The 1970s saw the Vietnam War draw many young soldiers. The decade also saw the resignation of President Richard Nixon following the Watergate scandal. Americans celebrated its bicentennial birthday in 1976. Moviegoers enjoyed some landmark Box Office films, such as “The Godfather,” “Jaws,” “Rocky” “Saturday Night Fever” and “Star Wars.” Young people at home pulled on bell bottoms and danced to disco. Alex Haley’s “Roots” was a popular book and mini-series. Video cassette recorders gained mass market success, and an AMC Gremlin car cost $1,879.
Jackson Community College in the 1970s was a place of more building and expansion. Finding a home for health and physical education, intramurals and sports programs, the college fieldhouse was built; at the time is was called the Health Services Building. Bert Walker Hall construction was completed, housing primarily language, literature and arts courses and the college library. Both were dedicated in 1971. Enrollment at the College had grown to 3,500, with more than 400 courses offered. The decade began with Dr. Harold McAninch as president, and Harold Sheffer became president in 1972.
Jackson has long been known as a “prison city.” Following the first class with a handful of students in 1967, in 1969-70, a pilot prison education program for the Southern Michigan Prison was launched. The program provided an opportunity for qualifying inmates to further their education, which has been found to reduce recidivism rates, lessening the likelihood that they would return to prison after release. The first class had 211 enrolled in five classes, with 153 completing class requirements. By 1973, enrollment had grown to 450 students in 48 classes. JCC was one of 26 colleges in the nation making an associate degree available to prison inmates. At one time, prisoners were bused to campus after hours, at 10 p.m., and attended classes until 2 a.m. They participated in vocational program training, in coordination with the extensive curriculum offered at the prison facility. The prison education program would continue in the 1990s, before state legislators prohibited providing college courses to inmates unless they paid themselves.
The 1970s saw Jackson Community College experience the changing times of the nation. With a focus on environmental safety, students got involved cleaning up natural areas through environmental action group ENACT. Concern for the environment prompted discussion of an environmental education center. Later discussions of a Nature Center would lead to the establishment of what would become the Dahlem Environmental Education Center. After the shooting at Kent State University on May 4, 1970, numbers of students gathered around the campus flagpole to the north of Whiting Hall. The decade that included racial tension and the Vietnam War continued to spur marches and demonstrations on campus and in Jackson. They were turbulent times.
Political protest was not the only kind of action on campus. Students participated in dozens of organizations, men’s and women’s sororities, clubs, sports, PanHellenic groups, the international club, nursing student clubs. Athletics for both men and women grew strong, with many conference, regional and even national titles.
In the early 1970s, W.A. Foote Hospital (now Henry Ford Allegiance Health), closed its longtime registered nurse-diploma program and collaborated with Jackson Community College to provide and registered nurse educational program. In 1974, the Michigan State Board of Nursing approved JCC’s proposal for an associate degree program in nursing, and the first class of 40 students was admitted. Since opening, the practical nursing certificate and an associate degree in nursing programs have had continuous approval by the Michigan Board of Nursing.
The Michigan Space and Science Center opened in 1977. Planning began for the Potter Center, which opened in two phases, in 1978 and in 1980. (See related stories).
Throughout the decade, JCC continued to expand learning opportunities for college and community. Articulation agreements were decided that would eliminate duplication of instruction for student and lead more students to attend college. An external degree program was designed to bring educational opportunities out into Jackson County with classes, seminars, workshops and more. For a time, the College took over adult enrichment courses from Jackson Public Schools. The College also planned to participate in the broadcast of two TV series that could be courses taken for college credit, bringing a new dimension in instruction.
In 1978, JCC and Eastern Michigan University entered into what would be called a “2+2” program agreement. EMU established a University Center office on the JCC campus and offered the second two years of many bachelor’s degree programs in Jackson – students could complete a bachelor’s degree in certain programs through EMU, all on the JCC campus.