CATALYST V21N3 - Who Moved the Lighthouse?

Volume XXI, Number 3
Summer 1991

William A. Keim
Marketing and Student Development
Metropolitan Community Colleges

Originally published 1982, XII(4).

When Charles Atwell asked me to do an article on the early development of the NCCSCE, I had some misgivings about my ability to remember the details enough to reconstruct the times and events. I need not have worried, for I discovered in neglected boxes in my garage, attic, and file cases that I had somehow saved every piece of paper: memoranda, draft copies, records of phone calls, minutes of meetings, papers presented, and copies of publications from the critical years of the formation of NCCSCE, 1968 through 1973.

Reading old memos, studying reports, and reminiscing about those halcyon days when a handful of risk takers led the community colleges into dangerous waters of full-scale solutions to community problems was not only a grand romp through time but was a revealing documentation of the resorting of priorities and of change. For there have been important changes in the Council since the original National Community Services definition was spelled out in Forum, 1, (1), published in January 1969: "These institutions recognize that by definition the community college has an obligation to:

  1. Become a center of community life by encouraging the use of college facilities and services by community groups when such use does not interfere with the college's regularly scheduled day and evening programs ;
  2. Provide educational servicesfor age groups which utilize the special skills and knowledge of the college staff and other experts and are designed to meet the needs of community groups and the college district community at large;
  3. Provide the community with theleadership and coordination capabilities for the college, assist the community in long- range planning, and join with individuals and groups in attacking unsolved problems;
  4. Contribute and promote the cultural, intellectual, and social life of the college district community and the development of skills for the profitable use of leisure time."

This definition was agreed to by the leaders in the field during the late 60s and is a clear expression that the major thrust of community college community services was intended to be linked to community groups and problems. Except for the term "educational service," there is no reference to continuing education.

While this piece, "Who Moved the Lighthouse," may offend some, discourage others, or cause members of the NCCSCE to conclude that senility has finally engulfed Keim, I must report that I have thoroughly enjoyed the assignment.

Most historians and scholars agree that as any civilization develops, it categorically passes through four distinct phases. As each new Continent or Frontier has been added to the human experience, this phenomenon has occurred. In every case there had been a pattern of Discovery, Exploration, Settlement, and finally a controversial period, named by some as a time of Development and by others as a time of Exploitation.

Interestingly enough, researchers point out that these overlapping phases are in the hands of vastly different types of individuals with uniquely different motivations for their involvement. And they, as individuals, do not move easily from one period to another. The Discoverer does not necessarily become the Explorer, and neither type can be comfortable as a Settler or as a Developer. One has only to study our American Mountain Men to find a clear example of this occurrence. Removed from the solitude and dangerous life of the Explorer, most of these men languished and perished in the growing settlements of the American West, living in the past, remembering the unspoiled days. These figures, caught in periods of transition, are the true tragic characters in our great historical drama. Often pictured as heroes or worse, they died unnoticed and ignored by the busy throngs of the bustling centers of what we have come to call civilization.

From ancient times of recorded history one can study these distinct phases and trace the movements of people from one period to the next, but the individuals themselves become easier to identify as the Renaissance years began to catalog and systematize its destiny. Eventually the geographical continents were conquered and the frontiers vanished until there are but a few physical ones left. The sea, space, and a few isolated areas of the planet are the remaining physical frontiers.

Alan Sheperd, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, and Neil Armstrong gave us the initial thrills of Exploration, but the subsequent phase of Settlement by the space shuttle has merely provided us with nothing more than a passing interest in an unremembered list of the names of those who now participate. Could any of those first astronauts, having made the Exploration, become today's shuttle pilots? Not likely, for each belonged inexorably to the Discovery category of individuals.

My present hypothesis is that this same phase pattern applies to institutions and ideas. Having exhausted the physical opportunities of the planet, man has now become involved in the Discovery, Exploration, Settlement, and Exploitation of his institutions and of his creative thinking.

There are notable examples of this in recent times. One that comes to mind is the development and use of the atomic bomb. The mind that first discovered the theory was never directly involved in the exploration of the means to put the theory into practice. Nor were any of these same individuals involved in the political dimensions that dictated the use of the product. Present day international politics, with all of its complications, now governs the Exploitation of this fearful weapon. A simple idea involving multitudes of people passes through the four phases as clearly as had the Discovery and the present exploitation of the American continent.

Institutions themselves go through these phases. Think of your own college. Has it arrived at the Development/Exploitation stage? Who were your Discoverers? Are the Explorers around anymore, or did they go someplace else where their skills and talents as explorers could be better used?

I would submit that in our own profession we have certain people who fit best in one of the four categories and who grow discontented or stagnant when their phase task is completed.


