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Northeast's past, future to be celebrated

Northeast's past, future to be celebrated

NORFOLK, Neb. - About a half-century ago, the first students at Northeast Community College set foot on campus. To celebrate that monumental event, Northeast officials have planned a day filled with activities on Saturday, Sept. 16. It will kick off a year’s worth of events as the college commemorates 50 years of educating students with the merger between Northeast Nebraska Technical College and Northeastern Nebraska College in 1973.

Lindsay Spiegel, Northeast director of Institutional Effectiveness, has been leading a team that is working to celebrate the past with an eye to the future. Residents from the 20-county area are invited to join the observance. 

“Northeast is looking forward to celebrating the past 50 years on Sept. 16,” Spiegel said. “While it may not seem like that long, when you consider all that the college has accomplished in that time, it really is remarkable. This event is an opportunity for students, employees, alumni, and community members and their families to reminisce about the past and celebrate the future of Northeast and the region we serve.” 

According to Northeast’s history book, “Success Started Here,” the first academic year for the two merged colleges was 1973-74, with six buildings on the main campus. Back then, the main campus was on the northeast edge of Norfolk, outside the city limits. 

“The new campus was not prepared for all the students from both the Northeastern Nebraska College and Northeastern Nebraska Technical College. Three temporary campuses were built on campus for music, natural sciences and physical sciences instruction. The college was now made of a north campus on Benjamin Avenue and south campus on Phillip Avenue and South Fifth Street because some instruction continued on the south campus,” according to the history book. 

“Success Started Here” noted that students were bused between campuses, but it is unclear how many academic years that took place. 

Here are highlights of events on Sept. 16: 

  • The anniversary will be commemorated from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on campus. Events ranging from a little library project ribbon cutting, farewell to Maclay ceremony, and free activities for the family like inflatables, food trucks, live music, teaching ambulance, campus tours, a petting zoo and history display will be offered. 
  • Home soccer games at Veterans Memorial Field will take place at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. 
  • The Maclay ceremony begins at 11 a.m. and will include unearthing the time capsule buried in 2003. During the coming 50th academic year, students will decide what will be included in the next time capsule and where to bury it elsewhere on campus. 

Some other notable examples of how the college has changed, or monumental events during the first years, based on research in “Success Started Here.” 

  • Enrollment on Sept. 6, 1973, was 927 students, which was up from 841 students in the two colleges the previous year. 
  • In May 1974, there were 357 graduates in the first class to graduate from the merged colleges. 
  • The 205.2-acre campus on East Benjamin Avenue was outside the city limits until it was annexed by the Norfolk City Council on April 18, 1977. 
  • Ted Thieman and Al Arends, both of Petersburg, were the first students to earn associate of arts degrees entirely through evening classes. They began classes in 1972-73 and graduated in May 1977. 
  • Like its predecessor institutions, basketball games were initially played at the Norfolk City Auditorium. The Activities Center with its 2,200-seat gym was opened on Jan. 8, 1980, during a severe winter storm. The start of the game was delayed 15 minutes by 1,500 late arriving fans. Northeast defeated Yankton College 106-69. 
  • The new 292-seat Activities Center Theater opened in March 1980 with Tennessee Williams’ “Summer and Smoke.”  

As Northeast prepares for the next 50 years, more growth is expected to train people to be successful in the workforce. Some of the latest examples include the iHub tech lab that will be opening in downtown Norfolk and groundbreaking last week on an addition to the South Sioux City campus. The South Sioux City addition is needed to meet the growing demand for truck drivers and welders in that region. 

For more information on Northeast Community College’s 50th anniversary, visit                                                             


                                                                                           PHOTO CUTLINE 

Northeast Community College's Weller Building’s exterior has changed little since the 1970s as evidenced by these students going down the steps.