Professor of Higher Education
Florida State University
The following remarks were made by Dr. Bender upon receiving the NCCSCE National Person of the Year Award during the April 14-17, 1991 AACJC Convention.
As an interested observer of the education arena for nearly four decades, I'm sometimes amused and at other times frustrated by many existent paradoxes that are obvious but often unacknowledged. For example, I'm sure most of you have commented on the paradox of society accepting the term "higher education" as though there is greater value and worth of collegiate education when it is now universally known that the early primary grades and even preschool education offer the key to a child's educational success. If we were truly considering the learner, those preschool years would be the "higher" education.
Another paradox can be found in the teaching loads of those of us classified as graduate faculty in contrast to undergraduate faculty. Characteristically, our teaching load is typically a third, sometimes a quarter, of that of our undergraduate colleagues. Yet, doctoral students have acquired experiences and background that result in the majority of learning coming as a result of being self- directed and maturity of purpose. Why should our load be lighter when there are fewer in the class and they are so well prepared?
The final paradox for your consideration is that of the perceived prestige and status of traditional collegiate degree and credit programs being greater than the nontraditional and noncredit programs often offered as part of continuing education and community services. Typically, your unit of the institution is ranked toward the bottom rather than the top of the symbolic importance scale. Yet, as I will explain, community services and continuing education has been the ground breaking leader among the institution's units and is at the very core of society's needs in an Information Age.
I want to thank the Awards Committee and the Board for the distinct honor of being selected for this year's Award. Your National Council's recognition and this award have special meaning for me because I am viewed by many as a maverick. You see, I view each of you community services and continuing education professionals as mavericks, too! You have refused to be constrained by tradition and you have regularly challenged the system, many times forcing reform and change.
Community college people are a special breed, I believe, and among them you are the professional change agents. When one reflects on the evolution of community college response to societal needs since the 1960s, your function has been to be the constant change agent for the community college movement. To do so, you have had to be mavericks, at least in the eyes of the traditionalists.
During the 1960s you responded to the Great Society's policies ranging from the war on poverty to social equity goals. A plethora of social services and community improvement programs focused upon by you community college professionals during this time gave meaning and purpose to the community-based nature of our institutions. It was during the 1960s that the community services function of the community college emerged and with it a new career field. You played the strategic role in spotlighting the community focus of the community college mission.
During the 1970s you mavericks opened the door for nontraditional student clienteles, ranging from senior citizen groups to a multitude of women's programs and other client initiatives. You mavericks actually were carrying out the R & D function that transformed the traditional full- time programs and even faculty attitudes. I worked with more than one community college during that decade as it tested feasibility and practicality of moving offerings from community services and continuing education into regular credit program formats. Visionary presidents used your programs as the proving grounds for subsequent credit programs.
During the decade of the 80s, you mavericks bridged the gap between town and gown! It was your destiny to lead the way for partnerships between your institutions and business/industry/employers. The literature of higher education had advocated avoidance of such partnerships, predicting the academy would endanger its autonomy and academic freedom. And today, even the most elitist institution boasts of its partnership programs! You were able to deliver education and training without the hangups of academe or the "ivory tower" perception of business and industry.
And now during the 1990s you are at it again! You are transforming your institutions from the historical frame of reference that community services and continuing education are auxiliary programs that must be self-supporting. This is especially significant in what may later be called the "Austerity Decade" for higher education. Your entrepreneurial and enterprising programs are increasingly being recognized as essential to the economic health of your institution. Rather than self-supporting, you are being recognized as "profit centers," often supporting other units of your institution. History will undoubtedly record that you mavericks transformed institutions during the 90s as you have become strategic to the resource development enterprise of your institution.
Now you can see why your award has such special meaning for me and why I am proud to salute each and every one of you mavericks. Thank you for recognizing me as one of you!