State Technical Institute at Knoxville (State Tech) was established on September 4, 1974.
With initial funding coming from the Appalachian Regional Commission, the new school was created as a technical wing of the Knoxville State Regional Vocational-Technical School on Division Street, then governed by the Knoxville City Board of Education. However, the newly appointed director, retired U.S. Army Colonel John C. Mauer, strongly recommended two-year, college-level technical training instead of post-secondary non-degree vocational programs. Col. Mauer based his recommendation on the stated needs of 168 area industries and was supported by a local grass roots drive.
After several months, the Tennessee State Board of Vocational Education assumed governance of the school, providing training similar to that of the State Technical Institutes at Memphis and Nashville. Under the leadership of Col. Mauer, State Tech received approval to redirect the mission of the newly-created school and began classes on September 23, 1974, providing customized training programs for business and industry to prepare students through associate degree and certificates programs to be technicians and paraprofessionals in engineering and scientific vocations.
State Tech opened with 45,000 square feet of floor space, 45 students, 12 faculty and staff members, and three associate's degree programs, all in engineering technology. The new institute was housed in a building adjacent to the Regional Vocational-Technical School (later renamed the Knoxville Area Vocational-Technical School and now the Tennessee Technology Center at Knoxville). Since there was no marketing support, "word of mouth" served as the main recruiting tool for State Tech's first students.
Having led the fledgling school through its initial challenges, Col. Mauer left State Tech in 1975. He returned in 1982 to serve as associate professor as well as head of the Engineering Technology Division and presently teaches as an adjunct faculty member.
Dr. Wayne Jones served as State Tech's first president from August 1975 to May 1981. Under Dr. Jones's leadership, State Tech received its initial accreditation from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) in 1977.
Seeking more space for the increasing number of students and faculty, the school rented a large warehouse near the Division Street campus in 1978. The department head of civil engineering technology and some engineering students renovated the building, making it usable for classrooms. After a few weeks, however, the students and faculty were forced to vacate because the building was sold.
The facility at Division Street was designed for 350 students, but the student body had grown to approximately 1,000. Thus, still requiring more space, in 1979 State Tech restored Lonas Hall, an abandoned dormitory on the grounds of Lakeshore Mental Health Institute; and in 1980, the business technology programs and later the administrative offices moved to the renovated building. Coming to class with brooms, mops, and disinfectant, the faculty and staff committed to a unified purpose and developed a spirit of cooperation and determination.
Although the site provided 65,000 square feet for classrooms and offices and 400 parking places, the facilities, especially parking, were still less than desirable. Nevertheless, the college continued to grow, necessitating plans for even larger accommodations. The stay at Lonas Hall lasted for six years. With SACS accreditation and enrollment growth as major accomplishments under his tenure, Dr. Jones resigned in April 1981.
Barney Myers, interim president from May to October 1981, focused on the need to obtain better facilities for the technical institute.
J. L. Goins was appointed president of State Tech on November 1, 1981. Among his goals were developing a positive image of the school on the local, state, and regional levels; providing improved employment opportunities for students; acquiring a new campus site; working with the Knox, Blount, and Oak Ridge chambers of commerce, and developing stronger ties with local business and industry through economic partnerships. Prominent area leaders provided input and support through a general advisory committee as the newly appointed president set out to expand and strengthen the institute's programs and services.
By 1982, the need for a new campus was being seriously recognized by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) as well as by local political and business leaders. Efforts to find a suitable site revolved around the desire to create a Tennessee Technology Corridor to satisfy the drive for the development of technology in the state.
On July 1, 1983, State Tech became a member of the State University and Community College System of Tennessee, thereby transferring governance of the school from the State Board of Education to the Tennessee Board of Regents.
In October of 1986, State Tech moved from Lonas Hall to a new campus, a 144-acre site on Hardin Valley Road off the Pellissippi Parkway in west Knox County. The $25 million dollar complex provided more than 220,000 square feet of space for classrooms, laboratories, a library, and student service facilities and served as the main campus for State Tech and as a branch campus for Roane State Community College.
In addition, the campus provided an office for the Tennessee Technology Foundation, an economic development agency for attracting business and industry to the area. State Tech continued programs and services at the Division Street Campus, making it a satellite location, easily accessible to the east and north sections of Knox County. In addition, the Continuing Education division of the college added community programs and computer training to its established program of contract training for local business and industry.
Nineteen eighty-eight was a milestone year for Pellissippi State. On April 28, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a motion to expand State Tech's mission to that of a technical community college, serving Knox and Blount Counties. Although initially introduced in the state legislature as Resource Valley State Technical Community College, the institution was officially named Pellissippi State Technical Community College. "Pellissippi" ("Pelisipi'' on early maps of Tennessee), meaning "winding waters," is the Cherokee name for the Clinch River. With the creation of the new college, Roane State's operations relocated to Oak Ridge, though many faculty and staff remained to join Pellissippi State.
