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Linn State celebrates golden anniversary

On Wednesday, Linn State Technical College kicked off a year-long celebration of the college’s 50th anniversary with a Founders Day ceremony.

The rotunda of the Information Technology Center was standing room only with over 200 members of the community, political leaders, college supporters, as well as college retirees, faculty, staff, students and alumni of the college.

“I can’t overemphasize enough my thanks to all who attended the event and for their ongoing support of the college,” said John A. Klebba, board of regents president.  “Their advocacy on behalf of the college virtually guarantees that our next 50 years will be at least as bright as the first 50 years.”

Klebba opened the ceremony by welcoming guests and transporting the audience back to 1942, when Linn State’s founding father, Thurman Willett, first drew inspiration for a postsecondary school for those high school graduates who could not or would not go on to a four year college.

“That concept, that dream percolated in his mind for the next 19 years, during which I suspect the vast majority of those with whom he communicated his dream either politely smiled at his madness or told him forthright that the concept would never fly,” stated Klebba.  “I dare say that very few, if any, of us here today would have held on to that dream against those kinds of odds for 19 long years.”

In 1961, almost 20 years later, Willett’s dream became a reality.   With the support of the Osage County R-II school district and the leadership of Willett as the superintendent, Linn State began as Linn Technical Junior College.  With a $7,500 grant to the Osage County R-II School District from the National Defense Education Act of 1958 and strong support from the Missouri Department of Education, the college offered its first program in electronics in the fall of 1961.

Only a couple dozen men were enrolled in the first electronics program held in a basement storage room under the high school band room.  “Willett’s early recruiting materials could certainly boast of small classes and free live music,” commented Klebba.

“It is truly remarkable that in a mere 50 years we have seen a $7,500 grant transformed not only into the campus that surrounds us here today, but most importantly into an institution that has enhanced the lives of over 10,000 graduates,” said Klebba.

Willett passed away in 1991, leaving a legacy in technical education. 

During the ceremony, Linn State President Dr. Donald Claycomb said to Willett’s widow, Hazel Willett, “We hope the men and women who have graduated from Linn State have done justice to his dream.  We will continue to enhance what Mr. Willett has entrusted to us.

Claycomb honored several special guests including past presidents, members of the Osage County R-II school board from 1960-61 and 1961-1962, the school’s first advisory council and the first graduates of the college.

Elected officials, Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla and Rep. Tom Loehner, R-Koeltztown, presented Claycomb with official resolutions to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the college.   Ms. Mary Tinsley, representative of U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, 9th Congressional District of Missouri, read a letter of congratulations from the congressman.

Claycomb recognized the leadership of Sen. Mike Lybyer, Rep. Gracia Backer and Rep. Joe Clay Crum and Missouri’s 88th General Assembly for designating Linn Tech as a state technical college in 1995.  In 1996, the college’s name was officially changed to Linn State Technical College and the first Board of Regents was appointed by then-governor Mel Carnahan.

During the ceremony, the Foundation for Linn State Technical College presented the Thurman L. Willett Leadership Award to DeWayne Rakes, the first individual to carry the title president, rather than director.  Rakes served in many capacities in the early days of the college.   He was the college’s first basketball coach and housing director and in 1969, he was named Dean of Students, and to his earlier responsibilities were added recruiting, job placement and financial aid.  In 1977, Rakes was named president of Linn Technical College.

Linn State Foundation Chair and Linn State alumnus, Clarke Thomas, recalls Rakes being a capable and kind leader.  While employed as an automotive repairman, Thomas returned to Linn Tech to seek a second degree in aviation maintenance after being laid off due to the lack of business at the repair shop where he was employed.  He applied for a work study position but was denied because his parents were financially stable.  After being turned down, Thomas went to Rakes to explain his position that he was on his own and his parent’s money was not at his disposal. 

Rakes approved his application and Thomas began cleaning the Quonset hut where his aviation classes were being held.  “I will never forget his kindness and how successfully he operated the school,” said Thomas. 

The ceremony concluded with the dedication of a bronze eagle monument.   The eagle monument, made possible by the generous contributions of alumni, friends and supporters of the college, is a symbolic landmark honoring the graduates of the college, commemorating the college’s history and renewing the college’s commitment to the eagle as the official college mascot.

Donors were recognized and those providing cash and in-kind donations of $1,000 or more were honored with a bronze replica of the eagle monument.   Donors receiving the statues were Midwest Block and Brick, Jefferson City, Missouri; Tom & Patti Dinkins, Saint Louis, Missouri; Clarke & Arlene Thomas, Saint Louis, Missouri;  Donald and Linda Claycomb, Linn, Missouri; and Michael & Carla McDaniel, Bonnots Mill, Missouri.

The monument, sculpted by Sabra Tull Meyer, is located in the roundabout of the main campus featuring an eagle leaving the nest and taking flight.  The eagle statue is a reminder of the many students who have and will continue to graduate from the college and venture into the world of profitable employment and a life of learning.

“Throughout the entire fifty year history, Linn Tech has maintained its focus on preparing individuals for profitable employment,” said Claycomb.  “That in itself is a fact to be proud of.”

With more than 35 programs, Linn State Technical College is Missouri’s only public two-year technical college with a statewide mission.   LSTC prepares students for profitable employment and a life of learning.  LSTC has three locations in Linn, Mexico and Jefferson City.     

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