While it’s impossible to tell the College’s complete story with a few paragraphs and bullets points, what follows are some of the milestones Northeast State has achieved. As one can see, it’s a journey of progress, starting in 1966 as a vocational school with two buildings, six programs, and 35 students; and arriving in 2016 as a comprehensive community college with five campuses, 150 programs, and serving more than 7,500 students annually.
1963 Northeast State grew out of the Vocational Education Act of 1963 and legislation by the Tennessee General Assembly. It was titled the Tri-Cities Area Vocational-Technical School.
1964 Construction began in 1964 with a General Studies Building and two Technical Education labs – a total of 26,286 square feet.
1965 In 1965, James M. Pierce was named superintendent. Pierce was literally a one-man show with responsibilities that included public relations, marketing, faculty and staff recruiting, curriculum development, and equipment purchasing.
1966 Classes began in the spring of 1966 with 35 students enrolled. Six programs were offered: Auto Mechanics, Drafting and Tool Design, Electrical Technology, Machine Shop, Office Occupations, and Welding.
1966 By the fall of 1966, 120 students were enrolled and evening classes were started with special courses for working adults.
1970 By late 1969, expansion was under way for an 18,000 square-foot addition to the school, which now enrolled about 400 students. According to news reports of the day, the construction project cost $400,000 with another $300,000 allotted for equipment.
1970 The expansion brought approval from the State Board for Vocational Education in November 1970 for the creation of a Technical Division. The school’s name was changed to the Tri-Cities Regional Vocational-Technical School.
1972 As a result, the school added associate degree programs in Electronic Engineering Technology, Mechanical Engineering Technology, and Chemical Technology. These were the first degrees of this type offered in the state, according to news reports. Enrollment was expected to grow to about 700 students over the next few years. In 1972, the school received a five-year accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. A 15,000 square-foot Automotive and Welding building was built in 1975 and opened for classes in 1976.
1978 In 1978, the school’s name was changed to Tri-Cities State Technical Institute. Effective July 1, 1978, all of the school’s 16 programs became associate degree programs. At the end of the decade, enrollment had grown to 1,400 students.
1980 As the 1980s dawned, Tri-Cities State Tech saw enrollment jump to 1,800 students. The growth was so rapid, the school had to use the old Holston Middle School for English, math, and social studies classes.
1983 The influx of students led to several construction projects in the early 1980s. An 8,500 square-foot auditorium (later to become part of the Student Services Building) was constructed in 1982, the 32,000 square-foot Administration Building was built in 1983, and an 8,300 square-foot General Studies Building addition was finished in 1985.
1983 James Pierce retired in 1983 after 18 years at the helm of the school. Appropriately, the new Administration Building was titled the James M. Pierce Administration Building. Some 30 years later, the College’s first mascot – a bear - would carry his initials: J.P.
1983 On July 1, 1983, Tri-Cities State Tech officially became part of the State University and Community College System of Tennessee.
1983 Dr. James Owen was selected from a field of 28 candidates to replace Pierce and assumed duties on Sept. 19, 1983. During his watch, Tri-Cities State Tech received accreditation from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and School in December 1984.
Other noteworthy accomplishments of Owen’s administration included the creation of a foundation for fund-raising and support in 1985, and the purchase of about 60 acres of land adjacent to the campus.
1985 More than 2,200 student were enrolled at the school in 1985-86.
1987 After three and one-half years as president, Owen left to become president of Piedmont Community College in North Carolina. TBR appointed Dr. R. Wade Powers, as his replacement effective July 1, 1987.
1988 A new semester system was installed in the fall of 1988 with a minimum of problems, helping students to transfer credits more easily. The College completed its self-study and hosted a site visit in 1989, receiving reaccreditation the same year.
1990 There’s no doubt 1990 was a watershed year for Northeast State. The College officially became Northeast State Technical Community College, a comprehensive community college on July 1, 1990.
