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Former VP of Instruction Jim Stratford reflects on time at Pratt Community College

05 February 2018

Before serving as a Pratt Community College business instructor in 1974 then subsequently Vice President of Instruction until 2013, Jim Stratford was a student between the years of 1966 to 1968. During his 38 years as an employee and two as a student, Stratford has seen a lot of different changes with the college.

Stratford’s memories begin with the move to the current campus.

“During the spring 1968 semester, the college moved from the old Central School, located just west of the Municipal Building downtown to the new facility at the current location,” said Stratford. “Construction was not complete when the move was made. The parking lot consisted of open ground and there were no sidewalks.”

Stratford was a student at the time. Since there were no sidewalks during an unusually wet spring, wooden boards were laid across the mud to provide access for students. Students moved the college library collection to the new library with the help of a wheat truck borrowed from an area farmer.

At the time, the main facility, now known as the Benson Education Center, was the only building. Novotny Residence Hall was constructed the following year. No further construction was completed for about two decades after.

The late 1960’s also brought other challenges for PCC students. Due to the Vietnam War, male students were required to prove their ability to benefit from college study through a national examination. Those who did not achieve specified scores on the exam were subject to being drafted into military service, while those who exceeded the score were given a military deferment to continue their college study. PCC students joined students and the public across the country to debate the justification of the war.

“The college brought in a prominent anti-war speaker for a student and community speech held in the Municipal Building to accommodate the crowd,” said Stratford. “A number of students protested the speech by picketing in front of the entrance carrying signs in support of the war effort and against the college’s decision to bring in an anti-war speaker.”

After graduating from PCC, Stratford went on to study at the University of Kansas, Wichita State University, and Oklahoma State University. After growing up in the Pratt area, he decided to move back and become a farmer. In the fall of 1974, Stratford accepted the position as a full time instructor at PCC.
During Stratford’s time as an employee, he saw the current campus grow from one building in 1968 to a multi-facility college campus today.

“A new vocational education building was constructed in 1983 following recognition as a combined community college and area vocational school,” said Stratford. “It was named for college president, Dr. John Gwaltney.”

A number of new buildings were constructed in the following years, including Riney Student Conference Center, Chandler Hall, several residence halls, and other facilities to shape the campus to how it is today. Most of the construction was completed during the presidency of Dr. William Wojciechowski, including a residence hall named after the president in recognition.

One of Stratford’s biggest achievements in his career was helping the college become accredited from the North Central Association of Colleges and Universities in 1980. The prestigious recognition meant that PCC met the high quality education and services standards required by the NCA. These standards are the same standards used for all colleges and universities, including University of Kansas, Kansas State University, and more. PCC has maintained the NCA accreditation, which is now known as the Higher Learning Commission, since then.

Stratford supported the college in many ways, including attending a variety of athletic events. Perhaps one of the strongest memories he can recollect includes a PCC vs Barton County Community College basketball game. A strong rivalry between the two teams developed one season when both teams were challenging for the conference title. The PCC arena was filled beyond capacity of the game, which Stratford considered the atmosphere as fiercely competitive. Late in the second half, a fight between the two teams broke out on the court. The benches were emptied as the floor became a full-scale brawl.

“Not only were their fist fights, but some players used metal chairs by swinging them about their heads as weapons,” said Stratford, “Some spectators were even involved.”

Much to the displeasure of coaches, PCC officials ended the game and sent both teams home. The highway patrol escorted the Barton bus to the Pratt county line to ensure their safety. The next day, the PCC Board of Trustees conducted an emergency meeting in a filled auditorium. The Board fired the basketball coach during the meeting. After the Jayhawk Conference commissioner reviewed the film, they ruled that PCC had taken appropriate action in stopping the game and firing the head coach.

Stratford was an integral person in achieving the many triumphs and successes that make PCC the institution it is today. Pratt Community College would like to thank him for his time and effort in his 38 years of building futures.
September 6, 1938, Pratt Junior College opened its doors as the 14th junior college created in Kansas. Pratt “Juco” welcomed 150 new students to its original campus located on 401 S Hamilton St. Eighty years later, Pratt Community College, is proud to have helped build the futures of thousands of students on-campus, online, at our Winfield and Wichita learning centers and through high school concurrent enrollment.

The mission of Pratt Community College is maximum student learning, individual and workforce development, high quality instruction and service, and community enrichment. PCC is proud to be a part of the community in Pratt, Kansas. With more than 80 years of history, PCC remains humbled to serve our community and students who come to build a foundation for their lives.

This year we celebrate this grand anniversary and remember those who’ve walked through these halls. Each month during 2018 PCC is proud to feature stories and memories from alumnae, community members and faculty who have helped see our institution and mission grow. If you would like to share an experience or memory or be considered for one of our monthly features contact Jessica Sanko, 620-450-2192, jessicas@prattcc.edu.