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Thursday, February 22, 2024

It was 1966 when Joan Golliday walked through the doors of what was then Santa Fe Junior College.

Almost 50 years later, Golliday sat in a chair in the Santa Fe College Fine Arts Hall during Friday’s Fall convocation. She sat with Doug Johnson, a retiree who worked as a dual enrollment counselor when the college opened its doors, and Santa Fe President Jackson Sasser to commemorate Santa Fe’s progress and growth.

Golliday recalled the day she first taught as a math professor, not knowing what to expect or what kind of students she would encounter. The college opened expecting 500 students but got close to 900, she said.

"We didn’t know what we were getting into," Golliday said.

From there, the classes evolved and the college grew. What started as an experiment turned into something bigger, thanks to the faculty, staff and professors who shared a common dream, Johnson said.

"The experiment has worked," he said, and then motioned his hand toward the audience of professors, faculty and staff. "And these are the people that are now carrying it on."

During the ceremony, Sasser thanked the students, faculty and professors who he said helped the college get to where it is today — the top community college in the nation, a prestigious ranking given by the Aspen Institute earlier this year.

"This is what No. 1 looks like," Sasser said.

Sasser also addressed the college’s new initiatives, including the proposal for two new four-year degrees, health information management and information systems technology.

Sasser also announced his plans to improve the Blount Center once the needed funds are met — plans that include a three-story, 50,000-square-foot facility, with classrooms and state-of-the-art labs. The upgrade to the center, which is located near the UF campus, "will serve East Gainesville at a higher level and then also the whole entrepreneur innovation activity that’s going on downtown with the University of Florida," he said.

Sasser also said the $800,000 award from the Aspen Institute would go toward student success projects. The college received an additional $800,000 from the state legislature for the recognition and another $643,000 from the legislature and governor for achieving several performance goals.

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