The clouds threatened to open up all morning but failed to rain on South Plains
College’s Dedication of the Earl and June Gerstenberger Hall, located at South College Avenue and J.V. Morton Drive on Friday morning.
The South Plains College Board of Regents and administration hosted the dedication ceremony on Friday (Sept. 7) before a crowd of more than 175 friends, family and members of the Levelland community. The event was followed by a ribbon cutting and a reception for the honorees.
Earl Gerstenberger presented the Dedication Response in which he shared memories of his family’s time in Levelland. He spoke about leaving the Brenham area and its lush greenery and trees to help build South Plains College on the flat land of West Texas with its tumbleweed stampedes. He also spoke about his fears that the college would not have enough students during its first registration, thus, there may not be a need for all of the 15 instructors, four administrators and the tax collector. Gerstenberger said the college opened on Sept. 15, 1958 with 576 students – 76 more than they expected.
He spent a few minutes sharing funny memories about the students at SPC. He said that in the first semester, more than 30 women over the age of 40 registered for classes. Gerstenberger admitted to being intimidated by the “older women” in his classes. He talked about Marcellette O’Callaghan, the oldest SPC graduate, who epitomized a
cornerstone of the college’s philosophy of life-long learning. She walked the stage on May 10, 1985, just 13 days before her 80th birthday.
Gerstenberger was the college’s first agriculture teacher. He was responsible for developing and growing the agriculture program as well as sponsoring the Agriculture Club, Rodeo Club and managing the college farm. Because of his knowledge of horticulture, he also served as grounds supervisor and was instrumental in establishing the landscape plan that beautifies the Levelland campus. His teaching abilities were recognized in 1965 when he was named the first recipient of
the Faculty Excellence Award.
Appointed Dean of Men in 1966, Gerstenberger helped shape the college’s early residence life program. He was named Dean of Students in 1974 and provided leadership in expanding student support services at a time when the college was growing in enrollment and educational programming. Dean Gerstenberger was later appointed Vice President for Student and Administrative Affairs, and he served 11 years in this position before retiring in 1993. June Gerstenberger joined SPC in 1967 as Secretary to the Registrar. This position resulted in a 26-year career of assisting SPC students in the registrar’s office and later in financial aid, special services and the business office.
Now as retirees and friends of the college, the Gerstenbergers have continued to show their support of the college in a multitude of ways, including the establishment of a scholarship endowment bearing their name to benefit students in the agriculture program.
In May, the Board of Regents adopted a resolution on May 10, 2018 to change the name of the college’s newest student residence facility from Southwest Hall to Gerstenberger Hall.