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Middlesex Community College
"We really look for people who can bring us a story, whether
it be a personal story, a historic story, a life lesson. At first,
we talked about what to call it. I felt `speaker series' was just
a little too academic. This was more of a community thing,
so we zeroed in on `celebrity' a celebrity could come from
anywhere, from any walk of life." (See page 28 for a complete
list of Celebrity Forum speakers.)
In addition to Celebrity Forum, the MCC Foundation supports
the college with other successful initiatives and programs. It
awards more than 30 scholarships each year to exceptional
students. A Student Success Fund has been established to help
students who may find themselves just above the cut-off for
financial-aid eligibility pay for college. And the Annual Fund,
now in its eighth year, has made 100 grants to enrich and
diversify academic offerings.
The Foundation has also purchased and renovated two
historic houses for college and community use: The Middlesex
Meetinghouse in Billerica, near the Bedford campus, and
Lowell's historic John Nesmith House.
Despite such a long list of accomplishments, Cowan believes
it was one of the Foundation's earliest and most ambitious
projects the purchase and restoration of Nesmith House
that changed everything.
Constructed in 1843 by one of Lowell's early mill owners, the
house was a cherished local landmark that had deteriorated
into a neighborhood eyesore. Though skeptical about rehabbing
such a "white elephant," the Foundation followed Cowan's
lead and agreed to purchase the house in late 1993 after
board member Susan Alexander suggested it might make an
excellent Designer Show House.
"Our goal was to get the house rehabbed through the designers
at cost. They agreed to take it on and we got a great group of
designers who did a fabulous job and many of them are still
friends of the college to this day."
Nesmith House was restored to its former glory and opened as
a Designer Show House in the summer of 1994. "People were
blown away by it," Cowan recalled. "They just didn't expect
anything like that it was so elegant!
"Saving that house was our introduction to Lowell," said
Cowan. "That was 20 years ago when people didn't know us
from Adam, really. Nesmith House proved that this college can
do what it thinks it can."
Kathy Register
Continued from page 32