GCC poised for ‘transformational project’

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 January 2015 at 12:00 am

College pursues $20 million-plus expansion, adding buildings and scholarships

Photos by Tom Rivers – The clock leading to the entrance of GCC in Batavia is pictured with the Conable Technology Building at left. A new “Student Success Center” will be built in front of the clock at what is now a parking lot. GCC in May expects to start site work for the building, shifting the parking lot.

College supporters and staff, including President Jim Sunser at right, gather for the campaign kickoff Wednesday for the college’s biggest building effort since it started in 1966.

BATAVIA – In 1965, a year before Genesee Community College officially started, Carl and Bernice Yunker took up the challenge to help create the college.

They talked to neighbors and friends, and local town and county officials. The idea wasn’t popular. People worried their taxes would go up with a new community college.

The Yunkers and other GCC supporters were able to convince the public to back the effort. The Yunkers’ son, Craig, observed his parents a half century ago and their push to make GCC a reality.

He is taking a turn in the spotlight now, working to rally friends and neighbors, and the general public on behalf of GCC. The college is planning a $20 million-plus project, its most ambitious since its beginning.

Craig Yunker, managing partner at CY Farms in Elba, addresses a campaign kickoff for GCC on Wednesday at the college. About $4 million of a $5 million goal has already been raised

Yunker is the chairman of the fund-raising campaign that seeks $5 million in donations from the public. Donors have already stepped forward with $4 million.

“This campaign will change this college,” Yunker said during a campaign kickoff on Wednesday evening with about 100 GCC supporters. “It will propel it for the next 50 years.”

The college in the spring expects to start site work on two buildings – a 9,000-square-foot “Student Success Center” and 43,000-square-foot “College and Community Event Center.”

GCC also is working to raise $1 million for scholarships. That endowed fund will allow GCC to offer financial help to 80 to 100 local students each year.

Jodi Gaines, CEO and founder of Claims Recovery Financial Services in Albion, is heading the fund-raising efforts for GCC in Orleans County. She said the college is an important asset for the local business community. It gives many residents a chance to improve their skills as they pursue careers and higher education.

GCC has campus centers in Albion and Medina, and four others in the GLOW counties, in addition to the main campus in Batavia.

“GCC and Orleans County have a very good and longstanding partnership,” Gaines said.

She has assembled a campaign team for Orleans County that includes Joe Martillotta and CRFS employees Jessica Downey and Jackie Gardner. Gaines welcomes more help to raise money for the campaign. There will be a kickoff for the campaign in Orleans County next month. Those details are still being worked out.

The college has grown to 7,200 students with 398 full-time staff and 284 part-timers. GCC President James Sunser said the college needs more classrooms. Right now GCC has 56 square feet of instructional space per full-time-equivalent student, which he said is much lower than the 80 to 100 square feet ratio present at other SUNY community colleges.

“Space at Genesee is extraordinarily limited,” he said.

GCC plans to add 15 to 20 new classrooms, labs and other instructional space to house new programs, including food processing, agri-business, heath sciences, STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics) initiatives, expanded tourism and hospitality, enhanced mathematics and language arts tutoring and lab support, and on-site bachelor’s level courses in collaboration with other colleges and universities.

Rather than just add new classrooms, GCC is proposing a Student Success Center that would provide a clear, one-stop destination for students and first-time visitors to GCC, and “second-career” students.

The building would include student support services to boost student achievement and retention. The vacated space for some of these services at the William W. Stuart Forum will be renovated for classrooms.

Bob Boyce, president of the GCC Foundation, addresses the crowd at the campaign kickoff inside the William W. Stuart Forum. The Foundation has set a $5 million fund-raising goal.

The new “College and Community Event Center” would be next to the college’s athletic fields. The building would include classrooms, coaching facilities, food service facilities and a wellness center.

The building would have public floor space that could be used for student gatherings, trade shows, community exhibitions, athletic competitions and charitable events.

New York State will pay $10 million towards the $20 million-plus projects. Genesee County, the college’s host county, has committed $7 million.

The College Foundation is trying to raise $5 million, with $1 million of that going to scholarships.

Yunker urged the community to support what he called “a transformational project.”

“We have important work to do,” he told campaign supporters and volunteers. “We accept the challenge the Foundation has put to us and we will raise the $5 million and bring this vision to reality.”

To see a campaign video for the project, click here.