Our second president Jim Gollattscheck was with the college from the beginning, when Valencia Junior College opened in 1967 to serve 500 students in a collection of portables. As the first vice president of academic affairs, he was among the founding team tasked with creating a college from scratch. Led by chairman of the board Raymer Maguire and first president Albert T. Craig, the charter leadership opened in a few short months after being granted permission to join the state college system following a six-year struggle for funding.
Over the summer, we sat down for seven questions with President Gollattscheck, who gave us a fascinating glimpse into our past by explaining both his role in the founding and his 14-year tenure as college president. He gave us plenty of anecdotes – those one would expect in Central Florida (gators and muddy parking lots) and those that might come as a surprise (matador swords to cut the opening day cake).
More importantly, he spoke on the lasting and indelible impact Valencia’s promise of higher education has had on the community. It was a promise Valencia’s early leadership extended on countless goodwill trips to high schools and churches of the greater Orlando area. “We had a great many students who never had any expectation of going to college,” Gollattscheck says. “Students realizing the possibility of going to college [is] what we had to create.”
50 years later – with more than 70,000 students and six campuses, including the newly-opened Poinciana Campus – Valencia continues to make good on that promise, bringing education and opportunity to more, all while retracing the paths first forged by early leaders like Jim Gollattscheck.