Midland College History
Born out of necessity and some controversy in 1972, Midland College (MC) has grown to be one of the strongest two-year colleges in West Texas and the Permian Basin. For more than forty years the community has embraced the college with uncommon support. Hundreds of citizens and organizations have donated time, talent and financial resources to provide the services and means to create a beautiful and functional campus which today is considered the “gem of Midland.
Early Years of Building
In its 40-plus year history, MC has undergone an amazing transformation from being a small Odessa College campus within the Permian Basin College District to an independent, thriving community-oriented institution. Originally, MC had been a campus of Odessa College. Experiencing what many Midlanders deemed to be shackles imposed by the district administration and the stubbornness of a larger voting district that included the citizens of Odessa, Texas, in 1969, by a majority of almost four to one, the people of Midland voted to become a part of the Permian Basin Junior College System composed of Midland College and Odessa College. With the votes having been counted, a determined group of trustees and supporters launched an all-out offensive for a new college district, splitting the former Permian Basin College District. In 1972, the founder and first president of Midland College, Al G. Langford, leading a group of Midlanders, surrounded Austin legislators and garnered the support necessary for separation from Odessa College.
In 1973, Langford wrote:
“The first year we opened for business in Lee High School, we were amazed at our initial enrollment of 662 students.
“After three years, we had 1,065 enrolled in credit courses and 1,200 adults enrolled in our noncredit courses. The need for a community college for Midland was firmly established.”
As the founder of the college, Langford was instrumental in building the campus, establishing a high quality faculty and supporting staff, and establishing a firm foundation upon which his predecessors could continue to build and develop. When Dr. Jess Parrish joined MC in 1981, the college was well on its way to becoming an outstanding institution. Parrish shared his thoughts that every college goes through seasons. In referring to his tenure as President of MC, he reflected:
“Langford was the builder and developer of Midland College. During my tenure, we concentrated on program development to meet the needs of the community, and we targeted faculty development as an important area.”
Under Parrish’s leadership, MC strengthened the health sciences areas, especially in the nursing area. A health sciences building was built and the size of the student center on campus doubled. While expanding the health science programs, he also added an Aviation Technology Program and expanded the college’s outreach to the local community. Retiring after spending a decade leading the college forward, Parrish wrote that he couldn’t think of a better way to spend the last 10 years of his career working at MC. “The roots and foundation were here, I inherited an excellent community college.”
Expansion and Diversification
While serving as the third president of MC, Dr. David Daniel realized that trying to be all things to all people was a dangerous situation to be in. With dwindling, often inadequate state funding, Daniel had to contend with the issue of how to continue a program of excellence faced with fewer dollars. He quickly sought expansion of the campus’ buildings and placed high emphasis on increasing endowments. Through these increases in endowments Daniel was able to supplement the state funding decreases and expand program offerings to the community. These offerings included programs such as the Davidson Distinguished Lecture Series which began in 1997, and the Phyllis and Bob Cowan Performing Arts Series.
In addition to expanding the number of structures on the main campus, Daniel was instrumental is expanding services to all members of the MC service area. Daniel stated “It was apparent that the present location of the college was not serving the entire population of Midland. Some people were intimated by the size and location of the campus.” Realizing this Daniel broadened the presence of MC through the purchase and renovation of the now current Cogdell Learning Center located in south Midland and the establishment of a Regional Training Center in the Fort Stockton, Texas area.
In specifically addressing the issue of racial diversity, Daniel stated:
“Midland has a large Hispanic community; 49.7 percent of all high school students in Midland County are Hispanic. The diversity of the college should be reflected throughout the institution, not just with the student body. This has been a major effort of this administration—to see that we reflect the diversity of the people we serve.”
As the institution pushes forward under its current president, Dr. Steve Thomas the campus continues to grow and expand its offerings. Ongoing development and refurbishment of the campus’ buildings and grounds continue to provide for a productive, conducive learning environment. In 2009, the incorporation of an Early College High School program reinforced MC’s proactivity and responsiveness to a younger generation; those who will lead our nation well into the twenty-first century.
Over the next decade MC will continue to expand its program offerings and develop its campus resources. New building projects are being discussed and the expansion of the college’s Baccalaureate (BAT) program will assist local citizens in attaining 4-year degrees while remaining in West Texas.
Looking ahead Thomas has stated that “Opportunities are all around us. Sharing and participating in the strategic growth of Midland College will ensure higher services, enhanced educational opportunities, and new areas of productivity.” In discussing his vision, Thomas states, “As we continue moving into the twenty-first century, our commitment toward the success of our students remain our number one priority. This emphasis is shared by the Board of Trustees, administrators, faculty and staff.”
Midland College is Your College.
Lanier, K. & Tuck, H.A. (1997). Midland College: The First Twenty-five Years, Baltimore, MD: Gateway Press.