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McKenzie Family and MassBay Relationship is 60 Years Strong

Wednesday, November 9, 2022


Liz Cooper


MassBay Founding President John F. McKenzie (Photo/Jim McKenzie) MassBay Founding President John F. McKenzie (Photo/Jim McKenzie).

WELLESLEY HILLS, Mass. (November 9, 2022) — For more than 60 years, the McKenzie family has been an integral part of the Massachusetts Bay Community College community. The McKenzie’s long tradition of support began with MassBay’s founding President, John F. McKenzie, and continues today with his son, Jim McKenzie. Jim is the current chair of the Massachusetts Bay Community Foundation Board, a volunteer group of College stakeholders who promote investment in the College from external sources, award student scholarships as well as other financial assistance for deserving students and create partnerships for learning.

“My father was a career educator. He began his career as a teacher and eventually became President of MassBay,” said Jim. “Serving as MassBay’s Founding President was the culmination of his life’s work. He was honored to be selected as the College’s first president and help grow what we now know as the Massachusetts Community College System. My family and I are proud to continue his work at an institution he loved and has meant so much to our family.”

Jim explained that MassBay’s early developmental years required “a lot of hard work,” building the College from the ground up. “The idea to create the community college system in Massachusetts was conceived of by then-Governor Foster Furcolo. His goal was to have a community college within commuting distance of every student in the state. The Commonwealth’s 1960s educational experiment started with the Berkshire and Cape Cod Community Colleges, and grew to include MassBay and the other state community colleges that still exist today. The group of founding Presidents were pioneers operating in uncharted water. My father likened this venture to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, founded in the 1600s, as MassBay’s college seal with the sailing ship on it is a reflection of that. He also saw the endeavor as an opportunity to build something special for deserving and underserved Massachusetts students, and that legacy continues today.”

In 1960, John F. McKenzie was hired by Governor Furcolo to be the Founding President and plan the details of what would become Massachusetts Bay Community College. Working initially in a small room in the Massachusetts State House, Mr. McKenzie began strategically planning the requisite elements for MassBay to become a successful educational institution. His first duty was to secure a physical location for the college, which he found at a former Boston University building at the corner of Garrison and St. Botolph Streets in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. With the building in place, the newly-selected president was tasked with hiring faculty and staff, establishing programs and curriculum, creating the college seal, ordering supplies and equipment, and dealing with other critical logistics. According to Jim, “there were many long days, nights, and weekends putting all the pieces together.” In 1961, MassBay opened its doors, welcoming what became the class of 1963.

“Those early years were tough, but my father always set high standards and goals for the college and his students. In 1963, he wrote a letter to then-President Kennedy, whom he had met while they attended Harvard as my dad had been friends with his older brother Joe. My dad invited President Kennedy to be MassBay’s commencement speaker for the first graduating class. It was an ambitious  ask for the President of the United States to give the commencement address at a brand new community college but it typifies the high goals he had for the college. Unfortunately, President Kennedy was unable to attend the event, but this anecdote illustrates the high goals my father had to help promote MassBay and its students.”

“My father saw the launch of MassBay as an ideal opportunity to channel and implement the ideas and values he had developed as a lifelong educator into the high-quality education students would receive and continue to receive. My family was honored to have been part of the MassBay community for more than 60 years. The year after my father retired, he was invited back to the College to be honored for his dedication and contributions to the college by the dedication of the Wellesley Hills Auditorium in his name. That was an incredibly special tribute and honor for him and a proud moment for our whole family.”

“Through the years, we have donated to student scholarship funds and created a scholarship in my father’s name. MassBay always has been an important part of our family, and we trust it will have continued success for years to come,” said Jim.

MassBay Community College is the most affordable higher education option in MetroWest Boston, offering a robust portfolio of courses and more than 70 associate degree and certificate programs with flexible day, evening, and weekend classes in Ashland, Framingham, Wellesley Hills, and online. MassBay students receive an unmatched educational value by earning stackable credits that transfer to bachelor’s degree programs, and workforce-ready skills necessary to advance careers in high-demand fields such as health and life sciences, automotive technology, engineering, business, cybersecurity, and the humanities. MassBay’s Associate Degree in Nursing (RN) and Practical Nursing (LPN) programs were both ranked as the #1 Nursing Program in Massachusetts in 2020-2021 by national nursing advocacy organizations, and Since its founding in 1961, MassBay has been accredited by several governing bodies and remains firmly committed to its mission of meeting the needs of the diverse local communities it serves. We value the intrinsic worth of all individuals, collectively in pursuit of inclusiveness and prioritize our work towards achieving equity within our community and beyond.


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