Founded in 1964, Southwestern Community takes pride in a history characterized by community involvement and collaboration resulting in excellent educational opportunities for the people of Jackson, Macon and Swain counties, the Qualla Boundary and beyond. Significantly, these educational opportunities have brought economic, personal and cultural benefits to the region and its people.
On December 1, 1964, the Jackson County Industrial Education Center officially opened with 60 students enrolled in full-time classes and 133 students signed up for short-term courses. Since that time, the College has evolved from an industrial education center to a technical institute to a technical college and finally to a fully-accredited community college. During that evolution, Southwestern has awarded more than 7,000 degrees, diplomas and certificates and has offered more than 5,000 different classes.
Throughout its history, SCC has responded to and anticipated the educational needs of the community and region, offering an ever-widening range of programs through which students prepare for the job market, transfer to senior institutions, and achieve professional and personal goals.
SCC offers more than 70 curriculum programs in Arts and Sciences, Career Technologies, College Transfer and Health Sciences. In addition, the college provides a variety of Continuing Education courses at various locations throughout its service area. Most of these courses are designed to prepare students for entry into an occupation, upgrade skills of employed individuals, and provide opportunities for self-improvement.
The expansion of such programs over the years has grown hand in hand with a growth in physical facilities, the number of students the College serves and in the College’s role in the region.
Today the SCC campus in Sylva includes eight buildings that house classrooms, administrative offices, an auditorium, and a library. SCC also has facilities in the service area that include: a Macon Campus; the Public Safety Training Complex, Business and Industry Training Center in Macon County; the SCC Table Gaming School on the Qualla Boundary; and the Swain County Center at Almond which also houses the SCC Small Business Center. Partnering with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and Western Carolina University, Southwestern developed the Oconaluftee Institute of Cultural Arts on the Qualla Boundary.
Always at the forefront of computer technology, SCC provides top notch computer support for students and employees with more than 1000 computers networked. The College has 25 computer labs for various curriculum programs and an open computer lab in the Library. In addition, the College has initiated online learning offerings for curriculum and continuing education offerings and put in place an infrastructure to the public schools and other community partners.
To support these educational services, the College receives county, state and federal funding. To augment this funding and provide for extensive services, during the past three decades, SCC has sought and received more than $21 million in grant money. These funds have included federal construction grants, Appalachian Regional Commission grants, US Department of Education grants, New Century Scholars, basic education grants and a variety of other sources. In 2005 SCC received the largest grant in its history, a $5.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. These funds are directed to public schools in the college’s three-county service area for GEAR UP (Gaining Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs). The SCC program is designed to increase the number of income eligible students in Macon, Swain and Jackson counties and the Qualla Boundary who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.
Also, the SCC Foundation, Inc., incorporated in 1973, strives to provide support for needs not covered by public funds or grant monies. Over the years, the Foundation has made significant contributions to the College in student scholarships, equipment donations and in capital improvements. In addition, many individuals and businesses have contributed to Foundation for specific needs.
Of course, SCC’s primary purpose is to provide educational opportunities to students who enroll in courses and programs at the College. Additionally, the College has always believed it had a broader responsibility to the community and the people of the region at large. While this has been characteristic of the College since 1964, it was never more evident than when the College took a leadership role to bring the latest in technology and training to our rural region.
In 2003 SCC became a participant in an effort to make high-speed affordable Internet access a reality in the region. Known as BalsamWest Fiber NET, the high-speed fiber optic network ensures that southwestern North Carolina can participate fully in a global economy by providing open and affordable access to this state-of-the art infrastructure.
In the same spirit that led to the birth of Balsam West FibertNET, SCC trustees and foundation board members, president, instructors and staff strive to reach out through collaborations and partnerships to enrich the lives of the people of the region.
Southwestern’s success with students was recognized nationwide in 2007 when the college was ranked fourth in the nation in a first-ever listing of America’s best community colleges.
