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The history of North Central Michigan College

"We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future."

Members of NCMC's original Board of Trustees

The Beginning:
From Concept
to Reality

The dream for establishing a community college began in the early 1950s with a small group of thoughtful citizens who shared a common vision: that education beyond the high school level be available, financially possible, and conveniently located near the high school students of Emmet County.

A steering committee was formed in 1957 to gauge public interest, and on September 14, 1959, the first classes were held. Enrollment was 105 students.

Students in classroom, circa 1970s

The Early Years:
Accreditation, Achievements

By 1968, the college had moved to a 207-acre campus at the end of Howard Street and opened a 150-student Residence Hall.  In 1972, North Central was granted full accreditation by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.  Extension centers in nearby Cheboygan and Gaylord opened in 1973.

The Library, Student and Community Resource Center, and Health Education and Science Center were constructed during a three-decade period between 1984—2012. 

Students studying, present day

North Central Today:
Home of the Timberwolves

North Central is home to nearly 2,000 full- and part-time students.  The college boasts top-ranked nursing program, and many of our alumni and faculty have received national recognition for their professional achievements.

Our students enjoy a vibrant campus life that includes several student organizations and club sports—with varsity basketball, cross country, esports and volleyball coming Fall 2022.  There's never been a better time to be a North Central Timberwolf!

1957 – Community leaders form a steering committee to gauge public interest in supporting a community college in Petoskey.

1959 – Classes begin on September 14 in the old Sheridan School building. Enrollment is 105 students.

1960 – The college’s Board of Control starts the development of the new 207-acre campus located within Petoskey’s city limits.

1962 – Accreditation is earned by the Michigan Commission of College Accreditation.

1963 – The first three buildings on the new campus open for use.

August 1967 – A new classroom and administration building is completed.

1968 – The co-ed dormitory opens providing on-campus housing for up to 148 students.

June 1972 – North Central is granted full accreditation by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

1973 – North Central opens extension centers in Cheboygan and Gaylord.

October 1984 – The new Library and Conference Center, a 22,000 square-foot, $2+ million facility, opens. North Central has the largest research library in the area with high-speed Internet access, a wide variety of on-line resources, in-house databases, electronic journals, magazines, newspapers, books and the U.S. government documents repository for the 1st Congressional District of Michigan.

May 1989 – North Central’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges, is chartered.

September 1995 – The land on the southeast corner of the campus is dedicated as a “natural area.”

February 2002 – The 71,000-square foot Student and Community Resource Center (SCRC) opens. The SCRC has a multipurpose gymnasium designed for a variety of recreation and physical education activities.  A walking track, 1/9 mile in length is available to the public at no charge.  Locker rooms with showers are open to anyone using the facilities.  Upstairs, an exercise facility equipped with weight training and exercise equipment is available for individuals enrolled in fitness classes.  The SCRC also houses student services, financial aid, registration and the cafeteria.

October 2003 – A University Center partnership is formed by North Central and six four-year institutions: Central Michigan University, Ferris State University, Lake Superior State University, Lawrence Technological University, Michigan State University and Spring Arbor University.

Fall 2006 – Classes are offered at a satellite location in East Jordan at the Lake Street Center.

June 2007 – With a $50,000 start-up grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, North Central joins a national initiative called “Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count” to improve student success.

January 2008 – Enrollment surpasses 2,900.

September 2009 – The Harris Gardens are officially dedicated.  The area is named after local retired businessman Jack Harris who donated sculptures, patios, flower gardens and trees to beautify the college courtyard.  There are currently 26 sculptures on campus in Petoskey.

January 2010 – North Central marks an all-time high in enrollment with 3,208 students.

July 27, 2011 – Ground is broken on the Petoskey campus for a new $10.4 million Health Education and Science Center. 

August 2011 – North Central adopts a tobacco-free policy, prohibiting the use of tobacco and tobacco products on the Petoskey campus.

August 29, 2012 – A building dedication is held for the completion of Phase I of the Jack and Dorothy Harris Health Education and Science Center. This new Center greatly expands North Central’s ability to train students for careers in health care and provide basic education for students planning to continue their studies in the sciences elsewhere.  The Phase I dedication is for the 23,000 square feet of new space for science labs, classrooms and offices.

September 2012 – North Central is named a Military Friendly School by Victory Media, the premier media entity for military personnel transitioning into civilian life. The Military Friendly Schools® list honors the top 20 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools that are doing the most to embrace America’s military service members, veterans, and spouses to ensure their success on campus.

September 2012 – North Central opens the Straits Area Education Center, located at 504 Division Street in Cheboygan, offering eight classrooms, a science lab and a computer lab.

January 2013 – The formal ribbon cutting is held for the completion of Phase II of the Jack and Dorothy Harris Health Education and Science Center.  Phase II completes the renovation of 17,000 square feet of existing structures for nursing and allied health programs.

August 2013 - North Central Michigan College is selected as one of eight Achieving the Dream Institutions that have earned Leader College distinction for showing evidence of measurable improvements in student achievements.

March 2014 – North Central Michigan College launches the new Mobile Digital Fabrication Lab – the Fab Lab.  The only one of its kind in Northern Michigan, the Fab Lab provides innovative training for high school and college students and supports workforce development in our region.

June 2015 -- North Central awards its 10,000th degree!

September 2015 -- A new stationary CNC lab opens on the Petoskey campus as part of the $1.5 million SEEDS grant from the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.

April 2016 – North Central opens the Northern Michigan Small Business Development Center on the Petoskey campus.

August 2016 – North Central hosts the first annual Garden Party raising $65,000 for scholarships for CNC students.

2017 – North Central allied health programming booms as we become one of two site locations in Michigan for University of Maryland/Baltimore County Critical Care training for area paramedics and nurses; a training site for the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians; and a part of the Northern Michigan Regional Training Center for fire certification.

May 2017  The 50th nursing class graduated.

December 2017 – the new Gaylord Center opens for winter enrollment.

July 2018  Dr. David Roland Finley becomes the college's fourth president, succeeding Dr. Cameron Brunet-Koch upon her retirement after 17 years as president.

April 2021  North Central's Board of Trustees unanimously adopts the mascot that students say best represents the college: The North Central Timberwolf.