The 1950s saw the U.S. continuing a time of growth and change. Fashion trends saw women sporting chin length and shorter hair and poodle skirts, wingtip shoes for the men, leather jackets, and blue jeans. Gasoline cost 25 cents per gallon, and an average car cost $2,200. It was a decade of many firsts – the first telephone answering machine, credit card, pocket-sized transistor radio, home microwave ovens, computer hard disk, and microchip. Color TV came into people’s homes, and Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Buddy Holly were big on the radio. Moviegoers thrilled to James Dean and Marilyn Monroe.
The decade of the 1950s saw continued growth at Jackson Junior College, growth that would put the need for change front and center. What began as a handful of college courses grew to dozens. Enrollment continued to climb, and students were active in a variety of sports and activities that made up junior college life.
In 1950, the Jackson Veterans’ Institute was incorporated into the junior college. It had previously operated as an independent unit. Both veteran and non-veteran students benefitted from a variety of preparatory courses on an accelerated basis, as well as approved on-the-job apprenticeship training in agriculture and a number of trades. Academic emphases on the school’s nursing program grew, and in 1953, the title “Associate in Nursing” was authorized for students completing the first two years of the prescribed three-year curriculum with the Foote Hospital Nursing Program.
The year 1952 saw Dr. William N. Atkinson take over the as interim superintendent, after George A. Greenawalt’s departure. Atkinson was named the president of the junior college.
In memory of the 39 Jackson Junior College students who lost their lives serving their country in World War II, faculty members Ruth Arnold and Barbara Fausel conceived the idea for a memorial library that would be open to JJC students. Lumber companies donated material for shelves, volunteers constructed the shelves, and friends and relatives of the fallen service members donated books. Some of the materials included history, fiction, medicine, and a collection of the Harvard Classics. It opened in 1952.
Disaster struck in April, 1956, when a lightning strike sparked a fire that destroyed E.O. Marsh Hall, the junior college’s original building. Classes had to be moved to other location. Crowded to near capacity, JJC had no place to go. The College was forced to turn away applicants for the first time in its history, not because they were unqualified, but because of lack of space to put them.
Growing pains for the junior college became very apparent in the later ‘50s. In 1956, a move to West Intermediate school building was in the foreseeable future. The dream began, at this time, of building on land south of town. An article in the student newspaper, The Oracle, from 1956 states that building was being considered, “but that is far ahead.” Enrollment in 1957 reached more than 850 students, an increase of 20 percent from the previous year and a figure that had been predicted for 1963. By the end of the decade in 1959, enrollment was approximately 1,100 students.
To deal with burgeoning enrollments and lack of space, officials began studying the possibility of building a new junior college campus. By 1959, the 200-acre site contained within Kimmel and Emmons roads on the south and north and Hague and Browns Lake roads on the east and west had been identified. Further study in the early 1960s would lead to the launch of a new community college.