1990 The change promptly increased the school’s enrollment to 2,826, a 35 percent increase over the previous year. To handle the influx of students, the College expanded offerings at off-campus sites in Bluff City, Elizabethton, Erwin, and Mountain City, as well as holding evening classes at neighboring Holston Middle School.
1991 In the spring of 1991, Northeast State started construction on a $5.5 million construction project that included student services and faculty office buildings. The new buildings were unveiled July 31, 1992. The College also broke ground in November 1991 for the Center for Applied Technology in Gray, which opened in the summer of 1992.
1991 The College also broke ground in November 1991 for the Center for Applied Technology in Gray, which opened in the summer of 1992.
1993 By 1993, enrollment had climbed past 3,500, prompting the Tennessee Board of Regents to approve funding for a 25,000 square-foot classroom/laboratory building. The College broke ground for the project in February 1994 and the project was completed in 1995. It would later be named the Wade Powers Science/Math Building.
1994 In 1994, Northeast State landed a significant Department of Education matching grant designed to increase the College’s scholarship endowment. Based on a two-for-one matching component, the College was charged with raising $250,000 to achieve $500,000 in matching funds.
1995 By early 1995, the College achieved its $250,000 goal and was awarded the additional $500,000 grant. The amount was placed, per grant regulations, in an investment account for 20 years. The $750,000 pushed the Northeast State Foundation’s endowment to more than $1.1 million.
1996 Dr. Powers announced his retirement in early 1996 and was succeeded Aug. 1 by Dr. William W. Locke who was chosen from a field of 69 candidates.
The College celebrated is 30-year anniversary in 1996 with a day-long celebration that included tours, music, workshops, and storytelling.
1998 The late 90s also saw one of the College’s greatest dreams realized when Gov. Don Sundquist authorized funds for a 55,000 square-foot, $12.8 million library. When completed the project would increase library space six-fold and provide many improvements on the campus including new parking lots, sidewalks, lighting, and landscaping.
1999 Northeast State continued to grow as well, breaking the 4,000 student barrier in fall 1999 and increasing enrollment more than 1,000 students in a single decade.
2000 The College posted an 18 percent enrollment growth from 1995-2000, making it the fastest growing community college or university in the state.
2002 Northeast State established a partnership with the City of Kingsport and Sullivan County to create the Educate and Grow Scholarship program, which provided for two years of tuition for graduating high school students. The College realized a long-standing goal in January 2002 when a new $12.8 million, 55,000 square-foot library opened its doors. The facility was dedicated in May in honor of Wayne G. Basler, a long-time supporter of Northeast State.
2002 Northeast State graduate Kelly Wirt-Abon was bestowed a great honor in 2002 when she received the Outstanding Alumni Award from the American Association of Community Colleges. Kelly, a 1996 EMT-Paramedic graduate, served from 1996-2001 as a health care provider for a village of 5,000 natives in the Marshall Islands.
2002 The footprint for the College’s expansion into the City of Kingsport with the downtown opening of the Regional Center for Applied Technology on Sept. 9, 2002.
2004 Northeast State achieved landmark success in fall 2004 when enrollment exceeded 5,000. Also that year, an economic study reported the College contributed $213 million to the regional economy between 1999 and 2004.
2006 In spring 2006, construction was started on a new $15 million Humanities Complex on the Blountville campus. Building plans included the expansion of classrooms and offices for the Humanities and Behavioral/Social Sciences divisions, as well as a 500-seat theater for the performing arts. The complex was finished and occupied in 2007. The building was named the William W. Locke Humanities Complex.
2007 In 2007, the State Board of Nursing approved the college’s proposal to admit students into the college’s new associate of applied science in nursing degree program. It was the first associate degree nursing program approved by the State Board in seven years.
2008 As the decade neared it close, the City of Kingsport and Northeast State realized a collaborative vision for higher education and workforce development in downtown Kingsport. Known as the Kingsport Academic Village, the effort produced the construction of three new buildings: the Regional Center for Health Professions, the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing, and the Kingsport Center for Higher Education.
