To commemorate fifty years since its establishment, the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton (UACCM) will host a community-wide party on Thursday, October 13. The event will begin at 5 p.m. with a free BBQ and chicken dinner for all area residents, just as the institution did for the original dedication five decades ago.

This year marks three major milestones for the institution: fifty years since its creation by the Arkansas General Assembly; 20 years as a two-year college; and 10 years as a member of the University of Arkansas System.

Dinner, featuring smoked pork and chicken, will be served from 5 to 7 p.m. Following the dinner, there will be a free concert at 7 p.m. by four-time, Grammy-nominated band Trout Fishing in America. Trout Fishing in America is a musical duo which performs both folk/pop and children’s music. The duo is composed of Keith Grimwood and Ezra Idlet and has received much critical recognition for both family and adult music.

Weather-permitting, all events will take place outside on the campus grounds in the area between the Fine Arts Building, The Plaza, and the University Center. Limited seating will be provided, but individuals may bring chairs or blankets for additional outdoor seating.

As UACCM celebrates several important historical highlights, the college reflects on a proud past of serving the region. The mission of a commitment to excellence in learning and personal enrichment is reflected in several significant ways: a dedicated faculty and staff who have a combined total of almost 800 years of service to the college; ambitious students from all walks of life; and an ongoing ability to respond rapidly to the evolving needs of the area’s workforce requirements.

From an initial enrollment of 278 students and 13 programs in 1963 to the current almost 2300 credit students exploring 43 plans of study options, the institution has kept its focus on its students and the community. Over the past half-century, the institution has been under the direction of just three leaders: Thurston Kirk, Nathan Crook, and Dr. Larry Davis.

In 1961, the Arkansas General Assembly, recognizing the need for expanded vocational education opportunities, provided state funds for the construction and operation of a second post-secondary vocational-technical school. Arkansas’ first postsecondary vocational-technical school had opened in Pine Bluff in 1959, and it was originally intended to serve the needs of the entire state.

Cities throughout the state competed strongly for consideration as the location for the second vocational-technical school. While the decision was up to the State Board of Education, Governor Orval Faubus encouraged the Board to select a site north and west of Little Rock, since the first school was established south and east of Little Rock.

In 1962, the State Board of Education voted to consider sites at Morrilton and Fort Smith. Conway County Sheriff Marlin Hawkins and his wife, Marvine, agreed to make an initial donation of 21 acres of property, ensuring Morrilton was selected as the location for the new school. On June 10, 1962, the Board officially named the school Petit Jean Vocational-Technical School, after a local landmark, Petit Jean Mountain, and appointed Thurston Kirk as the director.

The first classes began in September 1963 with training offered for post-secondary students in the following areas: appliance service, auto and diesel mechanics, construction technology (consisting of drafting and surveying, heavy equipment operation and maintenance, and building construction), landscaping and horticulture, machine shop, office practices (typing, shorthand, bookkeeping, office machines, data processing), practical nursing, printing, and welding.

Petit Jean Vo-Tech served Arkansas for 30 years as an adult vocational school. In 1991, in order to provide more effective, improved delivery systems of education, Petit Jean Vo-Tech made the revolutionary transformation to a two-year technical college.

That year, Petit Jean Vocational Technical Director Nathan Crook, who had been appointed in 1985, worked with State Senator Allen Gordon in helping lead the charge to convert 14 of the state’s vo-techs to more comprehensive two-year colleges. The resulting legislation, the “Two-Year Postsecondary Education Reorganization Act of 1991” (Act 1244) was signed into law by then governor Bill Clinton, transforming Petit Jean Vo-Tech to Petit Jean Technical College (PJTC). State authority was transferred from the Arkansas Board of Vocational-Technical Education to the Arkansas Board of Higher Education, and the college expanded its curriculum to include general education courses that were transferable to other state colleges and universities.

In 1997, Petit Jean Technical College changed its name to Petit Jean College in order to better reflect its more comprehensive mission. On August 22, 2000, the citizens of Conway County approved a permanent ¼ cent sales and use tax in support of the college.

In 2001, Petit Jean College merged with the University of Arkansas System, becoming one of 18 independent campuses and entities backed by the UA tradition of excellence. This affiliation with the University of Arkansas System has allowed UACCM to collaborate with other UA System institutions, including the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and the University of Arkansas Criminal Justice Institute. These partnerships further expand access and options available to students within the immediate service area.

UACCM looks forward to its continued role in serving the unique needs of the population through credit and non-credit programs, adult education, and workforce training. As the skills set and technology requirements required by the labor market change, UACCM will further expand and adapt its curriculum to help foster continued economic development. This includes forming innovative partnerships with other educational institutions, businesses, and industry to further expand access and options available to students within the immediate service area.

The college invites all former students and graduates of Petit Jean Vocational-Technical School, Petit Jean Technical College, Petit Jean College, and the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton to help celebrate the 50th anniversary milestone by joining the UACCM Alumni Association. This free membership is available online.

UACCM will continue commemorative events for a two-year period to observe 50 years from the time it was established in 1961 to 50 years from the time construction was completed and classes began in 1963. The college will host a number of free events for the community, including concerts, musical performances, and guest speakers. More information, including an updated schedule of events, will be available at or by calling (501) 977-2011 or 1-800-264-1094.


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