FORSYTH COUNTY – Lanier Technical College hosts its share of banquets and events for groups throughout the community at the Forsyth Conference Center, but on Thursday night the celebrations shined solely on them.
The six-campus college held a gala to honor the school’s 50th anniversary, welcoming past presidents, business and industry partners and former and current staff and students.
“We opened a small campus in Oakwood and now here we are, standing in Forsyth. And we also have a campus in Dawsonville, and we are in Barrow, and we’re opening our new location in Gainesville that is set to open in fall 2018,” said Ray Perren, Lanier Tech president.
Guests gathered to reminisce about the past, honor the growth to which the school has managed to adapt and look ahead to the future.
“Like thousands before me and thousands after me, the foundation of my career was built at this school,” said Tim McDonald, vice president of economic development for the college.
Honors touted included back-to-back instructors of the year and being named the best technical school in Georgia in 2014.
The school’s six past presidents were honored for the individual marks they made on their community and campuses, from John Lloyd – Lanier Tech’s first president who served from 1964-1968 – “literally and figuratively building the foundation that we have then built on for the last 50 years.”
To Ken Breeden, who served from 1975-1984 and engaged local interactions between the business industry and the school, making people want to “visit our campus like they were trying to find the secret formula to Coca-Cola.”
To Russell Vandiver, president from 2010-2013, who “planted the seeds” for the Barrow County campus and who finished the process to become accredited.
“We are an A-to-W school, I like to say. Accounting to welding because we don’t have anything for Z, but accounting to welding, we have it all,” Perren said. “People might be surprised to know that 40 percent of our students are in some sort of health care program.”
Perren said campuses offer computer programming, business development, criminal justice tracks, fire science and horticulture. The list goes on, and officials with Lanier Tech do not seem to be slowing down.
From about 27 students in the inaugural Class of 1967, Lanier Tech now has about 3,600 students enrolled.
“Air conditioning, welding, automotive repair,” Perren listed. “We will continue to change as the technology changes.”
Area businesses and economic officials said the partnerships they make with Lanier Tech increase the overall economic wealth of their community.
“Unlike most universities, technical colleges actually work directly with the industry. It rolls right into a job,” said James McCoy, president and CEO of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce.
McCoy said technical colleges are “basically free training” for companies.
“It builds relationships and makes for a much more sustainable model of employment,” he said. “If you look at the past, it’s a good indicator of the future, and what we see in this community and around the region is a real relationship that exists between the technical college system and industry. It’s positive and co-dependent relations, and it’s going to continue to grow.”