“We the seven trustees of the Cuyahoga College District submit herewith the official plan for the Cuyahoga Community College. In doing so, we speak in one voice but with myriad feelings.” -- College Plan, 1962
The beautifully crisp fall morning of September 19, 1963 revealed an assembled crowd of over 3000 young Clevelanders gathered in eager solidarity on E 14th Street to register as students in the newly opened Cuyahoga Community College.
Unknown to the diverse crowd of Cleveland’s sons and daughters, they represented not only the largest initial enrollment ever in the history of the nation’s junior colleges, but also the hope and promise of a city in the midst of its own urban renaissance.
In a city facing the accelerating decline of its legacy heavy industrial economic base, Cuyahoga Community College stood as a beacon of hope, reclamation and redemption to the city’s youth who were desperate for practical post-secondary education.
When Cuyahoga Community College opened its doors to its first students that fall of 1963 it became unwittingly the “people’s college.” While Cleveland boasted a number of highly regarded colleges and universities for students of privilege, none targeted the working and middle class youth of the city. Tri-C emerged as the education champion for those local students who were previously excluded from any real chance at post-secondary education and the opportunities it afforded.
Despite its hugely successful launch, Tri-C’s realization was never inevitable. Its conception and genesis took years of diligent work by local educators, business and community leaders and political figures all committed to realizing the vision of Cleveland’s first true community college.
Under the leadership of its first President, Charles Chapman, Tri-C overcame seemingly insurmountable early challenges – the absence of funding, the lack of any buildings or dedicated facilities, and the uncertainty of student acceptance – to open the first public college in Ohio in more than 50 years to overflow classrooms. Chapman’s early success emboldened him to pursue enrollment of more than 10,000 students in three separate Tri-C regional campuses by 1970.
Chapman’s Bold Decision was validated when Tri-C registered 15,000 students in 1969 at both the Metropolitan campus and the newly opened Western Campus.