how we did everything.  We were growing and needed to make changes.  At that time, every site received a copy of “Who Moved My Cheese” and we were asked to read it.  Change is hard and those who resisted were unhappy, and for some, this met leaving CCV.   For those of us who dared asked “I wonder……..” were excited and met the new challenges.  New adventures came to us and still today, I keep this card that was given to each of us just to remind me that no matter what stage in life I am at, I need to keep reading this little card:

 The Handwriting on the Wall

Change Happens

They Keep Moving the Cheese

 Anticipate Change

Get Ready for the Cheese to Move

 Monitor Change

Smell the Cheese Often

 So You Know When It is Getting Old

Adapt to Change Quickly

The Quicker You Let Go of Old Cheese,

The Sooner You Can Enjoy the New Cheese


Move with the Cheese

 Enjoy Change!

Savor the Adventure

And the Taste of New Cheese!

Be Ready to Quickly

Change Again and Again

The Keep Moving the Cheese

From Who Moved My Cheese? By Spencer Johnson

CCV gives those who want to expand their careers and interest every possible support needed.  I remember once being told that as a supervisor/leader, you judge your success by the success of the people you lead.

Myrna Ring Miller

myrnaMCCV President 1979 – 1982

Thank you for this opportunity to reminisce on my wonderful years at CCV. When I came to Vermont in 1975 to design and set up the Assessment of Prior Learning Program, the first thing I realized was that the mountains, rivers and weather often separated the students from one  end of the State to the other. Peter Smith wisely had made CCV a locally based institution and I followed his model with the APL program and the External Degree Program.

When I became the President of CCV in 1979 I quickly realized there were some short-comings in the state-wide model. One of the first we had to overcome was a way to assure that students from Brattleboro to St. Albans were getting the equivalent learning in the same classes. For example, English 101 was essentially the same regardless of location. I knew that the New England Association, our accrediting body, would insist on this. The staff was not thrilled to say the least! They wanted to keep things responsive to the local students’ needs. So we had to do some serious soul searching about students’ needs in Vermont. I pushed very hard to convince the staff that we had to have courses with traditional credit hours and grades so our graduates could move on to receive advanced degrees. I knew that Vermont had many people cut off from attending on-campus degree granting institutions due to family obligations and a variety of other circumstances and that CCV could really fill an important need.  Classes that were consistent and for credits while delivered close to home was what I saw as the real need. I wasn’t sure the staff entirely agreed with this more traditional approach, but at that time our funding was hanging on by a thread so they went along with my ideas. The important thing for all of us was keeping people in the local centers to hold each student’s hand and walk them through the registration and degree requirements. For many older students even the idea of attending “college” is very frightening. In this way we kept the local, student-centered support system in place while we bit off the task of making CCV’s teaching and learning more traditional. The new direction was not easy. Teachers and staff had to do a big turn around for which they deserve great kudos. Many are still there and others have retired but all should be praised for their commitment to the College through those tough times. Some thought I was the devil who was going to destroy the College and others thought I was its savior. The truth is that I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to contribute to a wonderful institution.

I am very grateful for the support I received from the Board of Trustees for my changes and for their continued support of CCV. It made my heart sing when I attended the opening of the Winooski Center. I knew that CCV was a dream come true and here to stay.

Karen McGovern

Class of 1989
Outreach Counselor, VSAC

My relationship with the Community College of Vermont (CCV) has been a valuable and meaningful one.  As a student, I credit CCV and its many wonderful instructors, staff and students with teaching me how to learn.  As an instructor myself, I credit CCV and its amazing instructors, staff, and students with teaching me how to teach!!

I began my experience with CCV in 1986 when I enrolled as a part-time student trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.  I had attempted college before but I didn’t like the large classroom sizes and the lack of personal attention I had encountered in other schools.  CCV was a welcoming, safe and encouraging environment that engaged a wandering young adult looking to find her way.  The class that made the most impact on me early on was then called Dimensions of Learning, taught by the ever-so-incredible Joan Kaye.  It really was a time of awakening for me. Also, thanks to Joan and CCV I was able to start my career with an internship in Senator Patrick Leahy’s Burlington office.  After proudly receiving my AS degree in 1989 from CCV, I was ready for more.

Equipped with genuine encouragement, some newfound confidence, and a foundation in liberal studies and human services I embarked on a long journey.  It took another 8+ years to get my BA degree from Trinity College of Vermont while working full-time for VSAC and raising a family.  I don’t fit into the charts or categories that attempt to measure postsecondary completion rates within 4 years or even 6 years.  I was, however, fortunate to find colleges that offered adult-friendly programs of study where I found the flexibility to learn in a way that worked best for me.

With the support of my family and my employer, I returned to learning again to pursue an MA degree in the hopes that I might counsel adults at VSAC and possibly teach one day.  You can imagine my delight when I was offered a teaching position at the CCV academic center in St. Albans.  I have had the great pleasure and honor of teaching Dimensions of Work since 2010.  How great it has been to find myself back in Dimensions class, after all these years.