HACC Convocation 2007 will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the presidency of Edna V Baehre, Ph.D.
The ceremony will take place at Cooper Student Center on HACC’s Harrisburg Campus at 3 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 14.
The event will start with an academic processional with full regalia following which Benjamin D. James, Ph.D., of Carlisle will be the recipient of an honorary doctorate in public service in recognition of his writing HACC’s original curriculum in 1964.
A new “Chain of Office” medallion presentation will honor Baehre and the five former presidents of Central Pennsylvania’s Community College. They are: Clyde E. Blocker, Ed.D., 1964-75; S. James Manilla, Ed.D., 1975-77; James A. Odom Jr., 1978-83; Kenneth B. Woodbury Jr., Ed.D., 1983-92, and Mary L. Fifield, Ph. D., 1992-97.
Retired Carlisle professor to receive honorary degree from HACC
Benjamin D. James of Carlisle talks about his 77 years as a psychologist, educator and humanitarian with an effortless joy he attaches to having helped people in all walks of life.
James, who marked his 95th birthday last month, is about to receive an honorary doctor of public service from HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, for authoring the curriculum that initially attracted 426 students when the college opened in 1964.
The degree will be conferred during Convocation 2007 on Friday to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Edna V. Baehre, Ph.D., as president of the college that today serves more than 18,000 credit students and 35,000 noncredit and workforce development students on campuses in Harrisburg, Lancaster, Lebanon and Gettysburg as well as the rapidly growing York Center and Virtual Campus.
“I am pleased to honor the commitment of hundreds of hours that Ben James volunteered as chairman of the curriculum,” Baehre says. “The curriculum was perceptive and pertinent. It encompassed core needs that remain relevant 43 years later. This was a truly remarkable accomplishment in a time when community college expertise was not easy to find.”
James Evans of Harrisburg, who co-founded HACC with the late Bruce Cooper, nominated James for his “extraordinary contributions, ranging from a lifelong career as first a student, then professor and dean positions at Dickinson College in Carlisle to working with industry and local and state organizations to improve people’s lives in diverse ways.”
Born and raised in the Pennsylvania coal region of Plymouth in Luzerne County, James remembers deciding to go to college at age 8. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Dickinson College where he played on the football team that defeated Penn State 10-6 on Oct.17, 1931, cited as a victory in historical accounts. His performance on the team in his college years led to his being named to the Dickinson and Pennsylvania Sports Halls of Fame.
James went on to earn a master’s degree from Bucknell University and a doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania. In his 36 years at Dickinson, he was a professor of psychology and education, the first admissions dean, first dean of students, head coach of football and track, assistant basketball coach and ultimately a college trustee.
He sees his maternal grandfather as a major influence in his life. The late David John King came from Wales to America in 1870 and ran a coal mine breaker and cage for the Glen Alden Coal Co. in Plymouth.
“My grandfather was the finest person I’ve ever known.” says Ben James. “He taught me not to put a priority on money. The important priorities are people and stepping up to help them.”
So when his help was sought to formulate the HACC curriculum, the answer was yes. “There was a great need in America for a home college where the school board, state and student shared the cost,” the retired college dean says. In recalling what happened, he starts off, “You’re going to find this hard to believe but….”
He explains, “They asked me very casually in the spring of 1964. It was all very informal. No one had any idea of who the students would be. The state had no information that could be used as a starting point. Neither did Washington, so people were gathered” together to form a committee chaired by James.
Those called together to help with the huge task were Shippensburg Dean Ralph Heiges, who later was president of what became Shippensburg University; HACC charter trustee Helen Swope, and Francis B. Haas Sr., retired state superintendent of Public Instruction and president emeritus of Bloomsburg University.
Evans, who went to Dickinson College and first knew James in his role as a fraternity adviser, crystallizes the situation. “It was a deadline project for which no blueprint existed.”
James, who is noted for carrying out whatever tasks he undertakes quietly and with a sense of humor, recalls: “It was one of the few times in my life – during those trips back and forth to Harrisburg – I wondered what did I get myself into!”
Now, 43 years later, James repeatedly praises the determination of Evans and Cooper in fielding the dream of a community college while they served on the Harrisburg School District Board of Directors.
“They started from scratch,” he says. “They had nothing, no money, no location, no professors… but they were determined. Cooper and Evans got people like me to volunteer to make it possible for the poor person to get a higher education and work while doing it.”
His grandfather would have seen helping to see the dreams of Cooper and Evans become a reality as doing the right thing – helping people. However, James, who lives with his wife, Betty, at the Sarah A. Todd Memorial Home, Carlisle, fine-tuned that philosophy over the years in regards to his role as an educator.
Noting he loves teaching, he defines the teacher-student relationship in this way: “A teacher enters the life of a student by invitation so that the student can become the best possible student that student wants to become.”
He considers himself lucky to always have God in his life as he has used his diverse talents in the community.
“You’re not going to believe this, but …” He laughs and adds, “I never took time off.”
Dr. Ben James’other achievements
Previous honors bestowed on Ben James include honorary doctoral awards from both Dickinson College in and Penn State Dickinson School of Law.
Dickinson College named a building -- the James Center—in his honor in 1987, but it was torn down last year to clear the land for a new science building at the corner of Louther and College streets in Carlisle.
James, well-known for his contagious happiness, jokes about “outliving the building.”
James also earned two pages of recognition in a book, “The History of Daily Express 1931-2006” for serving for many years as a pioneer consultant in what would later be formally labeled a human resources department by Daily, a Carlisle-based freight trucking company, and other companies.
In addition, James was
- professor of Psychology at Dickinson College;
- first Dean of Admissions at Dickinson College;
- founder of Pennsylvania Association of College Admissions Directors;
- first Dickinson Dean of Students;
- chairman of the school-town committee that worked through the integration of Carlisle schools;
- chairman of Pennsylvania state government’s Advisory Council on Employment Security;
- first Chairman of Cumberland County Children’s Welfare Committee;
- a lieutenant serving in the Pacific Theater during World War II, and
- a past president Carlisle Rotary Club.