Tonawanda News — Edward Pawenski, one of the founding members of Niagara County Community College, died Tuesday after a short illness. He was 92.
Pawenski, of North Tonawanda, was the longest serving college trustee in New York state when he stepped down from his role at NCCC in June.
Pawenski, in an interview in July, told the Tonawanda News he formulated the idea for the college while serving one term in the 1950s on the Niagara County Board of Supervisors, an early version of today’s county legislature, when he introduced a resolution to establish the educational institute.
“The size of the county and the number of students we had here that were attending Erie Community College made me think, ‘why couldn’t we have that here?’ “ he said during the interview.
Pawenski said the set-up required months of legwork, visits to community organziations and navigating all the inticracies of hiring staff and administrators to run the fledgling school.
The effort clearly paid off. Starting with 342 students and a $300,000 annual budget, the college now has an average of 7,300 students and has become a strong presence in Niagara County and a popular choice for those seeking an associate’s degree prior to moving on to a four-year school, or to receive job training in a number of vocational programs.
“We went around the county and talked a lot about the college,” he said. “It really grew from zero. That’s something I’m tremendously proud of.”
After the school’s founding, Pawenski would go on to serve on the school’s board of trustees for 52 years. He was also active at his church, Our Lady of Czestochowa, in North Tonawanda.
Pawenski worked in the funeral home business for more than 30 years. The World War II veteran is predeceased by his wife of 68 years, Frances, and a daughter, Candice. He is survived by the couple’s four other daughters and 13 grandchildren.