Chesapeake College, founded in 1965 as Maryland’s first regional community college, was developed to serve the needs of the upper and middle Eastern Shore. More than 40 years after its founding, the College continues to respond to the growing needs of Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, and Talbot counties, which comprise its service area.
In 1965, the Maryland General Assembly adopted legislation providing for the creation of regional community colleges. That same year, three members each from Caroline, Kent, Queen Anne’s, and Talbot counties’ school boards met with representatives from the Maryland State Department of Education to plan for Chesapeake College, which was chartered December 22, 1965.
Shortly after Dr. George Silver, the College’s first president, assumed his duties in July 1966, a 170-acre site near Wye Mills, bordered by U.S. Route 50 and Maryland Routes 662 and 213 was purchased. The Washington, D.C., architectural firm of McLeod, Ferrara, and Ensign was engaged to develop a master plan. Phase I construction, started that year, included five buildings: Humanities, Science, Library/Administration, College Center, and Gymnasium.
Classes opened in September 1967, in the Queen Anne’s County High School in Centreville, with an enrollment of 260 students taking classes in the late afternoons and evenings. During that year, the administrative staff, faculty, and library were housed in the Kennard Elementary School in Centreville. Beginning in September 1968, its second year, the College took gradual occupancy of the five new buildings at Wye Mills. Chesapeake College graduated its first class in May 1969.
The new campus was dedicated, Dr. Silver was formally inaugurated, and the College held its first Homecoming Weekend during the 1969–70 school year. The College reached another milestone with full accreditation granted by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools as Chesapeake’s third academic year drew to a close.
A new Board of Trustees, appointed by the Governor on July 1, 1974, saw ground broken for construction of the Technical Center and for an addition to the Physical Education building that would house the College’s Olympic-size pool.
The opening of these new buildings for the 1976-77 academic year increased the College’s ability to serve its public, and the traditionally strong liberal arts and sciences, career, occupational, and technical curricula were expanded. These programs continue to grow, and the College later constructed a Manufacturing Training Center building to house workshops, classrooms, and equipment.
Dr. Robert C. Schleiger was inaugurated as the College’s second president in 1976. As enrollment at Chesapeake continued to climb and campus buildings were fully utilized, the College offered credit and non-credit courses at locations throughout the four support counties and in Dorchester County.
The vote by Dorchester County, in June 1979, to join Chesapeake as a full-support county was a direct outgrowth of the first full-time satellite center in Cambridge, which opened in August 1978.
An Early Childhood Development Center was constructed in 1989 to serve the parents of preschoolers who are students at the College, faculty and staff members, and the community. The center also provides classroom experience for students pursuing a career in Early Childhood Education.
Dr. John R. Kotula, who assumed his duties as the College’s third president in March 1992, presided over an era of expansion. The Chesapeake College Cambridge Center, a full-service satellite campus, opened for the 1994-95 academic year, and the College’s Center for Business and the Arts opened in 1996 with offices, classrooms and a 500-seat Performing Arts Center.
The College, which previously offered only an Associate of Arts degree, added the Associate of Science and Associate of Applied Science degrees. Three intercollegiate sports—women’s basketball, soccer and softball—have been added since 1992, when College officials announced expansion of the athletic program.
Dr. Stuart M. Bounds, the fourth President of Chesapeake College, assumed his duties in 1997 and led Chesapeake through another significant growth period involving new partnerships.
In 1997, Chesapeake College and the Macqueen Gibbs Willis (MGW) School of Nursing merged to offer nursing degrees and certificates. The Chesapeake College MGW Nursing Program and other health career programs are now based at the Chesapeake College Health Professions and Athletics Center.
The College continues to reach out to all segments of the community by partnering with local organizations, such as the Workforce Investment Board to provide training and retraining in business and technical subjects. Partnerships with Departments of Social Service and Local Management Boards help the College to serve diverse populations with special needs. The Upper Shore Manufacturing & Business Council and the Small Business Development Center provide a connection to the many manufacturing and other business organizations in the region. The College also moved forward with Distance Learning opportunities at several sites in the five-county region served by the College and is pursuing other endeavors.
In 1998, Chesapeake joined with Salisbury University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Washington College and Wor-Wic Community College to form the Eastern Shore Association of Colleges.
In 2002 the College opened a 49,000 square-foot Learning Resource Center, which contains the library, computer labs and Student Support Services. The Eastern Shore Higher Education Center opened in 2003 to provide baccalaureate and graduate coursework on Chesapeake’s campus through various partner institutions.
The fall of 2003 marked the end of renovations to the Dorchester Administration Building, where the Office of Student Affairs , the Registration Office and the Business Office are housed to provide enhanced services to Chesapeake students. A new mezzanine level in the Performing Arts Center opened in 2004 with an additional 300 seats for the theatre. The renovated and expanded Caroline College Center opened in 2006. The Talbot Science Center was also renovated in 2007.
Dr. Bounds retired in June 2008, and Dr. Barbara A. Viniar was named Chesapeake’s fifth president. She began her tenure on July 1, 2008, and was officially inaugurated on March 27, 2009.
In 2010, a renovation to the Kent Humanities Building was completed. As the first phase of the Center for Leadership and Environmental Learning (CLEEn), Chesapeake dedicated a wind turbine on campus in the fall of 2011. In 2013, renovation and expansion began on Chesapeake’s physical education building to create the Health Professions and Athletics Center. The HPAC opened for Fall Semester 2015 classes. Chesapeake celebrated its 50th birthday during the 2015-2016 academic year.
Dr. Bounds returned to Chesapeake on July 1, 2017 to serve as the college’s interim president for one year.
Dr. Cliff Coppersmith began his term as Chesapeake’s sixth president on May 29, 2018. Chesapeake launched a new Strategic Plan in 2019.