Vermilion marks 100 years
by Tom Coombe
The location has changed, as has the name.
The size, shape and programming have also evolved over the span of a century.
But for 100 years, Ely has been home to a community college.
That rich history will be celebrated this weekend on the Vermilion campus of the newly-renamed Minnesota North College.
Known for much of its recent history as Vermilion Community College, the school now located on Ely’s east end has been in existence for a century, and that history will be marked with Vermilion’s Centennial Celebration.
Coinciding with Parents’ Weekend at the school, Vermilion has planned a series of events - culminating with a free barbecue and a late-afternoon presentation on Vermilion’s history.
Reed Petersen, an Ely native and current history professor at the school, will give the presentation at 5:30 p.m. Saturday in the college’s main lecture hall, CL 104.
Prior to that, school officials will welcome visitors, parents, guests, alumni and others on campus.
“We’re certainly excited to have the college here for 100 years,” said Chris Koivisto, who is director of operations on the Vermilion campus and Minnesota North’s Academic Dean of Natural Resources and Human Services.
Earlier this year, Vermilion merged with four other Iron Range community colleges to become Minnesota North.
While Vermilion now joins the Mesabi, Itasca, Hibbing and Rainy River campuses under the Minnesota North umbrella and the schools are considered one college - the respective campuses including Vermilion are maintaining separate identities as well as athletic teams.
And 2022 remains a notable year in Vermilion’s own history, marking a century since Ely Junior College was born - and located on the high school and elementary school campus in the middle of town.
Nearly 50 years later, the school moved to its current location and has taken on new names - once called Vermilion State Junior College and later Vermilion Community College.
More recently, the school has been part of collaboratives including the Laurentian District and the Northeast Higher Education District.
Petersen will touch on that history and more during his talk.
“I’m going to trace the history about the way its’ developed, some of the changes in location, changes in name, changes in programming,” said Petersen. “Hopefully a quick development of how we got the school we’ve got now. I’ve been doing some research and it’s already been interesting, some pretty wild stuff.”
Through the Vermilion College Foundation, a sponsor of the weekend events, the school is also reaching out to past faculty and advisory boards.
“We want them to celebrate with us and see if we can get some to come back,” said Koivisto.
Vermilion also wants to get current students involved, and many parents of those students will be on campus this weekend.
“We want to make sure we are celebrating both old and new,” said Koivisto. “It’s doubling as a parents week.”
Activities include an ice cream social and bonfire and a home volleyball game Friday night, with both the Vermilion volleyball team (noon) and Vermilion football team (1:30 p.m.) hosting home events Saturday.
The campus barbecue and picnic follows at 4:30 p.m., leading up to Petersen’s presentation, which is free and open to the public.