Saturday, December 6, 2008

Memorial service set for Dr. Arnold E. Wirtala, Germanna's founding president

A memorial service will be held for Dr. Arnold E. Wirtala, Germanna's first president, at 3 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 20, at Fairview Baptist Church at River Club, 10835 Tidewater Trail in Fredericksburg.
Germanna's founding president helped save college from threat of closing during early period of low enrollment in the 1970s

A message from Germanna Community College President David A. Sam:

It is with deep regret that I inform you of the passing of Germanna’s founding president. Dr. Arnold E. Wirtala died Tuesday at home in Fredericksburg, at age 85. He served as Germanna’s president from 1969 to 1980. As Germanna’s first president, Dr. Wirtala led the college through some of its most challenging times, keeping the institution going when low enrollment threatened its very existence. GCC opened with 400 students in 1970, and struggled to meet enrollment goals in the early years. There was talk in the state legislature of closing the college.
Dr. Wirtala’s efforts helped give Germanna the chance to grow and thrive as it has today, serving a total headcount of nearly 13,000, and spreading out over an area the size of Rhode Island with campuses in Fredericksburg and Locust Grove, a tech center in Culpeper, and the potential for the opening of a Stafford center in 2009.

When Dr. Wirtala arrived at Germanna in September 1969, he says in a history of GCC, “I found only stakes marking the location of the college.” Germanna opened its doors in 1970. He called starting the college, “an exciting adventure.”

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