History of College
From Orange Grove to Alma Mater
As the 1960s began, a college education was just a dream for most Central Florida residents. Between 1950 and 1965, Central Florida's population had more than doubled. However, for Seminole and Orange counties, there was no public college or university.
County and school leaders, working with area legislators, led the charge to create a public college in the 1965 legislative session and on June 4, 1965, Governor W. Haydon Burns signed Senate Bill No. 17, which created the College and appropriated $30,000 to get it off the ground. The College was chartered on July 1, 1965.
In November 1965, the College was named Seminole Junior College.
A Groundbreaking Beginning
At the start of 1966, newly hired President Dr. Earl S. Weldon, then 37, quickly began the task of building a new college in a little more than seven months.
In February, Dr. Weldon identified college programs and searched for a suitable location. By the end of March, the School Board agreed to purchase a 170-acre site near the geographic center of the county as the campus.
Over the next five months, 23 full-time professors were hired, students began to register, and Dr. Weldon scrambled to find portable buildings for the campus. Ten portable classrooms were moved to the campus and readied for the first day of classes.
The College's first Student Center was a portable that was donated by the Walt Disney Co., which had announced plans to build Walt Disney World just a few months before.
When Seminole Junior College opened as the first public college in greater Orlando on Aug. 29, 1966, about 750 students showed up.
In May 1968, the College held its first graduation exercises for 112 students.
A master plan was unveiled for the College and construction of permanent buildings (F, L, S and V) began in 1969. Over the next decade, the former citrus grove was transformed into a metropolitan college campus.
In August 1970, Dr. Weldon's vision for a comprehensive community college was realized as the College assumed responsibility for all adult, general and vocational education for Seminole County, becoming one of the first comprehensive colleges in Florida.
On July 1, 1975, Seminole Junior College became Seminole Community College to better describe the vast diversity of educational programs available at the College. By the end of the College's first decade, enrollment had increased to 14,161.
After 30 years of service, Dr. Weldon officially retired on Jan. 31, 1996. When he retired, he was the longest-serving and last founding president still presiding over an institution in Florida.
In February 1996, Dr. E. Ann McGee, a community college graduate and administrator at Broward College, became the College's second president. Determined to raise the College's profile, she began her administration on the eve of a major expansion.
Under her leadership, the College has opened three campuses and completed an $85 million renovation of its Sanford/Lake Mary Campus with more expansion on the horizon.
The Oviedo Campus opened in January 2001 to serve the educational and workforce development needs of eastern Seminole County. The campus was officially renamed the Robert and Jane Lee Campus at Oviedo in 2018 in honor of their financial contribution and commitment to the College. The Center for Economic Development at Heathrow, which houses Central Florida's economic development leaders as well as classrooms and student services, opened in August 2007.
The Altamonte Springs Campus, which opened at near capacity in January 2008, serves one of the largest population areas of Central Florida. The campus houses healthcare programs, a diverse offering of A.A. degree courses and Adult Education. In 2010, the College purchased 28.57 additional acres to triple the size of the Altamonte Springs Campus.
In 2009, Seminole Community College became Seminole State College of Florida to reflect the expanding mission of the College as it began to offer bachelor's degrees to meet the community's needs for a highly trained workforce.
In 2010, Seminole State began offering its first baccalaureate degree. Four more bachelor's degrees were added in January 2012. A sixth bachelor's degree in health sciences began in May 2016, and an RN-to-BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) was added in January 2018. Since then, the College has expanded its four-year programs to a total of 11 bachelor's degrees in high-demand, high-wage fields. Most recently, the College added bachelor's degrees in elementary education (k-6), exceptional student education (k-12), management and organizational leadership, and public safety administration to meet workforce needs.
In 2013, following a successful fundraising year with $5 million in donation revenue, the Foundation for Seminole State College launched the first comprehensive fundraising effort in its history - Changing Lives, the Campaign for Student Success. The Foundation exceeded the $12 million goal of the three-year campaign in 2016, celebrating $13.553 million in donations to establish programs and scholarships.
