To gear up for Heritage Week, Fred Speckeen will give a talk about the College of New Caledonia during its first decade.
Speckeen was the founding principal at the college from 1970 to 1978. He'll talk about the challenges of opening and growing the college. The free event will be held Thursday on the second floor of the main branch of the Prince George Public Library from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Speckeen came to the college after its first year of operation, which was 1969.
Getting a college in Prince George was a movement supported by the local school boards, as that was what the government wanted, Speckeen said.
"The support meant the boards would provide funding for the college," Speckeen said. "So that was very controversial in terms of getting support to open the college."
It took cooperation from Prince George, Vanderhoof, McBride, Smithers, Burns Lake and Quesnel, Speckeen said. But when it came time to vote for approval, Quesnel initially voted no because they wanted the college in their city and then Quesnel gave approval when it came down to a referendum, Speckeen said. The boards provided operating costs, while the referendum took place for capital dollars, he added.
"There was $400,000 that provided a portable building on the Prince George Secondary School property that didn't even have running water," Speckeen said.
The money went to a computer processing program, furniture, and the purchase of the portable, he added.
"There was 31 faculty and staff when I came and there were about 400 students who were taught in the PGSS classrooms from 4 to 10 p.m. and on weekends because we didn't have any facilities," he said. "The first challenge was to operate with very limited funding to meet expectations of the school board that were providing the money."
Two or three years later, the government did come through with capital funding.
The next adventure was to amalgamate the government-run vocational school established in 1962 with the fledgling college.
"My challenge was to meld the two - that was the government's term - with no game plan," Speckeen said. "So faculty and staff at both institutions were wondering what was going to happen."
To hear how it all settled out, everyone is welcome to attend the free talk at the library.