Monday morning will mark a milestone in the history of State Fair Community College and the life of Gary Noland, who will preside over his last Board of Trustees meeting that day.
In February, Noland announced his plans to not seek re-election to the board, which he has served on for the last 12 years, the last eight as president.
His contributions to SFCC reach far beyond his tenure on the Board of Trustees.
Noland has dedicated the last 44 years of his life in continuous service to SFCC, a place he lovingly refers to as home.
“I’ve been here at the college almost since they day they opened their doors,” Noland recently said. “I have such a sense of pride about the school and the opportunities I feel we have been able to provide for the students to make better lives for themselves.
“We have been founded on the belief that our role should be to provide a hand-up to individuals and not a hand-out and I firmly think we have accomplished that task,” he added. “I have seen so many of the students who have attended school here grow and prosper and contribute to the community here. That is what I am most proud of, the fact that our students have gone on to contribute greatly to others.”
Noland’s contributions to both the college and community are far reaching.
Hired in 1972 as a marketing instructor, Noland accepted the position of Director of Job Placement for the College and then moved on to the Director of Statewide Job Placement.
As state director, Noland was contracted through SFCC and was responsible for the 57 vocational-technical schools in Missouri.
During the last 18 years of his employment at the college, he was the director of the Area Vocational Technical School, overseeing the technical training for junior and senior students from 10 area high schools.
In 2001, he retired from teaching and management positions at SFCC only to be appointed to the college’s Foundation Board of Directors.
Three years later, Noland was elected to his first term as trustee to the college, making him the only person who has worked for the college, served on the Foundation and as a trustee.
“I have worked with many board members during my 29 years in community college leadership, and I can say with certainty that Gary Noland is one of the most dedicated and hard-working trustees I have ever known,” SFCC President Dr. Joanna Anderson said. “Gary’s personal knowledge of the college’s history, the people and the communities we serve as well as his sound business practices have been instrumental in the college’s growth and success.”
Noland is quick to point out he has been fortunate to work with several leaders and staff members at the college who have guided him as well as crediting the support throughout the communities State Fair serves.
“When I started here in 1972 we were known as Plywood U,” Noland recalled affectionately. “I started teaching in a room in the auto-tech shop that had three bays in the entire building, but we made it a success.
“We really wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for all the people who truly believe in education and are committed to that mission at the college,” Noland said. “I have been so fortunate in my time here to have worked with and been mentored by some very good mentors who have helped me in my tenure here.”
Noland said he had worked in some capacity with every president of SFCC but gave praise to the college’s first two presidents, Fred Davis and Marvin Fielding, for their guidance and direction.
“Fred and Marge Davis are such good people,” Noland said. “When Fred hired me he gave me some advice that I still keep with me today. He said that when you live in a glass house everything that you do is watched by the community, and you need to make sure you serve the community and do it well. I have always tried to live up to those words.”
Noland said he also owed a great deal to Fielding, who he described as a savvy money manager and one of the best role models he could find.
“It was under Dr. Fielding that the college added the CTC (Career and Technical Center), which was such a benefit to the college,” Noland said. “He was such a supporter of expansion and building projects at the college and his vision was such a benefit to the college.”
Noland too has been a benefit to the college in his 44 years of service.
When asked what he was most proud of during this tenure he said simply, the students.
“No matter what I have done, I always remembered that the focus of the college and our mission is to provide educational opportunities for all students,” Noland said proudly. “Our goal has always been to provide a high-quality education at an affordable cost to everyone without factors of age or income or background to stand in their way.
“There really is not much of a reason for a student to say that they can’t go to SFCC or get a degree when we offer so many programs to help benefit the students such as our tutors and Navigators and the availability of our class scheduling,” he added. “I think we give them every opportunity to learn and grow and have the chance to do what they can.”
Noland pointed to the smaller class sizes at SFCC and the greater attention the college’s faculty can provide to the students as reasons for their success.
“I think the biggest thing that has happened here at the college is the successes we have seen each year, especially the student successes,” Noland said. “I think this is a great place for students to come, develop their skills and then move on and contribute to others in some capacity.
“It’s important for me to give back and remain active and I plan on doing that as long as I can,” he added. “I’m not a setter and there are plenty of things I will do to keep busy.”
One thing Noland is going to focus on is time with his family, especially upping his “paw-paw” time, dusting off his fishing pole and working on his golf game.
Noland and his wife Debbie have a son and daughter and six grandchildren who live in Sedalia and St. Mary’s, Kansas.
“I am extremely proud of my children and my grandchildren and I plan on spending as much time as I can with my family,” Noland said. “I’m looking forward to my life with Debbie; she has been such a great support to me all these years and I want to be there for her in her creative endeavors.”
Debbie Noland spent 29 years as an instructor in the English Department at SFCC during many of the years her husband was in the classroom at the college.
“I was in the vo-tech side of the college, and Debbie was in the academic side but we both loved what we did here,” Noland said. “We always had an agreement that if we had a bad day at school we wouldn’t talk about it.
“Arthur Mallory, the former Commissioner of Education for the State, once told me that you needed to have a plan for work and you needed to work the plan,” Noland said. “I always took that to mean that I should try to go to work early, stay late and clean my tools on my own time; I think it has served me well.”
In addition to his service to SFCC, Noland served his country in the Army in the first Cavalry Division, Air Mobile in Vietnam.
Noland received multiple honors for his military service and is a life member of the American Legion and VFW and has served on the VFW Military Honors Team since 2001.
Noland has also been active with the Missouri Farm Bureau, serving as Pettis County Farm Bureau President for four years, the District Board for four years and was a member of the State Board for nine years.
He has served as the president of the Lions Club and is a member of the Moose, Elks and Shawnee A.F and A.M. Masonic Lodge 653.
In 2015, Noland was presented the Trustees Leadership Award by the Missouri Community College Association.
In recognition of his service to State Fair and the community, the college will host a reception to honor Noland’s retirement from 9 to 11 a.m. Monday in the Heckart Science and Allied Health Center’s Thompson Conference Center. The public is invited to attend.
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484