Members of the Shawnee community and surrounding areas are invited to Gordon Cooper Technology Center’s 50th anniversary Tuesday, October 15 on campus from 4-8 p.m.

According to GCTC Public Information Officer Matt Stephens, the event is for alumni and others in the community who wish to celebrate the school’s long history.

“It’s going to be a big event…We’re really hoping to attract a lot of our alumni and their families but it’s open to everyone in the community,” Stephens said.

There will be something for everyone, Stephens said, and the event is set up to be a fun time for those who wish to celebrate the school.

“There’s going to be inflatables for the kids. There’s going to be free food and program tours,” Stephens said. “We want people to come in and see what we have to offer and we want our alumni to come back and see their old programs and see how things have changed since then.”

Stephens explained GCTC will highlight several different programs at the celebration including welding, health, construction, safety services and more.

According to GCTC Superintendent Bob Perry, the idea for GCTC really began in 1966 when the state government encouraged regional areas to open their own vocational schools for young people and the idea of career tech was put forth.

"There was a state question that allowed school districts to combine to do what is known as an area vocational school," Perry said. "Gordon Cooper Technology Center is legally Gordon Cooper Area Vocational School Number 5."

GCTC was the fifth district in Oklahoma to form a vocational school Perry said.

The superintendent explained then in 1967 local leaders met together to discuss what kind of education GCTC would offer to the youth of Shawnee and surrounding areas.

"As best we can tell the ground breaking took place in January of 1969. Gordon Cooper, the namesake, was very famous at that time," Perry said.

Perry said he is looking forward to the fiftieth celebration because he is excited for GCTC alumni to return and reminisce about their time at the school.

"We've had a long history of preparing people for success in the work force," Perry said. "When I go out in the community I see people all the time who were maybe in school here 20 (or) 30 years ago and I look forward to inviting those people back on campus where they spent a couple of years of their young life to get to where they are now."

Perry said he feels part of the school and has been present for nearly half its history.

"I'm just about 25 years into my career. It's hard for me to imagine that I've been here for half the history of this school," Perry said. "Fifty years seems like such a long time."

Perry explained over the last five decades education has evolved and some aspects have changed for students of GCTC, but not entirely.

"I think student needs have changed...we still have great partnerships with our high schools and we are a supplement to what they're doing to prepare kids for success," Perry said. "I think 50 years ago a lot of our students had a tendency to be trained here, work here and live here and I don't think that's changed in 50 years."

The superintendent said he feels the celebration is important because it welcomes old and new students of GCTC.

"The importance to me is it's a good opportunity to celebrate, but it's a good opportunity to invite all of our alumni back," Perry said.