HISTORY: Lone Star College-CyFair continues legacy of preparing students for the future

LSC-CyFair hosted Cy-Fest for 13 years, featuring family activities and averaging 10,000 attendees each year. (Courtesy Lone Star College)
LSC-CyFair hosted Cy-Fest for 13 years, featuring family activities and averaging 10,000 attendees each year. (Courtesy Lone Star College)

LSC-CyFair hosted Cy-Fest for 13 years, featuring family activities and averaging 10,000 attendees each year. (Courtesy Lone Star College)

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Ronnie Nespeca (center) helped develop the college's soccer team in 2004 and led the team as head coach through 2016. (Courtesy Lone Star College)
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The campus became a fully operational shelter and a distribution site of basic necessities in the wake of Hurricane Harvey for four days. (Courtesy Lone Star College)
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President Seelpa Keshvala (left) and faculty members celebrate the opening of the Westway Park Technology Center in January 2019. (Danica Smithwick/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Thousands of students have graduated from Lone Star College-CyFair since its inception, but 20 years ago the campus was just being explored as a possibility, according to Claire Gunnels, assistant library director for adult services.

“The support of the business community was a key factor in how this college came to be,” Gunnels said. “Because of the rapid growth in the Cypress-Fairbanks area, the Cy-Fair Houston Chamber of Commerce, led by Darcy Mingoia [at the time], decided to explore the benefits of higher education to local residents.”

Houston Community College and the North Harris Montgomery Community College District both presented their plans for a local campus to the chamber in March 2003, and officials ultimately decided the college district was a better option, Gunnels said. The plan included meeting local workforce needs, including emergency services, health care, technology and manufacturing jobs.

That August, local residents approved an initiative to join the college district, and Cy-Fair College—which was renamed LSC-CyFair in 2008—opened on Barker Cypress Road.

Gunnels was a member of the founding faculty in 2003, joining the team to help launch a library that would serve both the college and the public—a concept created by founding LSC-CyFair President Diane Troyer and Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack, she said.

“Not only are librarians faculty who teach students research techniques, but also public librarians do storytimes for children, have craft programs for teens and do fun, educational programming for adults,” she said. “We teach computer skills and run a robust English as a Second Language program.”

Kinesiology Department Chair Ronnie Nespeca said he worked at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene when he learned about the new college and was ultimately hired as a founding faculty member in 2003.

Some of his most memorable experiences were developing and coaching the men’s soccer program from 2004-16, leading the team to multiple championships, he said. Over time he has also seen the campus grow from about 7,000 students to more than 20,000 and from five to eight buildings along with two satellite centers.

“We have had to add new buildings, build more parking and of course add more employees,” he said. “We have had many challenges to overcome with our rapid growth rate, but one thing [that] has stayed consistent is our dedication to active, engaged learning and the success of our students.”

English professor Laura Taggett, another one of the campus’s first hires, said she moved from a small college in Iowa to join the faculty in 2003, excited to be part of opening a new college.

From hosting theater productions and events such as Cy-Fest to hosting evacuees during Hurricane Harvey and opening a food pantry, she said she believes the campus has been committed to serving the community from the start.

As the college grows over time, LSC-CyFair continues to provide services such as online education, dual-credit courses and workforce programs to meet the needs of local students, Taggett said.

“My hopes for LSC-CyFair is that our exciting, [innovative] faculty continue to create ways to meet our students where they are, with their ever-changing needs in a world that in ways is growing and shrinking at the same time,” Taggett said.
By Danica Lloyd

Editor, Cy-Fair

Danica joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in 2016. As editor, she continues to cover local government, education, health care, real estate, development, business and transportation in Cy-Fair. Her experience prior to CI includes studying at the Washington Journalism Center and interning at a startup incubator in D.C., serving as editor-in-chief of Union University's student magazine and online newspaper, reporting for The Jackson Sun and freelancing for other publications in Arkansas and Tennessee.