Forty-two years ago, Manatee Community College was nothing more than a vision.
Weeds and bramble covered the Bradenton land that is now a 23-building campus. No professors had been hired, no students enrolled, no classes scheduled.
Today, the college offers more than 100 degree programs on campuses in Bradenton and Venice. More than 7,000 students take classes each year at the college or its extension branches.
The credit, many Manatee County leaders say, belongs to Samuel Register Neel Jr., who guided the college from the ground up for 18 years.
"He really built the foundation of what we now know as Manatee Community College," said Steve …