By: Julee Cobb
The year was 1965. “The Sound of Music” was released in theaters and shows like “Green Acres” and “I Dream of Jeannie” ruled on television. The average price of gas was 13 cents a gallon and a new car cost around $2,600. Martin Luther King, Jr. made his famous march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama – a demonstration that later led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
In Salina, change was afoot on the Schilling Air Force Base on Centennial Road. It was announced the previous year that 150 military installations would close across the country. At the same time, Henry Neely and Thomas Creech, both faculty members at Kansas State University, had been tasked with designing a degree program for a potential engineering technology college. With Schilling Air Force Base shutting down, Neely and Creech met with base commander Col. Mike Scanlan about using some of their facilities and equipment.
K-State Salina is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its campus in 2015.
Much to Neely and Creech’s surprise, the Kansas Legislature approved of their plans and officially established Schilling Institute on the base property on April 26, 1965 after the passage of House Bill 1101. The college would offer two-year degree programs in electronic engineering technology, detail design technology, civil engineering technology and aeronautical technology. Neely was appointed the president of Schilling Institute and Creech was named director of academic affairs.
Once the base was officially vacated in the summer of 1966, Neely and Creech, along with the other hired faculty and staff, moved onto the campus and started making the buildings and barracks suitable for students. They acted as carpenters, electricians, plumbers and painters as there was no extra money available to hire any tradesmen to complete the necessary work. Students arrived for classes in the fall and an additional program, computer science technology, was created – the first of its kind in the state. In 1968, Schilling Institute graduated its first 10 students.
The next year, the college was placed under the control of the State Board of Education and changed its name to Kansas Technical Institute, or KTI. Creech was selected as the campus’s third president in 1976 and during KTI’s reign, seven more degree programs were added. Students even picked the peacock as an unofficial mascot for the school, frequently appearing in the campus newspaper and yearbook.
In 1988, the property on Centennial Road would see another name change, to Kansas College of Technology. By this time, there were around 800 students enrolled and 11 programs led to an Associate of Technology degree. Kansas College of Technology, or KCT, also offered an Associate of Applied Science and an aviation maintenance certificate program.
In a full circle moment – as two K-State faculty were instrumental in founding the first institution on the grounds – KCT merged with Kansas State University in 1991 and became its ninth college, the College of Technology and Aviation. K-State Salina upgraded many of the previous two-year degrees to bachelor’s degrees. Most recently, it has added an unmanned aircraft systems program as well as family studies and human services, personal financial planning and social work. The landscape of the campus has also evolved, with the building of two residence halls, the College Center, the Student Life Center and a renovated Welcome Center.
Now the year is 2015, and popular comedic series aren’t just watched on television anymore. There are cell phones that are really smart phones, allowing access to the Internet and streaming music and social media. Movies are seen in theaters with 3D glasses and the price of gas continues to fluctuate between $2 and $3. Agreeably, times have dramatically changed since that day in 1965 when Schilling Institute was born. The students on campus now bleed purple, but K-State Salina wouldn’t be what it is today without the three colleges that came before.
K-State Salina is honoring the 50 years of those four educational institutions with a golden anniversary. If you would like to participate in the celebration, click here for the listed signature events that run April through September.