OTC history preserved in library vault.
Here’s a pop quiz. What’s the name of the OTC mascot (yes, there is one) and what other mascots were considered?
The answer: OTC’s mascot is the eagle. The other nominees were rhinoceros and porpoise because, as the staff member reportedly recommended, the ocean-loving mascot would allow the college to boast: “OTC offers an education with a ‘porpoise.’”
That’s the story that Todd Wilkinson, OTC archivist and service desk manager in the Learning Resource Center, recalls.
As the college marks the 25th anniversary of when voters approved the tax district that created OTC, Wilkinson has been spending a lot of time researching the college’s history in the archive room in the resource center.
“Being a college for 25 years is not a lot of time. We’re such a fluid campus, so we’re very lucky to have what we’ve got,” he said.
Items that have been collected and saved range from giveaway trinkets and lapel pins to the first commencement program and original campus signage.
One piece that Wilkinson considers the college’s most revered keepsake is a large, framed poster signed by students, faculty, trustees and staff from the first year the college was open.
It is called the Founders Scroll and is usually hanging in the resource center on the OTC Springfield Campus.
One of the files found in a drawer among more than a half-dozen file cabinets contains all of the names suggested for the college when it was being organized in 1990.
The names came from faculty and staff at Graff Vocational Technical Center, as well as area citizens.
The suggestions included:
Ozark Prairie Community College, George Washington Carver Community College, Lincoln Community College, Show-Me Community College, Mountain Country Community College, Lake Country Community, Ozarks Empire Community College, Southwest Technical College and Harry S. Truman Regional.
Eventually, the name Heart of the Ozarks Technical Community College was selected but later was shortened to Ozarks Technical Community College.
Wilkinson said if others have keepsake items they believe the college may want, they can contact Wilkinson at 447-8174 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It’s important to have these milestones,” Wilkinson said. “We’re always looking for items related to the college’s history. We’d be happy to take a look at what people have.”
From first graduating class to full-time faculty. Meet Susan Siemens!
There are thousands of OTC alum and former faculty and staff who can say, “been there, done that” when it comes to either studying or working at the college.
But as OTC marks the 25th anniversary of when voters created the college district, Susan Siemens stands alone.
Siemens is the only person on staff who was in the first graduating class and now works full-time for the college teaching political science in both seated and online classes. This is also not the first time she’s been interviewed for a story about OTC.
When OTC got it’s first accreditation that first year, the media interviewed Siemens.
“Back then, I didn’t know it could get much bigger,” she said about the college, which opened with about 1,000 students and currently boasts enrollment of more than 15,000.
Siemens came to what was then Heart of the Ozarks Community College in 1991 at age 38 after spending time in the Middle East teaching reading. When she returned to the Ozarks, she wanted to continue her education and chose respiratory therapy.
Classes were scattered at Cox North and Lincoln High School. Almost everything else on the current Springfield campus was a dirt parking lot.
Siemens took part in the first commencement exercise at Central Assembly of God, and then went to work at Cox and St. John’s hospitals. Later, she returned to school and got her masters in management and a PhD in education.
She came to OTC as an adjunct in 2002, teaching everything from geography to political science. She later became a full-time faculty member. Siemens likes to share her unique status with her students.
“I’m the only one to be in the first class and to come back and teach,” she said.
“I can talk to the students here and tell them about where we had to go for classes and how we got our act together. We have more prestige now. Those who went before them really helped to make this a valid college. We’re not just a rag tag group. There’s a sense of pride of how we started out and where we are now.”