“Being part of the first class is always a source of pride”: One of Miami Dade College’s original graduates shares how the school put him on the path to success 

The New Tropic is continuing its ongoing series looking back at the history of Miami Dade College. These flashes from the past are all leading up to I AM MDC Day: Every year on September 6, the college commemorates its opening in 1960 and invites Miamians to make a financial donation to an institution that’s served millions of students across six decades. The funds raised by I AM MDC Day go toward upholding the school’s mission of keeping higher education affordable and accessible by funding tuition and supporting students in need.

Last week The New Tropic took a tour through how MDC has evolved over the years and shared five fascinating facts from the college’s rich history. Earlier this month we spoke with Rene Ramos, the director of MDC’s archives department, about his experience with the college and its impact on his life and Miami-Dade at large. 

History of Miami Dade College New Tropic Partnership

Today, we’re bringing you a Q&A with Gary Canner, one of the first students to graduate from MDC. Canner enrolled in the college when it first opened in 1960 and established the foundations for his later career as a mediator with the U.S. Court of Appeals. Although he no longer resides in Miami, both the school and his classmates have remained close to his heart. Canner was also kind enough to share selected photos from his archives showing what life was like on campus six decades ago.

Read on for more… 

The New Tropic: What have you been up to in the years since you graduated from Miami Dade College, or as it was known when you enrolled in 1960, Dade County Junior College? 

Gary Canner: I retired in Leesburg, Florida after serving as a federal mediator for the U.S. Court of Appeals.

What was your path toward enrolling at MDC and being part of the first graduating class?

College [priced] at a VERY reasonable cost; just $75 per semester. Being part of the first class is always a source of pride.

Share a little bit about your time at the college: What did you study and what was the atmosphere on campus like?

I studied core subjects with an emphasis on government. Campus was outside under the eaves of the gymnasium, and it was located at Miami Central High School at 1900 NW 95th Street. Everyone knew everyone; at that time it was called Dade County Junior College. I was on the first debate team and we put DCJC on the academic map as we traveled to other colleges.

Whether with regards to your professional career or life in general, what impact did MDC have on you? Were there opportunities or certain paths that the college made possible?

[The college] opened the door to law school after I completed my BA at Florida State University. I still maintain friendships with students in the very first class… more than 60 years later.

Have you stayed involved with the school over the years?

I attended the 60th reunion and donated 1960 archival memorabilia to the college.

What’s one thing about MDC you wish more people knew about?

The accomplishments of its graduates.

Be sure to read The New Tropic’s other blasts from MDC’s past by checking out five fun facts from the college’s history and our interview with school archivist Rene Ramos. You can learn more about I AM MDC Day and make a contribution to the college’s essential mission by clicking right here. Be sure to follow MDC on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay up-to-date with the school, its students, and how they’re making a difference in Miami-Dade.