FDTC – History
By: Ashley Elvington
Here it is – yet another school year arriving with the end of summertime. When choosing the right school for you, it can be overwhelming sorting through the variety of colleges until you find the perfect fit for you. But, it doesn’t have to be! There are many factors that play into choosing the right college – academics, sports, reputation, history, etc. The choices are endless! However, not many schools have the staying power and community influence quite like Florence-Darlington Technical College… A college that is now celebrating 50 years of building leaders of the future.
What started out as a single trailer in an open country field has now expanded into nine buildings on a 200-plus acre campus with a health and science campus located in Downtown Florence, a cosmetology center in Darlington, and instructional satellite sites throughout the Pee Dee. There’s also the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology and the Charles W. Gould Business Incubator. As you can see, FDTC is a school that not only stands the test of time, but is also steady growing as the years pass.
When the state technical education center concept passed as law in 1962, Mullins native Fred C. Fore was designated to establish a proper campus for the school. Using the old Clemson agricultural research station, FDTC officially opened in January 1964. At the time, the school only had a little over 100 students in enrollment. For 25 years, Fore was the great leader of FDTC. From finding a foundation for the campus to be built upon, to being the Director of the Educational Center, to ultimately being named President of FDTC, the school couldn’t have chosen a better candidate who cared about education and the overall well being of students and faculty.
FDTC doubled its size by 1968 after the completion of its first four buildings. Enrollment was filled to capacity after campus expansions in 1969 and plans for a health sciences building and an addition to the 200 building were set into action. FDTC achieved record enrollment once its Allied Health Center was completed. Previously known as the Florence Darlington Educational Center, FDTC finally became a college in 1974. Weekend classes were added, thus causing limits to be placed on enrollment by 1975. Two more buildings were constructed and completed, and 1987 saw the retirement of the beloved Fred C.Fore. Following in Fore’s footsteps was Dr. Michael B. McCall, who filled the role of President in 1988. Dr. McCall was passionate about being out amongst the people, as he loved meeting students and attending events. During his time of college presidency, Dr. McCall established a new computer infrastructure and opened a branch of the college in Hartsville.
In December 1993, Dr. Charles Gould became FDTC’s third president and brought about a vast variety of growth and changes to the school. He expanded the Hartsville campus, creating new sites in Lake City and Mullins, and he helped establish the advanced Welding and Cutting Center, which opened in 1999. At this time, there was no other technical college in the Southeast quite like FDTC. In 2000, the allied health programs relocated to a new building in Downtown Florence. The Caterpillar Dealer Academy and installation of advanced math hubs also arrived during Dr. Gould’s tenure. Perhaps one of the most influential additions credited to Dr. Gould is the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology (SIMT).Dr. Gould dreamed of a manufacturing center that featured CNC technology, an additive manufacturing center, a 3D virtual reality center, a conference facility, an auditorium that seats 800, classrooms and labs… All in hopes of providing training and manufacturing services that would bring jobs to the Pee Dee. He was also passionate about a business incubator, which the campus now has and has named after him in honor of his dedication and hard work to the college and its success.
In 2013, Dr. Ben P. Dillard fulfilled the role of fourth president at FDTC and brought even more changes to the school. He created a comprehensive plan to bridge the main campus with SIMT, established ideas and plans for new parking, landscaping, academic programs, and new buildings (including an automotive technology building and an academic building). Since 2013, Dr. Dillard has increased enrollment to over 6,000 students and he also signed an agreement with Francis Marion University that will allow tech students to transfer to their four year college. SIMT also gained a medical manufacturer from the Upstate that will be opening a facility at the center. In addition, two new parking lots are being constructed on the main campus. Indeed, FDTC has staying power.
Early College Info
At FDTC, prospective students have the option of taking college classes during high school through their Early College program. These courses can be taken at high schools, on FDTC’s campus, and through the SC Virtual College. Once the student’s application is received and approved, they are responsible for paying for tuition and required textbooks (Lottery and Early College scholarships are available if assistance is needed). Once the courses are completed, depending on the type, students may be able to receive both high school credit and college credit. However, there is no guarantee another college or university will accept transfer credit for the courses.
Classes off campus are available for more than just high school students, however. Through the SC Virtual College, anyone can take college courses from the comfort of home, ideal for those who are unable to attend college on campus. FDTC was impressively the very first college in South Carolina to offer courses online. Beginning in 1996, FDTC first offered English 101 and English 102 only, but have since grown to offering over 120 courses online. The cost of online courses is the same as on campus courses and is more convenient for those with busy schedules. You have the option of completing coursework in the morning, in between work shifts, late at night, etc., whichever works best for you! Better yet, FDTC guarantees the same outstandingly professional and exceptional quality of teaching as one would receive if sitting in an actual classroom at FDTC.
If you’re busier during the daytime, Evening Classes may just be the perfect fit for you. These courses begin around 6PM or later, with most of the typical 15-week full semester classes being offered in addition to the 8-week “mini semester” classes. If you’re working full-time or are a single working parent, this may be the option for you. The current evening programs offered are:
- Associate in Arts
- Associate in Accounting
- Associate in Management
- Associate in Marketing
- Associate in Science
- Automotive Technology/Diesel Option,
- Computer Technology with Cisco Networking Certificate
- Criminal Justice Technology
- Diesel and Heavy Equipment Certificate
- Early Childhood Development Certificate
- Early Childhood Development Diploma
- Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning Technology Certificate
- Human Services Degree
- Human Services Early Childhood Development Option (Diploma and Degree)
- Machine Tool Technology with Computer Numerical Control Operator Certificate
- Machine Tool Technology with Computer Numerical Control Programmer Certificate
- Machine Tool Technology with Machine Operate Certificate
- Machine Tool Technology Machinist I Certificate
- Machine Tool Technology Tool and Die Certificate
- Paralegal Degree
If you’re in pursuit of an Associate in Arts degree, weekend classes are available on Fridays and Saturdays, along with online assignments. These courses last for 8 weeks and can help the student obtain their Associate in Arts degree in two years or even less.