There was no single day when it began nor was there one single incident that created it, but over a period of time the community services function appeared as a managed process on community college campuses across the nation. Jesse Bogue, writing in 1950 in his text, The Community College , refers to the term "community college," but equates the activities to the realm of adult education and reports these courses as having occurred at the junior college level as early as 1930. According to Thornton it was World War II, with its demands for a trained labor force in defense work, which placed emphasis on the college level occupational curriculum and in turn stimulated the community colleges toward a more direct involvement with their communities.

Whatever the issues were that identified the junior college as an emerging institution, it is generally agreed that immediately following World War II there was an entirely new dimension to the junior college that gave it a new and exciting identity. For whatever reason, there was nearly a decade of redefinition of the role and scope of the emerging community colleges. During this period there was a constant extension of community related activity; but it was, for the most part, disorganized and, in many cases, totally reactive. Early research attempts to catalog the various activities of this awakening giant resulted in several definitions of service.

The great researcher Leland Medsker in 1960 wrote his basic text, The Junior College: Progress and Prospect . In his detailed analysis of the functions of the community college, he describes the inevitability of the junior college performing as an agency for community services: "It is hardly conceivable that an institution could long remain in the community and not feel the obligation and the challenge to perform such services." He was, of course, referring to the function of community services and defines the term in the following manner:

The term "community services" has come to denote generally the various special services which an educational institution may provide for the community. Examples of such services are workshops, forums, and institutes; research and advisory assistance to community groups; cultural and recreational activities, including community music and theater groups; and widespread use of the college plant for community activities.

The discovery, although unplanned, had been made. It only remained for a few to isolate the function, organize it into a manageable process, and set it into its own motion of destiny. Studies were made, data collected and analyzed, and several notable programs made headline appearances around the country. One such community services program, covered even by Time magazine, came to fruition at Foothill College in California. Its author was Erv Harlacher. Erv was a journalist by training and was not confused by tradition. He simply had an enthusiastic feel for his community and an unbounding determination to put into practice his philosophy that the community college should be a resource center for every living person in its service area. His program created a stir in California, and the ripples reached not only to the other community colleges of the state but to the universities and beyond. Other programs were discovered around the country, some unique and extremely comprehensive for the late 50s and early 60s. Community college presidents, recognizing the benefits of a community awareness of and appreciation for the college, flocked to the flag that discoverers had planted in this exciting domain. Offices were opened, administrators were appointed, and funds were budgeted.

Predictably, many of the newly created offices of community services were headed by former public relation officers. It was not uncommon for the function of public information as well as publications to be housed within the framework of community services during the early 60s. The phenomenon itself became extremely significant in that normally the community services function, meshed as it was with public information, maintained a direct link with the office of the president. As a result, presidents as well as boards of trustees were often directly involved with community services activities and greatly enjoyed the positive responses from their constituencies. However, the impact of community services programs on the college and on the community would probably never have gained such stature if it had not been for the social conditions of the late 50s and the decade of the 60s. In my judgment, the violence and the dissatisfaction toward the establishment by the generation that Jerome Bruner identifies as an "intermediate generation" was the fertile soil out of which grew our flowering programs of community services. We were quick to realize the enormous advantage that we enjoyed during the period of university and urban unrest, and we strengthened the posture of our community colleges within our communities. To quote Norman Corwin, "We were a Malta in a hostile sea." We enjoyed excellent community support and we flourished.

The Explorers

As the 60s began to unfold, scholarly attention was given to community services leadership training, and the Kellogg Foundation funded some projects that were to have lasting effect on the development of community services. Max Raines, professor of education at Michigan State University, with the help of Gundar Myran, developed a usable taxonomy and built an imaginative leadership training program through the Kellogg Foundation. Out of the program came well- trained leaders in the field, many of whom have become chief executive officers of community colleges. But perhaps the most significant development was the Kellogg funding of a community services project within the American Association of Community and Junior Colleges. A three-year program was funded, and much to the dismay of the major practitioners in the field, a project director was named who had no community college experience. His name was Ken Cummiskey, and he turned out to be the best possible choice to direct the project. Ken, with a Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University and with a background of work in the American Friends Service Committee, as well as the Peace Corps, brought the one absolutely necessary element to a then fractionalized and diverse college function. He was a manager . He possessed enormous talents in management, and by using coercion, persuasion, and thinly veiled threats he brought the existing disarray into a focus and a sort of common purpose. Gradually, the suspicion of the project lessened among the practitioners, and although many considered Ken an irritant, he managed to help us win an important victory: the creation of The National Council on Community Services. Like all true victories, it was not easy.

