It was 1970, and Howard Community College had begun marketing its new campus and programs.
As a military veteran, Sharp was able to use his G.I. Bill benefits for classes while also actively working at his family’s dairy farm in Glenwood.
“Every morning I got up to milk the cows, ran up the house, took a shower, went to take my classes, and went back home to milk the cows,” he said.
Despite the busy schedule, Sharp enjoyed his experience at HCC so much that he helped start a veterans’ club with dozens of other former servicemembers. He also served as student government president.
“Back then, HCC was one building,” Sharp recalled. “After two weeks, everybody knew everybody. We also had access to any professor, whether you were in their class or not. We could walk on campus any day of the week and open a professor’s door and meet with them.”
Sharp continued taking courses even after earning his associate degree as part of HCC’s first graduating class in 1972. Through those additional classes, he learned skills in areas like residential construction and retail sales—which proved helpful to his business.
“I benefited immensely from the retailing class,” says Sharp, who now oversees Sharp’s at Waterford Farm with his wife, Denise, whom he also met while attending HCC. “I ran into the professor years later and told her, she made me more money than anything else I had studied.”
Sharp’s at Waterford Farm is a 530-acre working farm in the western part of Howard County that serves as a destination for educational farm tours, events, and market goods. In addition to running the farm, Sharp also has worked on residential real estate projects, and he has helped other farms navigate the zoning process for agricultural preservation.
While a lot has changed at HCC and in the county over the years, one thing that has not changed is the diversity of the college’s student population and the impact the college has had on students and the broader community.
“When I left for the Army, Columbia was on paper,” he said. “When I got back, it was a reality. And I think the diversity came from the county transitioning from an agricultural county to a more urban county via Columbia.”
With the establishment of the new community of Columbia and Jim Rouse’s vision for higher education opportunities for local residents of all ages, races, incomes, and backgrounds, HCC embodied the values of the community it served from the start. Today, those values continue to remain intertwined, and that’s to everyone’s benefit, according to Sharp.
“The college and the county have both benefited from each other’s growth and success,” he said. “HCC is a great school to have in our community.”
Wherever you want to go, you can get there from here.