My name is Bruce Barker and it is my distinct pleasure and honor to be the current president of CVTC. On behalf of our Board of Trustees, our faculty and staff, and most importantly our students . . . welcome and thank you for joining us today.
I’m happy to see two of my predecessors, Norbert Wurtzel and Bill Ihlenfeldt, here today and also a large number of past, current, and perhaps future Board members, Foundation Board members, Alumni Board members, advisory committee members, as well as many past and current local elected officials. All friends of CVTC. And I’m also very pleased to see many of our retirees and alumni . . . so to all of you . . . thank you!
A little over 100 years ago a group of Wisconsin business leaders went to our state legislature with a strong, urgent message. And that message was, if you want Wisconsin businesses to succeed in this competitive, fast-paced, highly technical world of 1912, we need a better trained and better educated workforce.
Now, it’s easy for us to look back and smile or laugh and say 1912 . . . fast-paced . . . highly technical? But think about it. Horses were being replaced by horsepower . . . by cars, trucks, and tractors. Written letters were being replaced, first by telegraph and then by telephone lines. Electric motors were either helping or displacing manual laborers. Change was everywhere . . . transportation, communications, agriculture, manufacturing . . . every facet of life was changing and every facet of life was taking a quantum leap forward.
Locally, in 1912 the lumber industry that had generated 40 years of growth and prosperity had collapsed. Seemingly endless stands of white pines had been turned into acres of tree stumps . . . but they were becoming fields of corn and pastures filled with dairy cattle. New industries, based on all these new technologies were also growing, starting an economic rebirth. The demand for skilled workers was growing rapidly.
Now, during these volatile times, we also had immigration issues; we spoke different languages; we had religious and ethnic differences. Eau Claire had five newspapers: one written in Norwegian, one in German. Many of our schools, hospitals, and churches provided services in foreign languages.
It was a time of political turmoil. There were four major presidential candidates in 1912 . . . the winner, Woodrow Wilson, only received 41 percent of the popular vote . . . popular vote meaning “men only” . . . since women were still excluded.
Back then our business, community, and legislative leaders realized that the solution to those problems . . . and the key to economic growth and stability was education.
Education could help us resolve our differences. Education could help us master technology. Education . . . public education . . . could and would move us forward to our current position as a world leader.
Our investment 100 years ago in public education and the beginnings of the Wisconsin Technical College System were key ingredients to the quality of life that we all enjoy here today.
So, as we celebrate the success of CVTC, what we are really celebrating is the very unique public/private partnership that started back in 1912, and still continues today. A partnership where business and industry leaders work hand in hand with educational professionals, using public funds to develop curriculum, obtain equipment, and design real-life learning labs, so that our students can learn and master the job competencies and skills needed to succeed, the skills needed to help our local businesses grow, and to help and our communities to prosper.
CVTC played a major role in that early conversion from a lumber-based economy to one based on manufacturing and agriculture. And for the past 100 years, CVTC has been here, during good times or bad, times of bust or boom, during times of peace and during our nation’s wars. Always helping, always teaching, always making lives better.
I’d like to take this time as we honor CVTC to extend my thanks to the entire CVTC family . . . our retirees, our current faculty and staff, and the community leaders who have served on our boards and committees. It is really these individuals who have given of their time, talents, and efforts to make all of our lives better.
Many of the CVTC family are here today . . . and we honor and thank you for your contributions, but many unfortunately are no longer with us and regrettably some may be forgotten. To help remember as many members of the family as possible, this past year we created our Centennial Circle. The circle is located right behind me around the flag pole. To honor past and current employees, board and committee members, “pavers” are now being purchased by friends, families, and students to honor those that really made CVTC who we are today.
Sir Isaac Newton, when complimented on his scientific achievements responded, “If I can see farther down the road . . . it is because I am standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Well, all of us here today are standing on the shoulders of giants . . . those who came before us, the pathfinders, the trailblazers, the early adopters.
Bill and Norb, I hope I’m not too heavy. But everything we do and everything we accomplish was made possible by those who came before us.
But today isn’t just about looking back. Looking back gives us perspective, but it’s even more important for CVTC to always be looking ahead to the future.
Today we have 63 different programs. All of them are preparing our students for the future. And I guarantee you that our future graduates, the next generation of workers will be the best, the most highly educated, the most competent, and the most highly skilled workforce that has ever existed anywhere on earth.
Preparing for the future is our constant challenge.
Now to address that challenge, we will continue to work with our business and industry partners, we will continue to reinvent ourselves every year, and we will meet the need, address the concerns, and capture the opportunities that will help strengthen our communities.
Next up in the future for CVTC is our Energy Education Center. We hope to start construction of that center about this time next year . . . we still have a few more dollars to raise . . . we might want to talk to you about that.
Why an Energy Education Center? Because every business, every industry, every family needs and uses energy constantly.
Our nation’s recent history has taught us how vulnerable we all are if we don’t have a reliable, affordable source of energy. And if it is sustainable, renewable, all the better.
We need to generate more energy and certainly new sources: geothermal, digesters, biofuels, as well as solar and wind alternatives are becoming a part of today’s world and will play even a bigger role in the future.
We also need to transmit energy more efficiently and to use it more wisely. Our homes, cars, our places of business can all be more energy efficient.
A new Energy Education Center will allow us to teach our ag students, our construction and HVAC students, our electrical power distribution students the skills they need for future success.
To be ready for tomorrow, we need to start today . . . and actually we started a few years ago. Pictures and site plans are on display inside for your viewing, and hopefully we’ll all gather again next year for a groundbreaking.
Yesterday, today, and tomorrow . . . that’s what CVTC is all about. 100 years of proven education. And you know what? We’re just getting started! Thank you.