With its strong focus on academics, Seminole State continues to attract top students. Since 2006, the College's honors students have won 22 Jack Kent Cooke (JKC) Foundation Undergraduate Transfer scholarships. In 2015, Seminole State became only the second college in the U.S. to have four scholars in one year receive the award. The scholarship, presented each year to the top graduating community college students nationwide, awards up to $55,000 each year to cover recipients' educational costs while completing their bachelor's degrees. The JKC award is the largest private scholarship in the country for transfer students.
In 2006, Seminole State continued its longtime partnership with the University of Central Florida by creating DirectConnect to UCF®. This program, considered a national model, guarantees admission to UCF for students who complete their associate degrees from Seminole State. More than 13,000 Seminole State students participate in DirectConnect.
As another example of partnership in education, Seminole State and Seminole County Public Schools' longtime efforts to improve college readiness received national recognition. In 2014, Dr. McGee and SCPS Superintendent Dr. Walt Griffin were invited to attend the White House College Opportunity Day of Action Summit with President and Michelle Obama. Because of the exceptional partnership between Seminole County Public Schools, Seminole State and the University of Central Florida, a Seminole County student can be educated in Seminole County from kindergarten to their doctorate.
50 Years of Changing Lives
In 2015, Seminole State College celebrated its 50th anniversary, marking the milestone with student, employee and community celebrations throughout Seminole County.
In honor of the College's golden anniversary, the Fall 2015 Commencement Ceremony celebrated 50 years of student achievement and marked the official launch of the Seminole State College Alumni Association. Seminole State also debuted its Alma Mater, which served as the grand finale to the yearlong festivities and honors the thousands of students who have attended in the College's history.
Seminole State continues to lead by example. Since 2012, the College has received nearly $10 million in grant funding for STEM programs and has promoted service learning by engaging students in hands-on projects locally and abroad.
Supporting its vision of being a student-centered college, Seminole State opened a new $25 million Student Center at the Sanford/Lake Mary Campus in January 2018. The two-story, 77,000 square-foot building serves as a one-stop facility for student services and student life from admission through graduation.
After 22 years of service, Dr. McGee stepped down as president on July 31, 2018. Under Dr. McGee's leadership, Seminole State grew from a single-campus community college into a dynamic state educational institution with four campuses and nearly 30,000 students annually.
Building on a Legacy
On August 1, 2018, Seminole State College welcomed its third president, Dr. Georgia Lorenz, ushering in a new chapter in the College’s history. With more than 20 years of experience in higher education, Dr. Lorenz is eagerly building on Seminole State’s legacy.
Dr. Lorenz’s primary goals are for the College to continue to shine academically; provide a launch pad for students wanting to continue their education or start or advance their careers; serve as a nexus and resource for the community; facilitate connections and engagement between schools, colleges and universities, community organizations, chambers, and businesses; and provide opportunity for a high-quality postsecondary education for all students including those from underserved populations.
Under her leadership, Seminole State has been named among the top 25 community colleges in the nation by the Aspen Institute and has become eligible to compete for the $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s signature recognition of high achievement among America’s community colleges.
The College welcomes all students and has been awarded the American Association of Community College’s Award of Excellence for Advancing Diversity and the American Community College Trustees’ Southern Region Equity Award in 2020, as well as Inside Higher Ed magazine's Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award (eighth consecutive year for HEED Award) in 2021.
Seminole State also has continued to expand options for its students, embarking on a partnership with UF Online, which offers fully online, undergraduate degrees from the University of Florida. UF Online offers Seminole State Associate in Arts (A.A.) graduates easy transfer to bachelor's degree programs not offered at Seminole State. A.A graduates can also transfer to the University of Central Florida through DirectConnect to UCF®, or stay at Seminole State to complete their bachelor’s degree.
For more than 50 years, Seminole State has thrived by adapting to, and meeting the needs of, an ever-changing community. By offering high-quality educational programs and services, the College continues to provide students and area residents with a multitude of resources. Now, and in the years to come, opportunities for personal and professional growth abound at Seminole State.
It all started with a dream...a dream that has been realized in extraordinary ways.