Late in 1968 Ken, with the help of Max Raines and others, identified a handful of community services deans and directors who were conducting what were considered then to be exemplary programs of community services. He visited these programs and held lengthy discussions with the presidents of the colleges as well as with the community services personnel. By January 1969, in a period of only a few weeks, he had established a usable definition of community services and a publication forum ( Forum ), had assembled a stable of practitioners/consultants, and had laid plans for a series of regional conferences and workshops.

He was a dynamo, and there were days when I hated to hear my phone ring for fear it was Cummiskey with another question that I could not answer. By February he had surveyed community colleges and private institutions with an astonishing 85% response rate. Of interest was the fact that only 18% of the public colleges had a full-time community services program in place in 1969. Sixty- seven percent of these community service directors reported directly to their president. All of this survey activity was directed toward an all-important AAJC National Convention that was to take place in Atlanta on March 4, 1969.

One of the stated objectives of the Kellogg project was to establish a national advisory committee that was to assist the project in providing guidelines and advice. Since its inception this loosely structured committee had discussed the notion that a national community services organization of some type should emerge. This brought a flurry of activity from the Adult Education Association and other organizations interested in affiliation possibilities. Many organizations that already existed were eager to strengthen their community college sections, some of which were already in place.

It was Ken's plan to bring many of these groups together, regardless of point of view, to present proposals and plans to a community services directors' workshop scheduled for March 4, 1969 in Atlanta, Georgia. He hoped to secure consensus from the more than twenty-five important community services administrators who would be present at the meeting. The question was simple: would we affiliate or would we form our own council?

Several of us were asked to prepare position papers to be read to the group. George Traicoff and I presented statements that encouraged a separate organization while several others argued for a sensible affiliation with an association. I remember saying:

In my judgment, it is imperative that we begin at once to organize an independent association whose major purpose is the commitment to Community Services. If we analyze the related associations that presently exist, whether they are adult education in nature or vocational education extension services or continuing education or evening education or whatever the name, we must conclude that community college community services as a viable forward movement would inevitably be modified by these fractionalized associations. Community colleges cannot afford to become a second unit in an association nor can community services as a national concept be subverted to major goals of existing association doctrines. We are no longer merely on the threshold of an idea; we, as colleges, have already become heavily engaged in the process of the democratization of higher education, and the brightest point in this spectrum is the community college's involvement in the solution to community problems through its resources. These resources are brought to life through community services.

A heated floor discussion followed the presentations. Out of it emerged consensus, and three recommendations were made by the group:

  1. A commission on community services should be established by the AAJC.
  2. A working committee should be appointed by Cummiskey to study alternatives and to recommend an organizational structure for community college community services personnel.
  3. National conference activities of the AAJC project should be held in conjunction with future AAJC conventions.

In less than a month the working committee had been appointed, had met in Washington, DC, and had concluded after deliberation that "to have the greatest potential for being of greatest assistance to community college community services personnel a Council on Community Services, through the community services project, be established in the AAJC." The point was made that, although the Council would be formed under the auspices of the community service project, "it would not become a function of the project and would operate outside of and continue on as an organization although the project may cease to exist."

The momentous recommendation to form an independent Council, made by six individuals in a conference room overlooking Dupont Circle, was not an item of impulse. The decision came after nearly eight months of informal discussion and careful orchestration of the scattered and diverse community services administrators by the ubiquitous Ken Cummiskey. Our purpose had been clear to us from the beginning, we needed a strong organization to promote and protect our cause, and we would use the power of the generously funded project and the influence of the AAJC to gain our objective. Members of the all important committee were Nate Shaw, Pat Distasio, Vic Lauter, Walt Fightmaster, George Traicoff, and I. We come from New York, Maryland, Ohio, Michigan, Florida, and California.

In May of 1969 Ken announced through the project publication Council that a community services council had been formed. We solicited the names of people who might be interested in membership and made the first announcement that a community services constitution convention be called in July to approve our constitution and elect officers. Pat Distasio was given the job of preparing a proposed draft of the constitution. The 6-member planning committee was enlarged to 12 and called an executive committee.

On July 24, 1969, 40 men and women met at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, to engage in an often stormy debate on the proposed constitution of the Council. It was an unexpectedly arduous task. Virtually every section of the country was represented, and there were many strangers present who had not been a part of the strategies designed to assure the Council's acceptance by AAJC. Numerous amendments were proposed; some of them were staggering in their implication. One such amendment that was beaten back would have made it mandatory for the Council to commit at least half of its future budgets to existing independent community action programs that were beyond the administrative control of the community college.

The meeting lasted for 12 hours. The final action was the election of a slate of interim officers that came after the final approval of the constitution late in the waning hours of that hot day in July. The period of exploration was coming to a close, but the National Council on Community Services was on its way.


