The St. Petersburg College Clearwater Campus celebrated its 50th birthday this week with two campus events. More than 100 former and current Clearwater Campus faculty, staff and community friends attended a VIP reception and presentation on Tuesday, Nov. 17. The event had the feeling of a family reunion as old friends came together to reconnect and celebrate. The second event was held on the Clearwater Campus Quad the following day.
Florida’s first woman provost
“It is a true honor to look around and see so many people that I worked with,” said Vilma Zalupski, the first woman provost in Florida, and the longest-serving provost of the Clearwater Campus (1979-1995). “This campus will always be home in my heart.”
She brought tears to the eyes of many of her old friends and colleagues as she spoke of how they hand-planted many of the trees that still stand on the campus today and watered them with little cans and coffee cups.
“As you walk across this campus you see her fingerprints everywhere,” said Susan Demers, Dean of SPC’s College of Policy, Ethics and Legal Studies who emceed the event.
SPC President Bill Law also had memories of Dr. Zalupski: “The thing I remember about you is your fierce commitment to students.”
City of Clearwater officials join in celebration
Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos took the crowd back in time to 1965 when bread cost 30 cents, you had to have a dime in your pocket to make a phone call, the Dodgers won the World Series and Medicare became law.
“Things have changed but one thing that has not changed is the commitment of this institution to educate and to help its students become productive members of society and give them a chance to live their dreams,” said Cretekos.
Clearwater City Manager Bill Horne quoted a headline from the Clearwater Sun Archives: “Modest Now But Watch Us Grow.”
The first semester of classes were held during the summer term of 1965. Currently, more than 9,500 students call the campus home. In addition to the growth in numbers of students, the campus facilities continue to expand. Plans are now underway to replace the current campus library with a new Community Library, a partnership between St. Petersburg College and the City of Clearwater.
“We are all excited about the joint-use library project,” said Horne. “I hope you feel that you left a legacy that will continue to move this community forward.”
A walk down memory lane
Dr. Joy Moore, a Clearwater Campus math professor, along with three members of the Badeya Club (Bianca Cage, Keiasha Fisher and Ariel Davis) provided a glimpse back in time with an impressive Motown Medley complete with costumes and choreography.
“All that and she teaches math too,” said Clearwater Campus Provost Stan Vittetoe. Vittetoe presented an overview of the growth of the campus, key programs and contributions of faculty, staff and community members. He also noted that Clearwater Campus was the home of two students honored among the top 20 scholars in the nation: Spenser Reed and Alistair Glover.
“You never know where your students are going to land and the impact you are going to have,” said Dr. Patricia Rowell, a Clearwater Campus provost from 2001-2003. “This campus not only had the top echelon of faculty, but we also had a lot of fun.”
Working at Clearwater Campus
Some students loved the Clearwater Campus so much they came back to work there later. Kathleen Griffin, a Clearwater Campus student, later served as Clearwater Campus Associate Provost.
“I love this campus,” said Griffin. “I started here and retired here.”
Jeff Cesta, Director of SPC’s Dual Enrollment, Early College and Early Admissions programs, graduated from SPJC Clearwater Campus in 1986.
“I was fortunate enough to return to the Physical Education & Athletic departments on the Clearwater Campus as part of my student teaching/internship for the University of Florida in 1988, and began working at the Clearwater Campus in the fall of 1989,” said Cesta. “It’s truly been a wonderful opportunity to work here at SPC Clearwater!”
The Merriam family has had someone working at Clearwater Campus consecutively since the campus opened in 1965.
Students attend campus birthday party
Faculty, staff and students came out in force on Wednesday, Nov. 18 to celebrate in the Clearwater Campus Quad. Students enjoyed pot pie, a dish dating back to 1965, birthday cake, key lime pie and ice cream.