Such an outstanding school warrants some even more outstanding awards and achievements. FDTC has been the recipient of a $5 million gift from The Darla Moore Foundation, making it the largest donation made to a South Carolina technical college. This monetary gift will be used towards creating the culinary and hospitality program on Lake City’s campus, in addition to providing emergency grants, loans, and academic scholarships to those attending Lake City’s campus.
In May 2017, FDTC received $75,000 from The McLeod Health Foundation for its nursing program. This money will go towards nursing scholarships for students in the program, helping build better citizens of tomorrow who will extend a helping hand and aide those in need. FDTC has over 100 students in the nursing program each school year, creating quite the impressionable candidates for medical jobs in the Pee Dee and surrounding areas.
The nursing students aren’t the only ones reaping benefits from their hard work, however. Recently, Caterpillar Inc. of the Carolinas rewarded 10 machinery students from Caterpillar’s ThinkBIG program with a $500 tool scholarship (based on GPA) that lasted through May and June 2017. Just this past April, FDTC’s professional and student welding teams were crowned the first-time winners of the eighth annual Welding Rodeo for the best sculpted representation of automation. Each team, impressively, created their robot in eight hours from scrap metal chosen by the respective teams. All of the artwork was auctioned towards FDTC scholarships. At as you can see, at FDTC, students are helping those who haven’t started their educational journeys quite yet while navigating their own pathway to success.
Some other notable achievements include the brand new Automotive and HVAC Technology Center, which opened in March 2017. The 37,000 square-foot building is the new home of FDTC’s Automotive and HVAC programs. In June 2017, FDTC teamed up alongside Coker College of Hartsville, South Carolina, on a bridge partnership agreement, which will make the transfer of FDTC students to Coker College easier than before as they seek out their four year degree. Students who are chosen for the bridge partnership will receive dual admission, dual advisement, and dual student development from FDTC and Coker. The benefits of this program include:
- Students of FDTC being able to attend Coker athletic and cultural events for free
- An academic advisor from Coker made available to FDTC students, who will assist in course selection and can address any questions or concerns regarding academics
- A waiver of the application fee when FDTC students are applying to Coker
This September, The Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology (SiMT) will celebrate its 10 year anniversary. Of course, the benefits received from attending FDTC don’t stop there. Visit them online at www.fdtc.edu to learn more about what makes this technical college so exceptional and so well respected in the community.
And where would we be without mentioning FDTC’s truly talented sports teams? Intramural sports at FDTC dates back to the 1970s. While the men’s and women’s basketball teams ended in 1975, softball (Lady Stingers) and baseball (Tech Stingers) made its appearance onto the campus in 2005. Both teams participate in the National Junior College Athletics Association Region Ten and both have made it to the NJCAA World Series. In 2016, the Lady Stingers played in the finals and the Tech Stingers recently traveled to Colorado to play.
In May 2017, the Tech Stingers won their first NJCAA Region X (North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia) tournament against Spartanburg Methodist. The final score of the game was 15-7 and marked the 12th consecutive win for the team. The team also won the district tournament in May and played in the World Series during their time in Colorado. During last year’s softball season, the 2016 Lady Stingers team became the first in FDTC’s history to compete for the NJCAA Division II Softball National Championship in Mississippi. They also set a school record of 15-1 and finished the season with a winning record of 32-11, ranking second in Region X with hitting, extended hitting, pitching, and fielding. These ladies made headlines again recently when they signed twin sisters from Edgefield, South Carolina, as new team members of the Lady Stingers.
There are several players who have gone on from FDTC to play Major League Baseball, so the talent on these teams is surely no laughing matter!
In case there’s any doubts as to what we’ve shared so far about FDTC, take a look at these student testimonies. After all, better to hear it from the ones who experienced it, right?
- “At Florence Darlington Tech, you get really close to everybody. It really is like a family. If I feel like if I needed something, I could call anyone in my radiology program and they would be there – my teachers, too. They’re very supportive and they really get to know us.” -Abby Hewitt, Class of 2018 (Radiology)
- “It made better sense to earn a two-year associate degree here first, and then do two years at a four-year school, rather than paying all that extra money.”-Joseph Paige, Class of 2017 (Human Services)
- “My family is ecstatic about me getting my education at Florence-Darlington Technical College. They’re so ecstatic that they want me to keep going and get my Bachelor’s and then Master’s degree…and it’s a possibility.” -Johnny Dunham, Class of 2017 (Management)
- “The Associate in Science program offered a degree that would transfer easily to a four-year institution, and the classes needed for the degree are valuable for the MCAT.” -Andrew Westfall, Class of 2017 (Associate in Science)
- “It’s hard to put into words what Tech has done for me. Originally, I enrolled at FDTC for financial reasons. The tuition was affordable, and I thought, ‘I just want to get a good job.’ But, that is not at all why I stayed at Tech! I stayed because of the incredible support and encouragement I received from my instructors, from the staff, everybody. They all helped me and pushed me to succeed.” -Sarah Chapman, Class of 2017 (Human Services)
Contact FDTC today and start your path to a successful future today. Florence-Darlington Technical College’s main campus is located at 2715 W. Lucas Street in Florence, South Carolina. To learn more, please call (843)661-8324.