State Tech's conversion to a technical community college on July 1, 1988, brought about an immediate addition of more than 20 university parallel associate's degree options to the existing career/technical associate's degree programs. Creating an exciting year for both community and college were numerous other changes: the addition of many new faculty and staff, conversion from the quarter to the semester system, opening the first College-owned Blount County site at the former Union School as part of the mission expansion, a SACS visit because of the substantive changes, the initial use of several TBR-wide standardized software systems, and the implementation of recommendations from a previously conducted curriculum review.
In 1991 Blount County donated the former Bungalow Elementary School as a permanent home for the Blount County branch, and in 1992 the Tennessee Board of Regents changed the Blount County facility from a site to a center in recognition of its 500 full-time equivalent students and offerings of over 50 percent of the courses needed for the Associate of Arts and Associate of Sciences degrees. Based on a college-wide self-study begun in 1990, the SACS Commission on Colleges reaffirmed Pellissippi State's accreditation on December 7, 1992. Also in 1992, the distance learning program began providing instruction to students at off-site campuses via satellite communications.
In 1993 Pellissippi State continued on the cutting edge of technology with perhaps the first 21st century classroom in the state. This "Classroom of the Future" was initially used by students involved in Pellissippi's Workforce Innovation Project, which prepared displaced workers for the job market and helped them adjust to present and future workplace demands. A multimedia teacher's station and state-of-the-art student computers provided interactive learning.
Also during 1993, Pellissippi State was the first community college in the state to give computer accounts to all students, both full-time and part-time. With their accounts, students accessed college-wide e-mail, WordPerfect, and later, the Internet.
Pellissippi State received several national awards and grants in 1993: the U. S. Department of Education Title III Strengthening and Development Grant to improve student retention and achievement, the National Science Foundation Faculty Enhancement Grant, and the Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration Instructional Television Fixed Services Grant.
Another landmark was the naming and dedication of two buildings: "C Building" became the Lamar Alexander Arts and Sciences Building, and "B Building" became the Ned R. McWherter Technology Building.
On May 17, 1993, President J. L. Goins retired. He had completed 30 years of educational service in Tennessee, 12 of them as president of Pellissippi State. Under his leadership, the college experienced a change in mission that gave rise to unprecedented student, faculty, and staff growth; acquired new, expanded facilities; enjoyed greater involvement in business and industry; and obtained recognition for excellence in education on the regional, state, and national levels.
The Tennessee Board of Regents approved naming the Administration and Student Services Building ("A Building") at the Pellissippi campus the J. L. Goins Administration Building in appreciation of the contributions President Goins made to East Tennessee during his tenure at the College.
From May 18 to August 16, 1993, Dr. Fred Martin served as interim president while the College searched for a permanent leader. On August 17, 1993, Dr. Allen Edwards was appointed Pellissippi State's next president.
Under President Edwards, growth and expansion has continued; in 1995, two major capital projects at the Pellissippi Campus were completed: the 64,000 square-foot Educational Resources Center, which houses the library and computer labs as well as the learning and assessment center, and a 500-seat Performing Arts Center, which is an addition to the Lamar Alexander Arts and Sciences Building.
Other major developments in 1995 included a partnership with the City of Bath College, Bath, England; a new program emphasizing Railroad Operations within the General Technology degree; and a new Small Business Development Center in Blount County.
In 1996 Pellissippi State won two other important grants: the U. S. Departments of Education and Labor School-to-Career Local Partnership grant for Blount/Knox Counties to integrate work-based learning into all curricula in grades K-16 as well as the U. S. Department of Education Title III Endowment grant award of $500,000, resulting from successful collaboration between the Grant Development Office and the Foundation Office to generate the required $250,000 matching funds. Recording a revenue of 1.6 million in 1996, the Business and Community Services Division provided continuing education courses to over 12,200 participants in noncredit classes/activities and to 1,214 students in credit certificate programs. The division provided industrial/technical training, various conferences and seminars, and K-12 Internet training; it also created an 11-county Small Business Development Center and offered such personal enrichment courses as the Summer Academy, Computer Camps, the Super Saturday program, and recreational sports.
Additionally in 1996, Pellissippi State offered its first Internet-based course, a World Wide Web business course in management.
A 1996 study showed that from 1991 to 1996, Pellissippi's direct economic impact on the Knox and Blount County communities was more than $355 million, an average of $71.2 million per year.
Having enjoyed phenomenal progress since its modest beginnings, in the fall of 1997 Pellissippi State employed approximately 170 full-time faculty, 240 adjunct faculty, and 225 staff, serving approximately 8,000 students, between 200 and 300 of whom were international.
In 1998, Pellissippi State remains true to its pattern of growth, planning renovations and responding to changing student and community needs.
Lonnie Butler, Doris Ivie, Bob Scott, Ann Munz, Nina McPherson, Jack Mauer, Joe Andrews, Bob Mobley, and Sarah Smith. Personal Interviews. Spring 1998.
Burlingame, Sharon. State Tech to Pellissippi State: An Overview. Unpublished draft. 1997.
Grimes, Bud. From State Technical Institute at Knoxville to Pellissippi State Technical Community College: A History. Master's thesis. The University of Tennessee. 1989.
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Updated: 11-19-09 (SML)