Edward E. Bryson, 1964–1980
Norman K. Myers, 1981–1991
Barry W. Russell, 1991–1996
Cecil Groves, 1997–2010
September 1963 – Jackson County furnishes 17-acre site for a technical school. Construction of first building begins.
May 1964 – First class graduates. June 1, 1964 – Edward E. Bryson appointed resident director of Jackson County Industrial Education Center, a satellite of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Institute.
December 1, 1964 – JCIEC opens with 60 students enrolled in full-time classes and 133 in short-term classes.
Late 1965 – First building, Vocational Building (now Founders Hall) completed.
February 25, 1966 – Commencement exercises held for 23 students of Class of 1966 at National Guard Armory.
September 5, 1967 – College becomes independent school. It was decided the college would also serve Macon and Swain counties and the name was changed to Southwestern Technical Institute.
January 2, 1968 – College begins classes as an independent unit of the NC Department of Community Colleges. First Student Government Association formed and elections held.
January 22, 1968 – First meeting of the Board of Trustees. William B. Dillard elected chairman. Other members: Odell Shuler, vice-chairman; W. Paul Hold, Jr.; Charles S. Slagle; Walter Jackson; Oscar Ledford; R. Paul Buchanan; Bruce McMurray; George J. Steward; John Wikle; Paul Ellis; and James B. Childress.
1969 – SCC became the regional GED testing center.
September 1, 1970 – Technical Building (now Oaks Hall) completed.
December 1971 – College receives accreditation from Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
1973 – SCC Foundation incorporated.
1974 – Services Building (now Bradford Hall) and Carpentry Building (now Maintenance Building) completed.
May 30, 1974 – First on-campus commencement ceremony held.
1976 – SCC Cherokee Center established and Job Placement Office established at Jackson campus.
1979 – SCC Cherokee Center built at Boys Club Complex.
February 1983 – Learning Resources Center (now The Pines) completed.
October 1984 – Trades Center (now The Summit) completed.
Spring 1987 – SCC Macon County Center opens.
1988 – SCC Swain County Center opens in Bryson City.
October 1, 1988 – $3.5 million WNC Regional Allied Health and Geriatric Training Center (now Balsam Center) dedicated.
1988 – STC changes name to Southwestern Community College.
April 1989 – College opened Child Care Center in Oaks Hall.
1990 – SCC Regional Fire and Rescue Training Center opened, later becoming the Public Safety Training Center.
February 26, 1994 – Community Link, a fully interactive television system linking 13 educational sites in Western North Carolina became operational.
September 1994 – Regional Law Enforcement Center established in Macon County.
2000 – College receives $10.4 million from state bond referendum funds.
2004 – College sees record fall enrollment.
College receives $5.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Funds will be directed to public schools in the college’s three-county service area for GEAR UP (Gaining Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs).
SCC Alumnus Michelle Hicks, Principal Chief of the Cherokee, named National Community College Alumnus of the Year.
New SCC Cashiers Center opened.
Ground broken for New SCC Macon County Center.
SACS Visit as part of college reaffirmation with Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Construction began on SCC Macon Campus.
Achieved superior college recognition by the North Carolina Community College System.
Partnered with the Eastern Band and Western Carolina University to offer an Associate in Fine Arts.
Partnered with the Swain County Economic Development Committee to launch a Heritage Arts Institute at the Almond Center.
Initiated the Early College program at the Macon Campus.
Acquired 7.7 acres from the U.S. Forest Service.
Held first-ever Academic Challenge.
Held first-ever winter graduation.
Expanded online offerings to more than 200 college courses, including college transfer degree.
Southwestern’s partners in BalsamWest FiberNET- Drake Enterprises and the Eastern Band of Cherokee- received the National Council for Resource Development’s prestigious Benefactor Award for their fiber optic network gift to the college.
