For those of us who attended what was then Castleton State College in western Vermont and played sports in the 1980s and 1990s, you had one big rival — Green Mountain College.
The schools were part of the now-defunct Mayflower Conference, which included colleges from around Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. CSC (now CU) and GMC are 10 minutes apart, and off-campus housing for students at both institutions overlaps.
There was many a night when our Castleton crew ventured down to Poultney for a party, or to the Hampton House bar just across the state line since Vemont’s bars closed 2 to 3 hours earlier.
As the years passed, Castleton grew bigger, Green Mountain struggled to find its identity, the Mayflower Conference folded and the rivalry lost its luster. And while it was clear to those of us who stay connected to that region of Vermont that GMC was in a downturn, few seemed to see an outright closure coming.
But our nation is ever-changing, and education doesn’t seem to be as valued by many as it once was. Colleges, which share the blame for at least part of their demise thanks to skyrocketing costs families have had to absorb, are having financial trouble all over the country.
In a small town like Poultney though, where the college is indelibly the hub of the community, the loss of jobs and students with disposable income is more of a devastating blow than in a more developed area.
And that blow extends to the New York side of the state line, in places like Granville, Whitehall, Hampton and other neighboring towns, where the college was an employer, cultural boon and a nearby place to commute for classes. I know many GMC graduates from Washington County and the Glens Falls area, important people in our community who became the leaders they are thanks to a four-year college within a short drive of home.
The announced closure of GMC leaves behind many questions, and Vermont Digger took a look this week at the economic impact it will have on Poultney. (On more of an upbeat note, The Rutland Herald published an article the same day about a last-ditch effort to keep the school open.)
Much is still to be determined, but I do know this: Visiting Poultney as I fish the Poultney River, bike the rail trail in town or hike local trails, including the hiking preserve owned by GMC in south Poultney, just won’t be the same without a bustle of people at the venerable, historic college.
And our region won’t be the same, either.