HANCEVILLE, Ala. — Over its 50 years of existence, Wallace State Community College has fostered a family-like atmosphere among its students, faculty and staff. Like many families, the younger generation will sometimes go away for a while before returning to the fold.
That is what happened for Stacey Hooper Brunner, who teaches psychology at Wallace State. “I have spent half my life here,” she said, “over 25 years.”
Brunner attended Wallace State as a student from 1981 to 1983, earning a degree in business management. During her time on campus she worked for the college’s flight technology program at the airport, served as head cheerleader and a student government senator for two years. “I basically lived here,” she said. “I was very involved in school.”
Brunner fondly recalls her time as a cheerleader, when the all-girl squad traveled with the team to away games and home games were held at St. Bernard since the college did not yet have a gym or the coliseum at that time. “We had a great team and I’m still friends with those people that were on the team, plus I made friends from those cheerleaders; to this very day they are some of my best friends.”
After graduation, Brunner traveled some. “I always wanted to embrace life and see what I was missing,” she said. “I moved out to Los Angeles and actually lived in Hollywood, Calif.”
She described her time there as sort of a working vacation. She lived with three other girls in a one-room apartment that when it was originally built had murphy beds in the walls. Those, however, had been removed by the time Brunner and her roommates occupied the space.
Within a year and a half, Brunner said she was ready to move on. She moved to Nashville and spent several years there before returning to Cullman County in 1989. Once back home, Brunner visited with Dr. James C. Bailey, the college president, to see if there were any job openings. She got a call shortly thereafter to come to work and has been at the college ever since.
“I’ve worked all over this campus and I’ve seen it grow from five buildings to these wonderful facilities that we have here today,” she said. “It was quite small back in that time that I was here and you kind of knew everybody as far as students go. We had pep rallies for ball games, and of course, really active with homecomings. It was a wonderful experience being here as a student leader.”
In her new role as an employee, Brunner’s first job was as a receptionist for the Wallace State Talent Search program. She also became the cheerleading coach, helped establish a dance line, taught aerobics, helped with student recruiting and promoted the community college system across the state.
She continued her education and in 1993 she earned her master’s degree in psychology. An opening in the department came up that summer for which she was hired. “I guess it was meant to be,” she said.
Brunner also works with the college’s Diversity Committee, serving as its chairperson for the last five years. “It’s very important to me for our students to be culturally and globally educated, so that they’re ready for life, ready for work,” she said.
To this day, Brunner is a strong advocate for the community college system, which allowed her to get the education she doesn’t think she would have otherwise been able to afford.
“Because Wallace was right here in Cullman County it was a great education opportunity and it still is, so that’s why I’m so thrilled to be part of it and be part of students’ processes as they move through their education goals,” she said.
Brunner said it’s been exciting to see the college grow over the years. “It’s great to watch it evolve,” she said.
She hopes former students, faculty and staff of Wallace State will take the opportunity during this year’s celebration to come back to campus to reminisce and see how it things have changed.
“I hope that people embrace this opportunity to come back for homecoming purposes and reunion purposes,” she said. “I would love to see a lot of people who spent time here and gone to school here come back and see how wonderfully we have grown.”