If there were one word the four Bainbridge State College charter faculty members could use to sum up their experience at the fledging college, it would be fun.
Drs. Ray Chambers, Bob Dubay, Bob Lane and Jim Young all said it was fun to embark on the adventure of starting a new college.
It was fun because there was a family environment with a collegial feel with fellow faculty members. And there were friendships and admiration for all the College staff, in particular the buildings and grounds workers.
It was fun because they set out to create something special, and they did.
And, it was fun because they not only fell in love with the College and what they were doing, but it was fun to become members of the community and relish in what this area offered.
“I was only going to stay for five years … but I probably should have said four years because at five years, you get just ground in. You’ve got roots somehow and I never got away,” Dr. Chambers said. “There were so many rewarding opportunities. I had my hands in so many different things, whether I was leading it or just helping; to see things get done just kept me happy. I guess as long as you’re happy, you stay.”
Dr. Young said he and his wife wanted to live in a small town and the idea of starting a college was very appealing.
“If you like a small town, you like the atmosphere, you like knowing people and like being in a friendly place, this was the golden trap,” Dr. Young said. “We were paid well. The atmosphere couldn’t have been better, and the kids grew up and we didn’t worry about them playing out in the street.”
These four charter faculty members who were first to teach at Bainbridge State, stayed here and all eventually retired from the College. In fact, Dr. Young has a daughter who followed in his footsteps – Dr. Jenny Harper is associate professor of biology and her husband, Ridge Harper, is director of student success and retention.
Founding President Ed Mobley hired Dr. Dubay to be the College’s academic dean. Shortly after, Dr. Dubay then hired Dr. Lane to be the chairman of science and mathematics and assistant professor of biology. Dr. Chambers was hired as acting chairman of the Division of Social Sciences and assistant professor of political science. All came from Dalton Junior College, which is where Dr. Mobley came from too.
Dr. Dubay hired Dr. Young from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as an instructor of history.
Dr. Dubay said he wanted to get the cream of the crop, instructors who had doctoral degrees when possible and also had strong interests outside of their disciplines, or as he said, he wanted multi-dimensional people.
“We had a very good school for a very long time. Most of the faculty and staff were young, in their middle to late 20s, and they brought a new perspective and energy to the institution that was being created. It was a lot of fun to be here,” Dr. Dubay said.
Part of the job duties of the professors was student recruitment, and Dr. Lane remembers handing out brochures, peanuts and balloons at various locations.
He also remembers some pushback from the community, in particular a woman who ran a restaurant he liked to go to in the mornings prior to fishing on Lake Seminole. She was worried about young people coming to the institution of higher learning “smoking dope and running around naked.”
He appeased her fears somewhat, saying he did not know about the dope smoking and said there will not be anybody running around naked on campus. He was wrong. There was one confirmed streaker, who did not necessarily run around campus, but rode a motorcycle on one of its sidewalks.
Dr. Chambers said the faculty became creative in its course offerings because of the limitations of the small college. Transferring those credits became a challenge, but eventually the other colleges came around.
Despite Bainbridge Junior College having the only regulation horseshoe pit in the state, they still had difficulty transferring those physical education credits to other colleges. The same was true for other innovative courses the faculty created.
“I suppose one thing that stood out was that we were able to do these things because we were so isolated,” Dr. Chambers said. “As long as Atlanta didn’t know we existed besides giving us money, we could experiment. So we did.”
The faculty members said some of their students also impressed them; many of them who would never had gone to college if Bainbridge State had not been here for them.
As Dr. Young said of some of the students, “We have had some exceptional success stories.”
Dr. Chambers can remember students who would recognize when their minds would open up and wanted to take on more classes or do new and different things such as study aboard.
“There was a lady who came up to me and said that if it were not for the College, she would not be where she is now and she would not be as aware of what was going on around her as she is now because the College is here. It showed her just so many different things,” Dr. Chambers said.
As all four charter members said, they enjoyed their ride at Bainbridge State.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my stay here. It was good to me. The town was good for me. There’s not a whole lot I would change if I could erase stuff or switch things around,” said Dr. Dubay. “It was a very pleasant experience.”