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Fairbury college move still brings bitterness, regret.

BEATRICE, Neb. (AP) -- Even 25 years later, the memory of the move still evokes bitterness and resentment for those closely associated with what was once known as Fairbury Junior College.

It was in 1986 that Fairbury Junior College closed its doors and became part of Southeast Community College-Beatrice.

Last summer, former Fairbury college faculty, students and members of the community held a reunion marking the 25th anniversary of the "Save Our Campus," an unsuccessful campaign to keep a college in Fairbury.

Vicki Martin, an English faculty member at Fairbury college and later SCC-Beatrice, said the campaign grew out of a love and appreciation for the city's educational institution.

"The college had been started by the city' of Fairbury right before World War II," Martin said. "It was really an amazing thing for a town like this to have started and maintained a junior college for that period of time. I was really happy to come and be a part of that history and be part of the academic education."

The junior college was a two-year school designed to equip students to transfer to a university, Martin said.

"I thought it was an important part of the educational system, it offered our young people to get the first two years of a college education," she said. "All of that fit with my philosophy of education."

The Fairbury campus was closed and merged with Southeast Community College-Beatrice. The move combined Beatrice's vocational and adult education programs with Fairbury's academic transfer courses.

Martin said the Board of Governors' vote to move the campus was frustrating.

"I was really disturbed about this area board ripping the school out of its roots and moving it," Martin said. "I felt like Fairbury deserved to continue to have the college they had started."

An effort to save the Fairbury location materialized in a "Save Our Campus" campaign, which was started by faculty members and students. Martin joined, saying she "felt that Fairbury had a right to continue with the college they had."

Some faculty members Martin taught alongside resigned and took other jobs. Some moved to Beatrice and continued to teach.

Martin stayed in Fairbury and commuted to Beatrice for 15 years before retiring in 2001.

Even a quarter century later, Martin said the move still hurts some.

"For quite a while, and in some cases for 25 years, people didn't give up the hurt of having to move," she said. "Personally, I came to grips with it, but I also know there were some people who were not even able after 25 years to come to grips with the fact the campus had moved."

Martin put the reaction of Fairbury citizens and those involved with the school on a range of "I don't care" to "l haven't forgiven the board yet."

"I fall somewhere in the middle," she said.

Fairbury Public Schools superintendent Fred Helmink said the move of Fairbury college to Beatrice "is a sad memory."

"A lot of people around here went to Fairbury college," Helmink said. "A lot of people remember those good football and basketball teams and they did have a lot of success here."

Helmink said former Creighton basketball coach and current Oregon coach Dana Altman even coached at Fairbury for a time.

Carol Cerny took two business classes at Fairbury college. She now works as secretary for Jefferson Intermediate School--the former site of the college.

"I don't think about it too much except when people ask, 'Where is Jefferson?'" Cerny said. "I tell them it's the old Southeast Community College building and they say, 'Oh, I know where that is.'"

"People still associate it with the college being here," she said.

Martin said she has three grandsons that will soon be attending Jefferson Intermediate School, now housed in the former Fairbury college building on K Street.

"I think that education continues even though it's in a different level is significant," she said. "When l think of it that way, the fact that they are going to be educated in the building that I was an educator in, it's a comforting thing."


It was in 1986 that Fairbury Junior College closed its doors and became part of the Southeast Community College-Beatrice.

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Author:Dunker, Chris
Publication:Community College Week
Date:May 16, 2011
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