In 1975, Lanier Technical College, then known as Lanier Area Vocational-Technical School, served about 200 students in two buildings.
Then-President Ken Breeden, who served from 1975 to 1984, remembers when then-Gov. George Busbee was slated to come for the grand opening of the school’s third building, currently housing the Quick Start program.
Breeden said they scraped $34 together from the budget and bought refreshments and snacks for the affair.
“We spent a check for $34 and bought drinks and punch and cookies,” said Breeden. “You could buy a lot for $34 in 1975.”
They were audited the next year and Breeden ended up writing a personal check to make up the difference.
Years later, Busbee sent him a $34 check, which now hangs in Breeden’s house, after Breeden introduced him during a dedication at Gwinnett Technical College and told that story.
Since then, more than 30 years later, Lanier Tech has grown to serve more than 26,000 students, spanning five campuses in the North Georgia area.
“It’s amazing to come back — it’s a big complex,” said Breeden. “You could hardly tell Lanier Tech was here back then.”
Breeden was joined by his successors Joe Hill (1984-2001), Mike Moye (2002-2010) and Russell Vandiver (2010-present) on the Oakwood campus Tuesday morning for recognition during the monthly board meeting.
“It’s important to understand the history of how we got to where we are in setting the tone for the future,” said Vandiver, who presented the former presidents with plaques. “A lot of things have happened because of the groundwork that was laid in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.”
Currently, Lanier Tech offers 38 academic programs and plans to add more, especially with the pending consolidation of Gainesville State College and North Georgia College & State University.
“We’re going to be doing a lot of the things that traditionally Gainesville State had done because they’re going to be focused on four-year and advanced degrees,” said Vandiver. “Which helps us and we think our enrollment is going to grow.”
Vandiver also said the improved transferability of 27 select courses from technical colleges to the University System of Georgia schools will help boost that anticipated growth.
“That whole umbrella is so much better than anything we had back in the ’70s,” said Vandiver, who was hired by Breeden in 1975. “So it’s unlimited with what we can do for our students.”
The continued expansion of the dual-enrollment program, Vandiver said, has been vital to that success.
Currently, Lanier Tech partners with 10 area school systems for dual enrollment.
But the presidents, current and former, said the school’s push to provide a place where students can hone their skills for the real world, starting at the high school level and beyond, started decades ago.
“We focused on community needs — what industry has needed and wanted in terms of a workforce,” said Moye.
“But we’ve always focused on the student as well. The program mix has changed radically since Dr. Breeden was president back in the ’70s.”
The school still offers hands-on programs, like welding and automotive, which were the cornerstones in the early years, but now the school also focuses on computer training and systems technology, among others.
“We tried to offer programs that were meaningful — that kids could come into and go out and get a job,” said Hill.
“I always told (former Gainesville State President) Foster Watkins across the street: ‘Foster, they go to your place to get an education. They come over here to get a job.’”
Vandiver said the school has more than a 90 percent job placement rate upon graduation.
“I want Johnny’s mom and dad, when they sit around the dinner table, I want Lanier Tech to be a part of that conversation about where to go to college,” said Vandiver. “If we get them here, they’ll stay here.”