Achieved superior college recognition for the second year in a row
Rated number four community college in the nation, according to Washington Monthly
Accreditation reaffirmed by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
Fiber-optic network serving public and private enterprise and educational institutions in far Western North Carolina completed
New 27,600 square-foot Macon Campus on Siler Road in Franklin opened
New campus named for college’s President Cecil Groves
Plans finalized for expansion of the Jackson Campus, including new facility construction and a new campus access road
Two new degree programs added- medical assisting and civil engineering technology
Information technology articulation agreement signed with Eastern Carolina University
Fine Arts coordinator hired; classes began for the new visual arts program of the Oconaluftee Institute for Cultural Arts
Student enrollment growth up six percent, setting new records.
One of only seven of the state's 58 community colleges achieving Exceptional Designation from the N.C. Community College System
SCC President Cecil Groves presented the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest civilian honor granted in North Carolina
Enrollment percentage increase jumped into the double digits
College implemented four-day schedule
A new honors program was initiated
College formed a chapter of Alpha Beta Gamma International Business Honor Society
Along with the District Attorney, launched Safe Driving Education Program
Library named for Paul Holt, one of the college’s founding fathers
Medical sonography program awarded national accreditation
Added a program of civil engineering technology
Combining criminal justice and surveying classes, Southwestern is one of the first community colleges to expose students to advanced crime-solving techniques
College now operates three Early Colleges
Enrollment climbed with a 14 percent increase over teh previous year and 18 percent at the Macon Campus.
The new building on the Macon Campus was named in honor of the late Oscar Ledford, one of the college’s founding members.
The Public Safety Training Complex in Macon was named after seven-time SCC board chairman Jerry Sutton.
Southwestern opened a new Job Career Readiness Center at the Macon Annex.
The Oconaluftee Institute for Cultural Arts moved to newly-renovated studios in the former Vocational Opportunities Building in Cherokee.
Henrietta Heeter of Cherokee was the first student to receive the new Associate Degree in Fine Arts from SCC.
The first graduates of SCC's Gaming Management Technology program received their certificates.
The first class of Medical Assisting students began their externship working side-by-side with physicians, nurses and other allied health professionals.
The college offered a new Associate of Applied Science degree in Entrepreneurship
SCC computer engineering and electronic engineering technology graduate Rocky Frizzell helped design and install and emergency response system on the Jackson Campus.
Graduate Martha Hall was selected to USA Today's All-USA Community College Academic Team.
Southwestern Community College experienced a change in administration in 2010 when President Cecil Groves retired after leading the college for 13 years. Citing his dedication to the community and his legacy of regional growth, Jackson County Commissioners proclaimed his retirement day as “Dr. Cecil Groves Day.” The SCC Board of Trustees awarded him the title of President Emeritus.
Southwestern Community College was once again ranked at the top in Washington Monthly’s ranking of community colleges. Southwestern and Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College were the only two colleges consistently ranked in the Top 10.
SCC was one of only 11 colleges to earn an exceptional rating in the annual performance measures report released by the North Carolina Community College System.
May’s graduating class was the largest graduating class to date as 264 students received their diplomas, certificates and degrees in two separate ceremonies.
Summer enrollment at the college was up 44 percent.
Several new programs and initiatives were launched including the Plus 50 program, sustainability technologies and wilderness therapy.
The first class of Southwestern Community College’s newly-approved independent associate degree in nursing includes 26 members. For the past 25 years Southwestern had been a member of the Region A Nursing Consortium, which included Haywood Community College and Tri-County Community College.
SCC was chosen as site for East Carolina University’s new dental school clinic.
Jackson County Early College students and staff moved into their new building on the Jackson Campus.
Several new teaching stations where the DVD player, VCR, document camera and computer are centrally located on one platform were installed on the Jackson Campus. Also installed were 24 new computer work stations at Holt Library.
A new phone system, employing the BalsamWest FiberNET technology, was implemented.
The Oconaluftee Institute of Cultural Arts in Cherokee received a new letterpress that will print the Cherokee syllabary.
Southwestern Community College received $100,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission to fund critical instructional equipment and supplies for “green” education and training.
In other green news, SCC’s Environmental Club placed new recycling stations with colorful banners across the Jackson Campus.