For the National Council on Community Service the early 70s were marked by periods of frustration, disappointment, harsh words, and leadership problems. Perhaps too many explorers were being used to work in the arena of Settlement. In any event, when the Kellogg project ended and Dr. Cummiskey accepted a presidency of a four-year college in New England, a darkness descended on the future of the Council.

I remember clearly sitting under acacia trees at the AACJC Convention in Anaheim in a very small circle made up of the few of us who were left. We were solemn as we quietly debated whether or not to continue with NCCSCE. We decided to give it one more year. We had come too far to abandon the Council, and too many community colleges were already deeply committed to the idea of Community Services. The rapidly developing function had gained respectability among accrediting associations, literature was giving us the stamp of approval, and the Council was being constantly deluged with requests for information and consultation.

As a Council we were weak internally, but at the same time we gained enormous strengths from external pressures. We had talked our way into the comprehensive mission of the community college and there was no way to back out. I spoke to the Los Angeles Community Colleges Board of Trustees in 1970, and in reviewing my statement at that time, I still find that I believe in it:

Community Services in our community colleges is a part of the uniqueness of this totally American institution and should be understood and protected as an expression of the belief that in our society, the role of education is not only to reflect the community but to thoughtfully participate with the community in providing solutions to common problems.


Often what the NCCSCE promoted and stood for seemed threatening and controversial to the more timid. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the area of community development activities. Some colleges were deeply involved in solutions to community problems, sometimes with little apparent relationship to academia. It made folks nervous to understand that their college had a role in reducing the use of drugs in the community, or that the human resources of the college could be used in city beautification programs or in personal counseling referral services. And the key to these ongoing concerns was the indisputable fact that there was no payroll for community development activities. Money did not come back to the college for these programs.

One of the most useful aspects of community services had always been that it could function as an institutional barometer. Because of its sensitivity to the community at large, community services served as a probe into social, economic, and political trends. An alert administrator working with the community could sense storms approaching even though they were far off the horizon. However, in the early 70s a very slow moving low front moved through our area bringing with it a drizzling acid rain that corroded and damaged, perhaps forever, the true mission of community services. So subtle was this continuing rain that it almost went unnoticed as it affected our programs. Without really knowing it, we moved inexorably from open community activity into shelter of credit hours and crowded under the welcome umbrella of academia.

Of course, there were Cassandras who raised voices of protest and who gave warning to us that this was happening. Art Cohen, writing in our own Catalyst in the fall of 1972, thoughtfully accused community services of deterioration when he wrote "The Twilight Future of a Function." We should have read it a little more carefully. By 1972 there were also some subtle indications that community services was drifting into more traditional functions of our colleges.

Of the 743 institutions reporting to the National Council on Community Services in Community and Junior Colleges in 1972-73, only 26.2% identified the function with an administrator with the term "community services" in his title. If those responsible for the program area described in the criteria, 17.7% were either presidents, academic deans or their associates. The largest reported group of 29.3% were student personnel, extended-day and continuing education directors. An additional 19.3% were composed of a scattering of titles from registrar to selected department heads. Next to the community services designation, the largest single group was identified as directors of continuing education.

As we look back on the 70s now, it is easy to see the correlation between rapidly approaching enrollment problems and changes that took place in the Council itself. There were, in fact, pressures building within our institutions and subsequently within Council membership to move the lighthouse to safer grounds.

I did a piece in the spring Catalyst of 1973 in which I warned of possible loss of community services purpose because of possible dangers in the growing use of the CEU. I entitled the article "Don't Look Now, Beauregard, But Isn't That a Camel Looking Under Our Tent?" That same summer Art Cohen and I appeared together on a panel at the National Conference on Community Continuing Education at U.C.L.A. Art, of course, was eloquent in his reaffirmation that community services was moving toward a more stylized academic existence designed to meet institutional rather than community needs. I was neither eloquent nor subtle; my presentation was entitled "A Time To Whimper." The very next year the National Council on Community Services ceased to exist and became the National Council on Community Services and Continuing Education. In my mind there is a definite difference.

I have never been able to verify the fact, but I was told that, of the total membership vote on the name of our Council, only two votes were received against the name change. If that person is still around, would he or she contact me. I have always wondered who that other person was who shared my belief.

Today the National Council on Community Services and Continuing Education is strong and vigorous, but in my mind it has lost its glory. The lighthouse that once stood on the threatening sands and challenged the community college world with a splendid light is now safely standing back away from the waves where it will neither save nor endanger anyone. Perhaps it is again time to Discover and Explore, for if it is true that ideas give birth to the Discovery, then hopefully there is a growing cadre of younger community services architects with the necessary courage to put the lighthouse some place where it will do some good.

Copyright 1992 by the National Council on Community Services & Continuing Education. Permission is given to copy any article provided credit is given and the copies are not intended for sale

by Sarah Ryan