For a more complete history of Western Piedmont Community College, we invite you to download Western Piedmont Community College: A Brief History 1964-2005 by Larry R. Clark ( this is a PDF file which can be opened with the free Reader software available from Adobe. If you cannot access this file, please contact the webmaster for additional assistance).
The Start of WPCC
The initial Board of Trustees of Western Piedmont Community College was comprised of prominent citizens from Burke, McDowell, and Caldwell counties, assumed responsibility for the College and elected Dr. E.W. Phifer, Jr. as its first chair. From the very beginning the citizens of Burke County demonstrated interest and strong support for their College by approving a state-required bond issue with an unprecedented margin of 17 to 1.
The First WPCC Board of Trustees
Appointed by the Board of Trustees in the fall of 1964, Dr. Herbert F. Stallworth served as the institution’s first President. With offices located in Morganton’s City Hall, the first classes were offered the following year at Central School, stores, church education buildings, and other rented spaces in the area. Over 400 full-time curriculum students were admitted in the fall of 1966 when construction began on a permanent campus.
Registration at Old Central Hall
Groundbreaking for Western Piedmont’s first building which would become Moore Hall. Ceremonies were attended by Governor Terry Sanford on November 17, 1966.
Groundbreaking Ceremony for Western Piedmont’s First Building
In August of 1967, Dr. Gordon C. Blank became president. Three buildings on the new 132 acre campus were occupied on March 25, 1968, and the first degrees were granted in June. Western Piedmont was accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools that same year and was well along the way toward fulfilling its purpose as a comprehensive community college.
Dedication ceremonies for the new campus were held on the front steps of the Administration building on May 4, 1969 with Governor Terry Sanford as the principal speaker.
In honor of two outstanding friends of the College, the administration building and the science building were dedicated as W. Stanley Moore Administration Hall and Frank C. Patton Science Hall.
The College Begins To Grow
Outdoor Graduation at WPCC in the early 1970s
Dr. H.D. Moretz, Dean of the the College and member of the staff since its founding, assumed the position of acting president upon Dr. Blank’s resignation in 1978. Dr. Wilmon H. Droze next served as president from 1979-1981 and provided new directions for Western Piedmont Community College. The Campus bookstore was modernized and enlarged; all buildings were certified accessible to the handicapped; and grant funds permitted an expanded program for the hearing-impaired.
Dr. Jim A. Richardson served as the fourth president of Western Piedmont from 1981 to 2005. To improve management practices, a planning and evaluation process was implemented to assist in the identification of both short-term and long-range needs. By 1986, these activities had resulted in the introduction of Cooperative Education, twelve new occupational programs, transfer degrees in the Performing and Visual Arts, and a record breaking annual enrollment of over 10,000 curriculum and continuing education students.
A successful Blueprint for PROGRESS campaign in 1987 raised $1.3 million locally toward the construction of a Learning Resources Center. With $2.7 million in state funds, the 46,000 square feet structure contains a library, conference rooms, drama studio, media services center, faculty offices, and classrooms. The Phifer Learning Resources Center opened in the fall of 1989.
Senator Sam J. Ervin Jr. Library and Museum
Western Piedmont attracted national attention with the opening of the Senator Sam J. Ervin, Jr. Library and Museum, featuring a replica of the noted Senator’s home study, his Senate desk, and a collection of over 7,500 books, professional and personal memoribilia, political cartoons, awards, documents and numerous other artifacts related to the Watergate era and Ervin’s life and career.
With annual enrollments exceeding 13,000 students, Western Piedmont Community College revised its “Master Campus Plan” to direct campus development into the twenty-first century. With funding from an approved state bond and matching funds from the county, the College dedicated a new 42,000 square foot building named theRobert P. Carr Business Technologies Center in September 1997.
The College acquired an additional 209 acres of land from the State in 2000. The Rostan Horticulture Center opened in 2002 to provide classrooms and office space for the horticulture program.
A 25,000 square feet Continuing Education Center was added at the Richardson Complex in 2003
Dr. Jim W. Burnett became the College’s fifth president in 2006. The Health Sciences Building (17,500 square feet) opened in January 2008 and includes classroom space for chemistry, medical assisting, medical laboratory technology and nursing.
Construction began for the Emergency Services Training Center in Fall of 2007. The first phase of this project was completed in May of 2010.
Recognition that the Burke County area was seriously underserved by 4-year educational institutions gave rise to a collaborative effort amongst the State of North Carolina, Burke County, Western Piedmont Community College, private funding sources, and Appalachian State University. This effort led to the renovation and equipping of a former industrial facility to house expanded classroom and lab space for occupational-based Allied Health and Emergency Services curricula, and to act as a hub for cooperative 2 + 2 programs with 4-year educational institutions; the Foothills Higher Education Center (FHEC), opening its doors to the first classes in August of 2009.