BEATRICE -- Even 25 years later, the memory of the move still brings bitterness and resentment to those closely associated with Fairbury Junior College/Southeast Community College-Fairbury.

Last summer, former Fairbury college faculty, students and members of the community held a reunion for the 25th anniversary of "Save Our Campus," a campaign to keep a college in Fairbury.

This year marks the official 25th anniversary of the move.

Vicki Martin, an English faculty member at Fairbury college and later SCC-Beatrice, said the movement began out of love and appreciation for the city's educational institution.

"When I came here, the college had been started by the City of Fairbury right before World War II," Martin said. "It was really an amazing thing for a town like this to have started and maintained a junior college for that period of time. I was really happy to come and be a part of that history and be part of the academic education."

The junior college was a two-year academic experience before students would transfer to a university, Martin said.

"I thought it was an important part of the educational system; it offered our young people ... the first two years of a college education," she said. "All of that fit with my philosophy of education."

In 1986, the Fairbury campus was closed and merged with Southeast Community College-Beatrice. The move combined Beatrice's vocational and adult education programs with Fairbury's academic transfer courses.

Martin said the board of governors' vote to move the campus was frustrating.

"I was really disturbed about this area board ripping the school out of its roots and moving it," Martin said. "I felt like Fairbury deserved to continue to have the college they had started."

An effort to save the Fairbury location materialized in the "Save Our Campus" campaign started by faculty members and students.

Martin joined, saying she "felt that Fairbury had a right to continue with the college they had."

Some faculty members Martin taught alongside resigned and took other positions. Some moved to Beatrice and continued to teach.

Martin stayed in Fairbury and commuted to Beatrice for 15 years before retiring in 2001.

Even a quarter century later, Martin said the move still hurts some.

"For quite awhile, and in some cases for 25 years, people didn't give up the hurt of having to move," she said. "Personally, I came to grips with it, but I also know there were some people who were not even able after 25 years to come to grips with the fact the campus had moved."

Martin put the reaction of Fairbury citizens and those involved with the school on a range of "I don't care" to "I haven't forgiven the board yet."

"I fall somewhere in the middle," she said.

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Fairbury Public Schools superintendent Fred Helmink said the move of Fairbury college to Beatrice "is a sad memory."

"A lot of people around here went to Fairbury college," Helmink said. "A lot of people remember those good football and basketball teams, and they did have a lot of success here."

Helmink said former Creighton basketball coach and current Oregon coach Dana Altman even coached at Fairbury for a time.

Carol Cerny took two business classes at Fairbury. She now works as secretary for Jefferson Intermediate School — the former site of the college.

"I don't think about it too much except when people ask, 'Where is Jefferson?'" Cerny said. "I tell them it's the old Southeast Community College building and they say, 'Oh, I know where that is.'"

"People still associate it with the college being here," she said.

Martin said she has three grandsons who soon will be attending Jefferson Intermediate School, now housed in the former Fairbury college building on K Street.

"I think that education continues even though it's in a different level is significant," she said. "When I think of it that way, the fact that they are going to be educated in the building that I was an educator in, it's a comforting thing."


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