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Panola College Approaches Milestone

Panola_Admin Building 1949
Panola Admin Building 1949

Happy 65th anniversary, Panola College! June 14th is the date when the citizens of Panola County came together to vote on the creation of Panola College…and they voted overwhelmingly in favor of the plan. No major celebrations are scheduled for THIS week, but there ARE special activities planned for January, when the college will celebrate the 65th anniversary of its first registration and classes. Here’s a little history about the college, courtesy of its spokesman:

Bill O’Neal’s book, Panola College, 1947-1997 the first half century, described how Q.M. Martin, innovative and resourceful superintendent of the Carthage public schools, initiated the movement to organize a junior college for Panola County. In the spring of 1947 Martin discussed the possibilities of organizing a junior college with three other prominent Panola County educators: R.C. Beauchamp, superintendent of Beckville schools; J.C. Thomas, superintendent of Gary schools; and S.O. Heaton, Panola County Superintendent of Schools. Within a few days these men hosted a meeting with influential citizens in the County Superintendent’s office. There was general enthusiasm for the project, and Martin began gathering scholastic population statistics, financial figures, and other needed information. He visited with the leaders of junior colleges in the East Texas region, and in Austin he met with Dr. C. C. Colvert, Junior College Consultant of the University of Texas. 

Martin returned to Carthage convinced of the feasibility of starting a junior college. He invited representative citizens of the county to a dinner at the Corral Restaurant. Martin persuasively reported the results of his work, then introduced the President of Kilgore Junior College, Dr. B. E. Masters, who described the needs of a new college. Enthusiastic citizens encouraged Martin to proceed with the legal steps necessary for the project. 

Copies of a petition calling for an election concerning establishment of a junior college were circulated throughout Panola County. When an impressive number of signatures was collected, the petition was presented to the County School Board, which granted approval. Martin attended the May meeting of the State Board of Education and readily obtained sanction from that body. Martin’s secretary produced a flow of correspondence in support of the election scheduled for June 14, 1947. Voters overwhelmingly approved the creation of the Panola County Junior College.

On January 19, 1948, the College officially opened its doors for registration of its first class. Enrollment totaled 55 students and classes were conducted in a structure pieced together from two buildings obtained from Camp Majors in Greenville at a cost of $205. The original dormitory was purchased from Camp Fannin in Tyler for $107.50, and a quonset hut served as the first field house. In 1948 voters approved the College’s first, and only, bond election for $400,000 to erect the first permanent structures on the campus. 

“Panola College has come a long was since 1948,” said Dr. Greg Powell, President of Panola College. “We are grateful to Mr. Martin and all those who came before us. Their hard work and dedication has brought the College to where it is today. I believe our predecessors would be proud to know that this year Panola College provided academic instruction and vocational training to more than 6,200 students, a majority of which came from Panola, Shelby, Harrison, Gregg, Rusk and Marion counties.” 

“Panola College has earned a stellar reputation for providing students with a high quality of instruction for the first two years of coursework leading to a bachelor’s degree. It is also known for having exceptionally good career programs which include Nursing, Energy and Petroleum Technology, Health Information Technology, Occupational Therapy Assistant, Welding, Cosmetology, General Business, Office Professional, and Emergency Medical Services. In addition, we are looking forward to beginning two new programs this fall to train students to become a Medical Lab Technician or Medical Assistant.” Powell continued, “The quote from the February, 1949 Pony Express that read, ‘The future looks bright, and Panola Junior College is eagerly looking toward the years to come,’ is as true today as it was then.”

Alumni are encouraged to visit the College’s alumni website or the Alumni Association’s Facebook page to learn more about upcoming events.

And here are some more pics, for your reminiscing pleasure:

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