2009 After 13 years at the helm, Dr. Locke announced his retirement effective June 20, 2009. He was succeeded by Dr. Janice H. Gilliam, vice president of Student Development Services at Haywood Community College in North Carolina. The College realized a 14.6 percent growth in enrollment in fall 2009, a precursor to even further growth and expansion under Dr. Gilliam’s guidance and vision.
2009 The College once again changed names on July 1, 2009, becoming Northeast State Community College to better reflect the diverse range of programs offered by the institution.
2010 The Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010 challenged Northeast State and all community college to increase participation rates of citizens in higher education and completion.
The Act also coincided with the College’s tremendous enrollment growth. In 2010, Northeast State enrollment climbed to new heights as the College welcomed 6775 students for the fall semester, making it the fastest growing community college in the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) system.
2010 Dr. Janice Gilliam encouraged faculty and staff with a vision of “Access, Completion, and Community” to turn the Act’s challenges into reality. The College responded to the test with a number of initiatives. Redesigned Learning Support courses, a common course numbering system to support the transfer process, and sustainability efforts to save resources and energy were just a few of the efforts.
2011 In 2011, Merissa Williams was the first Northeast State student ever awarded the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. Beth Ross earned the same award in 2013, besting more than 750 applicants nationwide. Ross was accepted to, and attended, Columbia University.
2012 The Pal Barger Regional Center for Automotive Programs opened in 2012 in downtown Kingsport and currently houses the auto body service technology program.
2012 Brittany Thomas was one of only 20 outstanding students named to the All-USA Community College Academic Team in 2012. Again, it was the first time a Northeast State student achieved such an honor.
2013 The Northeast State at Bristol campus opened in May 2013 at 620 State Street in downtown Bristol. The site houses the Entertainment Technology Program and offers lab and classroom space on all three floors of the facility.
2013 A long awaited technical education building to replace the first structures on campus was placed on the capital projects in 1989. The project came to fruition in 2013 when Gov. Haslam approved $35.5M for construction of the new Emerging Technologies Complex. The complex is the largest capital project in TBR community college history. The facility will house Business and Advanced Technologies programs. Construction will commence in 2016.
2013 Northeast State students Elizabeth “Beth” Ross, Brittany Thomas, and Merissa Williams landed major national scholarships in 2013, 2012, and 2011, respectively.
2014 The College started an Aviation Maintenance Technology program in fall 2014, offering a 29-hour certificate.
2015 The Tennessee Legislature passed Gov. Haslam’s Tennessee Promise initiative in 2015, providing a scholarship and mentoring program for high school seniors. Students may use the scholarship at any of the state’s 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology, or other eligible institution offering an associate’s degree program. The scholarship pushed the College’s enrollment up 4.1 percent to 6,082 students.
2015 To accompany the Tennessee Promise program, the College initiated the iNortheast program in 2015. With aid from the Northeast State Foundation, the Northeast State provided iPad mini 2 devices to Tennessee Promise students and eligible full-time, degree-seeking students. In all, 1,800 devices were provided for distribution. The Northeast State Foundation approved a one-time donation of $342,000 to lease iPads for fall 2015 and spring 2016. In addition, an Appalachian Regional Commission grant provided $100,000 for iPads targeting a group of students in a pilot project.
2010-2015 saw an expansion of enrollment, programs, campuses, renovations, parking lots, an amphitheater, and two new buildings in design phase (Emerging Technologies Complex and expansion of the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing). Enrollment peeked at a record 8,700 students served annually in 2010-11 following an economic downturn in 2008.
Excellence continues to be a focus; the College posted the largest improvement for any TBR or UT institution in performance outcomes as established by the Complete College Tennessee Act of 2010. As a result, a 6 percent increase in the success of students measured by new funding formula criteria provided an additional $1 million for the 2015-16 state budget allocation.