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30 Never Looked so Good

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NESCom marks three decades of excellence

(Editor's note: A lot of the background and history of NESCom in this article was provided courtesy of the booklet 'A Review 1981-2007' created by NESCom Founder George Wildey)

BANGOR - The New England School of Communications, located on the campus of Husson University in Bangor, has been producing some of the most talented employees in the communication business for 30 years now. Aron Gaudet, a 1996 graduate and creator of the Maine troop greeters documentary 'The Way We Get By,' and Bret Johnson, a 2005 graduate and recent Academy Award winner for his contributions to the Martin Scorsese film 'Hugo,' are just two of the school's amazing stand-outs. These talented individuals, along with countless other students, got to where they are today thanks to the vision of one New York native with years of experience that he wanted to share with others.

NESCom in the making

This relatively small post secondary institution in the Queen City was a mere thought in the mind of George Wildey of New York until 1981. That was the year that Wildey, an on-air personality, sports announcer, TV host, program director and all around media expert decided to give life to his communications school idea and founded the then New England School of Broadcasting (NESB). In its infancy it was an education of higher learning that offered a one year certificate on the sixth floor at 192 Exchange Street in Bangor. One room was converted into a large classroom with a divided soundproof corner for the school's radio station. The second room was designated as the TV studio while the third room became the school's office. Classes were held from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, a flexible schedule that allowed the first class of NESB students, all 23 of them, to work during the day and obtain their education at night.

"I was the first full time employee that George hired. He was the founder, president, chief cook and bottle washer and half time administrator, and he had five or six adjunct faculty from the community," explained Ben Haskell, current executive vice president and dean of academics. "I was director of the school at that time, and George taught me all there was to know about the education business. Since then I've learned a great deal over the years from Husson University."

During that first year, the school offered television production, announcing, public speaking, news and sports reporting and advertising classes for a steal. Tuition for one semester was a mere $1,795, not including books or application and graduation fees.

"It's been phenomenal. The people who've added to this school's success along the way, you just can't imagine the student's lives that have been touched," said Haskell.

After two years, the school moved to a 15 room mansion on Broadway to conduct its classes. The building was called the Broadcast House. The place was not only more spacious but also provided housing for 12 students on the upper floor.

Then in 1985, the Husson College vice president invited NESB to be part of the Husson campus and operate the school's radio station, WHSN 89.3 FM. Wildey graciously accepted the offer, and the communications school has been located there ever since.

"We received degree granting authority from the state of Maine in 1993/1994. Then we started to grow and put students in the dorm," said Haskell. "Then we started to dream about a building [of our own]. I give George a lot of credit for keeping things focused on a building."

The school eventually changed its name from NESB to New England School of Communications or NESCom in 1995. Then in 2001, NESCom finally moved into its own building on the Husson campus called the New England School of Communications George E. Wildey Communications Center.

"This movement through the last 25-30 years has been incredible not just to be involved in but to witness," said Haskell. "When you go from 30 students to 520 students and a one year certificate program and degree program to where we now offer three bachelor of science degrees, I think NESCom would have to be considered successful."

NESCom Success Stories

A lot of that success is due in part to the skillful and talented students NESCom's teachers and faculty produce. Before any student walks away with their diploma in hand, Bill Devine, NESCom's director of career services is working hard to land them an internship or job in their respective field of study.

"NESCom has a very unique placement philosophy," said Devine. "We are proactive and reactive. We are proactive in that we make sure the kids know how to write a decent resume and do interviews. We're reactive with both students and employers. If an employer calls and says, 'I've got a position for X,Y,Z,' we'll try and match a student with it. They may or may not hire them but it'll be a worthwhile interview."

Devine, who has been employed at NESCom since 1994, has had the pleasure of helping students land their dream job. A few of them still stand out in his mind today.

"Brandon Gaset is with EVS in Fairfield, New Jersey. Brandon was the first of three NESCom students hired at EVS, and this summer he's in charge of the EVS operation at the summer Olympics in London," explained Devine. "Craig McDonough was the first of 25 NESCom employees hired at Carnival Cruise Lines."

Meanwhile, Josh Wilbur, a 1998 graduate who landed a paid internship at Soundtrack Recording Studio in New York, went on to become an independent audio engineer in L.A., while Bret Johnson, a 2005 graduate, is a recent Academy Award winner for sound in the movie 'Hugo' by Martin Scorsese. Both men have left lasting impressions with Devine and the school.

"I tend to look at people who were the first at a given company and how much those companies come back and back because they get one of ours and they want more," explained Devine. "Carnival calls me when they have an opening now. They call me. That's a big deal."

And as the school's successful reputation continues to grow, so does its enrollment.

"We get bigger because we're good and employers value our graduates," said Devine.

NESCom marks its 30th anniversary

The NESCom staff plans to celebrate the accomplishments of the school's alumni, as well as the school's growth and its plans for the future, during NESCom's 30th anniversary celebration scheduled for May 19 at the Gracie Theatre on campus. Chris Shorette, NESCom's marketing coordinator, has been in charge of organizing the event.

"We expected to have a lot of faculty and staff coming. We really want to get a large chunk of alumni as well," said Shorette. "It's going to be a good time."

Guests will be given tours of the school and be able to view the changes that have been made on campus beginning at 4 p.m. Then, at 5:30 p.m. the red carpet will be rolled out for guests to walk down upon entrance to the Gracie Theatre. A champagne toast and brief 30-45 minute presentation, highlighting key figures in the school's creation such as Founder George Wildey and Dean Ben Haskell, are also planned for that night.

"We're excited to celebrate where NESCom has come in such a short amount of time, it just blows you away. Anyone from the esteemed universities would look at the progress they've made in their span as a school and the progress NESCom has made in 30 years and be shocked," said Shorette.

NESCom junior Kimberly Merrifield of Belfast has been volunteering her time to work on NESCom's upcoming anniversary celebration.

"Seeing Husson and NESCom come together too is making the 30th a big deal, to see how separate we were and how we've come together [over the years]. It's definitely exciting," said Merrifield.

The 2011-2012 school year was a pivotal time for both schools as they began working on integration. As a result, this past school year was the first time NESCom students were allowed to join Husson's sports teams. It's a carrot that has attracted even more students to consider attending NESCom. However, Merrifield admits she didn't need any such incentive to choose NESCom for her education.

"This is actually the only college I applied to. I sat in on some upper level classes when I visited the campus and the public relations class was working with actual clients at the time and that solidified me coming here," said Merrifield. "They are so student focused and I learn a lot from the hands-on learning at NESCom."

And that student-oriented focus is something that will remain at the core of NESCom's existence over the next 30 years.

"I'm very optimistic that NESCom will continue to function in that fashion in the next 30 years and if it does we'll have an even bigger party on the 60th," said Devine.

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