Friday, January 14, 2011

Nike Base Now A College

November 1967
  Groundbreaking ceremonies aren’t necessarily solemn affairs— as witnessed by the 250 people who turned out for such an occasion on the future permanent Auburn Hills Campus of Oakland Community College last Thursday.
  “Usually such ceremonies as these leave me cold,” President John E. Tirrell declared as he opened his remarks. This brought a loud burst of laughter. No wonder. It was a shivering 20 degrees above zero outside. Icy winds made it feel even colder.
  Suspecting that it was going to be a miserable weather day, the college had a tent set up before the ceremony took place. But there was one problem. With the 90-piece Pontiac Northern band occupying seats on one entire side, the crowd overflowed to the outside.
  FIRST TO WIELD the shovel for the groundbreaking was Jim Shea, president of the Auburn Hills Student Senate. Looking around and seeing the entire board of trustees and all the administrators in prime seats, Jim reached the microphone and quipped, “I should give my dissertation on student rights.” This brought a roar of approval from the student body.
  But the oldsters had their laugh too.
  As Jim picked up the shovel and fingered it a moment, Board of Trustees President George R. Mosher, master of ceremonies for the event, countered: “That’s the trouble with today’s students. They don’t know which end of the shovel to use!”
  When President Terrill took his turn on the shovel, he declared, “I never did get to do this at the Orchard Ridge Campus. The governor took the shovel home with him.”
  The biggest ovation was given to none other than the general serviceman for the campus, Cliff Rathbun. As the student body cheered and applauded, the somber-faced Rathbun ordered, “All right kids, quiet down.”
  Ralph R. Tyndall, trustee on the board, commented dryly as he drove the shovel into the earth, “When I was a boy on the farm, we knew better than to dig into dirt when it was frozen.”
  By the time that several dozen people got through with the shovel, excavation for the building project had a good start. There were about 250 shivering folks on the hilltop where a few years from now there will be some $5,418,000 worth of new buildings.
  AUBURN HILLS campus, as you may recall, is located just west of Adams Road at the end of Hamlin Road. Because it’s present buildings are anything but glamorous, not many Rochester people bother to show off the campus to visitors.
  The campus and its present buildings was a Nike base until it was abandoned by the Army and taken over by OCC in February 1965. All of the underground missile launching facilities are still there and the former barracks have been converted for college use— but are far from ideal with such structures.
  Judging from the architectural drawings, the campus will be a place of beauty in a few years. Thursday’s groundbreaking was for the first new permanent buildings. They are scheduled for completion by June 1969.
  ONE OF THE college trustees taking a turn with the shovel was David Hackett of 13980 Ruby, Rochester. Dave was not a member of the original board but was instrumental in pointing out to the board the possibilities of the Nike site. The board investigated, found out that the government was ready to deal, and OCC grabbed all 257 acres of it. Although the campus is located in Pontiac Township, it is only one of three campuses for OCC.
  While Nike bases and other tools of war may come and go, President Terrell pointed out that “rarely, if ever, does a college go out of existence.” Last week’s ceremony marked the beginning of structures of learning that will perpetuate long after all of us are gone.
  OCC administrators seemed to think of everything in planning Thursday’s ceremony. Despite the icy blasts that ruin the play of most musicians, the Pontiac Northern High School Band played without any problems. We found out later why. They’re called “The Huskies.”