"Dr. Chapman, how does one start a college," asked a Trustee member. "With a student," he exclaimed!
Exceeding all hope and expectation, the response to Tri-C’s invitation to enroll in their newly formed school really was “The Miracle on 14th Street,” as the Cleveland Press proclaimed. In the early morning on Sept. 19 more than 3000 prospective students gathered peacefully and excitedly at the corner of East 14th Street and Sumner Avenue, with their line extending for blocks in anticipation of joining Tri-C’s inaugural class.
Confirming Dr. Chapman’s prediction that the sons and daughters of Cleveland’s hard working blue collar families would respond to the promise of a better life and greater opportunity through continued education, the college attracted the largest first day enrollment in junior college history. And as the line extended and the day progressed, those standing in line understood that they were a crucial part of something special.
Their defining characteristic was a desire to better themselves. The city had changed dramatically during their lives, and as the industrial base diminished, so too did the career choices that they and their parents had expected would be available to claim. The new economy offered new choices and new dreams to fulfill, but required new skills. As noted in Tri-C’s first annual report in 1963:
“On September 19, 1963, they came by the hundreds…a bright-eyed teenager from Parma hoping to be a nurse. A serious young man from Cleveland Heights looking ahead to a career in business. A tall, slender lad from E. 112th Street with an eye on law. A fresh looking blond miss from Berea who dreams of being a private secretary.”
The college’s first president, Dr. Charles Chapman, noted a number of years after Tri-C opened: “The area was ready for a people’s college.” The movement provided a pulse-pounding story that revealed the passion of the people and institutions who worked together to deliver to Cleveland something that was so often in short supply: Hope.