UC Clermont is celebrating 40 years in Batavia

By Kristin Bednarski
Sun staff

The University of Cincinnati Clermont College community celebrated the anniversary of the college’s founding and 40 years of operation Sept. 25.

The college, which opened on that day in 1972, was originally called Clermont General and Technical College.

Since then, much about the college has changed, but much of what makes UC Clermont unique still remains the same.

Susan Vilardo, a Clermont General and Technical College graduate and distinguished alumni, was in the second graduating class at the college.

Vilardo said for her, Clermont General and Technical College was an opportunity she thought she would never have.

“I was told in high school by well-meaning adults that I was not college material,” Vilardo said. “I believed I would never go to college even though it was a dream for me.”

Vilardo when she found out about Clermont General and Technical College, and enrolled, it was a turning point for her.

“It was like this lifeline,” Vilardo said. “It was like this answer to my dreams.”

Vilardo said she loved the college because, to her, it felt like a safe, gentle place to learn. She said she loved the country setting of the college and enjoyed the occasional outside class.

She said even though the college has changed, not too much is different up on top of the hill.

“While, definitely, the campus is larger, there is still that quaint smallness, that even 40 years later if you were nervous about going to school I think you could take a deep breath and know this place is not going to overwhelm you.”

David Fankhauser has also gotten to watch the college change and grow over the years, because he has been teaching at the school since 1973.

“One of the things that initially drew me there were the small class sizes and rural setting,” Fankhauser said. “I loved that it was set in the middle of the woods.”

He said over the years enrollment and class sizes have increased, but the college still remains small, with his classes averaging 20-30 students.

Fankhauser said he and other faculty members value the quality of education students receive that is more personal at a smaller college.

“You get a small liberal arts quality education for a remarkably low price,” Fankhauser said about UC Clermont.

UC Clermont administrators and staff as well as members of the community celebrated the college’s 40th birthday Sept. 25 at Cincinnati Nature Center’s Krippendorf Lodge.

“It was an outstanding celebration of 40 years of service to our community,” UC Clermont Dean Gregory Sojka said.

Sojka, who became dean of the college three years ago, said they have worked to improve the college since it opened.

“We’ve expanded student enrollment, added additional faculty and staff and have added additional programs responding to community needs,” he said.

He said they have received a great deal of support from the community and have been able to partner with businesses, organizations and individuals to better prepare students for the workforce.

Sojka said his goal moving forward is to make sure the college remains true to its focus on students.

“The vision for the college was to have a college in the community to provide an opportunity for a better life for students who may not otherwise go to college,” Sojka said.

He said continuing on into the future he hopes to build upon this vision.

“I think we need to be the first choice for students, especially local students,” Sojka said. “We need to be affordable, continue to be accessible and offer courses and programs to provide an opportunity of employment close to home.”