In September of 1946, the Holyoke Graduate School was established as a municipal program providing night-school college classes to returning WWII veterans and other adults. In March of 1947, the Massachusetts General Court enacted legislation permitting municipal higher education programs to be called junior colleges, and on April 7, 1947, the Holyoke School Committee changed the name of the Holyoke Graduate School to Holyoke Junior College.
Holyoke Junior College, known as "JC," flourished thanks to the perseverance of Dr. George Frost, the school's founder, and Ellen Lynch, his secretary, who were the only full-time employees until 1958. They shared a tiny office in a former cloak room in the Holyoke High School building. Together they scavenged chalk, erasers, and pencils for the part-time faculty, who hailed from Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and other area colleges. By 1964, Holyoke Junior College had grown to 690 full-time students. On July 1, 1964, Holyoke Junior College joined the state community college system and was renamed Holyoke Community College.
When Holyoke Community College's newly renovated building (the former Holyoke High School, in the block bordered by Sargeant, Cabot, Beech and Pine streets) burned to the ground on January 4, 1968, it was the resourcefulness and innovative spirit of the JC college students and Holyoke residents that enabled students to resume their studies in church basements, an armory, rooms above a restaurant, and other Holyoke locations, after missing only one day of classes. On January 9, a full page advertisement in the Holyoke Transcript Telegram urged everyone in the city to write and call Governor Volpe to insist that the school be rebuilt in Holyoke. On January 12, the Massachusetts Board of Regional Community Colleges voted to rebuild the college in Holyoke, and exactly one year after the fire, the college moved into a new temporary building on Beech and Sargeant Streets.
Construction of the new campus on the Sheehan farm property on Homestead Avenue commenced in June of 1971, and spring semester classes began at the new campus on February 19, 1974. In the spring of 1975, Dr. George Frost announced his resignation, and Dr. David M. Bartley, Speaker of the House of Representatives and a 1954 graduate of Holyoke Junior College, was appointed the second president of the college. The "new" campus originally consisted of two buildings, "A" building and "B" building. In March of 1975, "C" building was finished, and later, "G" building opened in 1981. In 2000, the Bartley Center for Athletics and Recreation was completed. In May of 2006, the Kittredge Center for Business and Workforce Development, equipped with state-of-the art technology, was dedicated.
Holyoke Community College, now serves 9,000 students yearly, including over 1,000 students taking online courses. With a tradition of teaching excellence spanning six decades, HCC has the highest number of students transferring to four-year colleges and universities from among the 15 community colleges in Massachusetts.
From its humble beginnings, HCC has lived up to its motto "community is our middle name." HCC continues its commitment to serving students of all ages and all walks of life from Holyoke and 23 surrounding communities as it begins its seventh decade of existence.
To learn more about the history of HCC, see George H. Ashley III's book History of Holyoke Community College, Volume I: 1946-1975, published by HCC in 2005 and available in the library or for sale in the bookstore.