Frances "Fran" Dice knows what it means to worry about the costs of college.
When she graduated from Mount Assisi Academy in Bellevue, her family "wasn't real supportive" of her going to college.
Fortunately for Mrs. Dice, it was the first year that the Community College of Allegheny County opened its doors, so she was able to enroll in studies there for fairly low cost.
"My only alternative would have been night school, and that would have taken a lot longer," she said. Mrs. Dice attended the college for two years and was in the first graduating class in 1968.
"We had our graduation at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall," she said. "I still remember it."
Mrs. Dice went on to complete a bachelor's degree in English literature at the University of Pittsburgh, where she met her husband, Roger, an engineer.
"We moved away from Pittsburgh for five years, and when we came back I applied for a job at CCAC.
I've been here ever since," she said, "I never thought in a million years that I would be back working here when I graduated."
For the past 37 years, Mrs. Dice has worked at the college and currently serves as the assistant dean for academic management.
"Essentially my position is that I am the registrar for the CCAC system," she said.
Mrs. Dice recently was honored by Allegheny County Council with a Proclamation for CCAC graduates that commended her for her service to the county through her work at the college.
Mrs. Dice and her husband also have established the Frances & Roger Dice Scholarship at CCAC.
This semester, they made their first award to a student pursuing education in the early childhood field.
"I am forever grateful that this institution was here when I needed it," she said, "We wanted to help others with their education."
In her nearly four decades with the college, Mrs. Dice said she has seen a lot of students come and go.
"So much has changed in my time here, but in many respects the students haven't really changed all that much. Many of our students are still the first generation in their family to attend college, and we give them a good start," she said.
A resident of Hampton, Mrs. Dice also served on the board of the Hampton Community Library for over 20 years. Now 63, she enjoys gardening, reading and traveling with her husband in her spare time.
Mrs. Dice went on to complete a master's degree through Robert Morris University, something important to her work at CCAC.
"I believe that if we work in education, we should value it enough to pursue it ourselves," she said.
Still, she remembers her roots as one of the "pioneer students" of CCAC.
"It's why [my husband and I] have such strong feelings about giving back," she said.neigh_north
Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org. First Published April 12, 2012 5:00 AM