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The State Legislature didn't pass the bill
to finance MCC's expansion plans until
early July, Sheehy explained. "Basically,
the construction crew had just six weeks
to take a wide open space in this huge mill
building and break it up into classrooms
and offices," she said. "But they did it."
"The workers were in there right up until
and after courses started that fall,"
recalled Eileen Fagan, who was hired as
Assistant Registrar in August of 1987.
"They had to get the classrooms ready
first, of course, so the staff played
second fiddle."
Permanent administrative offices were not
completed until October, said Fagan, now
MCC's Dean of Enrollment Services. Lois
Alves, who was Registrar at the time,
recalls enrolling students in Lowell before
the paint had dried.
"We were registering students in one end
of a long room at Wannalancit, and they
were still painting it at the other end,"
said Alves, now MCC's Vice President of
Enrollment Services, Research &
Planning. "I remember reaching down to
plug something into an outlet, and an
electrician asked me to wait a second
while he screwed on the switch plate,"
she said.
In the beginning, most of the faculty were
based at MCC's Bedford campus and drove
to Lowell to teach classes, Sheehy
explained. "We were so small at first, we
didn't need to hire faculty," she said.
In spite of its size, a college situated in an
office complex with a variety of other
tenants offered some unanticipated
educational advantages, Sheehy recalled.
"Wannalancit was a really good example
of a mixed-use property. UMass Lowell
rented office space in the building, as
did several small, start-up companies,"
she said.
"There was one cafeteria for the whole
building, so MCC students were eating
lunch with people in business suits. It gave
us a very professional atmosphere," said
Sheehy. "There was a lot of positive
behavior modification going on."
Working at Wannalancit brings back fond
memories for Fagan as well. "With only
392 students, I pretty much knew them all
by name," she said. "It was such a homey
The college purchased the former Wang
Educational Center as its permanent
Lowell campus in 1990. Under the
direction of MCC's third, and current
president, Carole A. Cowan, who was
appointed in 1990, the Lowell campus
opened in 1991.
"We all loved Wannalancit, but the
college was growing and we needed more
space," said Sheehy. "The Wang Building
has served us well. It was fairly new at
the time and was built as a teaching
center, so all the classrooms were
already there."
Over the past 23 years, enrollment at the
Lowell campus has grown to more than
5,000 credit students, said Sheehy proudly.
The campus now includes nine buildings
in and around Kearney Square.
After buying and renovating four buildings
on Middle Street, a few blocks from the
City Building, MCC opened the Health,
Science & Technology Center in 1995.
Health Careers classrooms, labs and the
Dental Hygiene Clinic, plus the MCC
Bookstore, are now housed there. The
Culture Garden at Derby Park was created
next door in 2008.
The historic Federal Building, located
across Merrimack Street from the City
Building, was acquired from the federal
government in 1995. Beautifully
renovated, it opened in 2004 and features
the Lowell campus library, classrooms,
offices and public assembly rooms.
Middlesex acquired the historic Boston &
Maine Railroad Building in 2008 from
Lowell National Historical Park, and plans
to complete renovations within the next
three to five years.
Sheehy has made it a priority for
Middlesex to welcome the community
into its facilities. "If the lights are on and
the heat is on, I believe community groups
should use the space," she said.
"It's good for the city and it's good
marketing for the college," said Sheehy.
"Our original team felt strongly about
that, and with the support of President
Cowan, we have remained very involved
in the community ever since."
Kathy Register
The Lowell campus grows In 1991, the permanent campus opened its doors in the former Wang Educational Center in Kearney Square;
the Health, Science & Technology Center on Middle Street opened in 1995; The Federal Building opened in 2004;
and the college acquired the Boston & Maine Railroad Depot Building in 2008.