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On Education: College’s effect on local history is academic

Glendale Community College makes 85 look good.

The campus will play host to more than 400 alums, employees and patrons for a birthday celebration in the form of a formal outdoor dinner on Saturday night.

In preparation, Lisa Brooks, executive director of the Glendale College Foundation, and others dug through the college archives, unearthing newspaper clippings and photographs entertaining enough to swallow an afternoon.

“I think what has been interesting also is hearing everybody’s stories,” Brooks said. “We are getting a lot of people … who graduated in the ‘60s and ‘70s who are coming to this party. They haven’t been back on campus since they left.”


Among the nuggets of recently rediscovered history:

Glendale Junior College opened in September 1927 with 139 students and nine faculty members in the west wing of what was then Glendale Union High School on Verdugo Road.

In 1929, the college community made a new home on Harvard Street, where the athletic department expanded to include football, basketball, baseball, track, tennis, golf, cross-country, swimming and wrestling.

Four years later, an earthquake caused severe structural damage. As a result, classes were held in tents on campus grounds through 1937. “If you were not particularly interested in what your instructor was saying, you could listen to the instructors in the tents on either side, two or three over, if you wished,” one student recounted.


Female students were to address male students first, men rose when a woman entered the classroom and remained on their feet until she sat down, and “well-bred young people” refrained from holding hands on or near campus, according to the 1934-35 student etiquette guide.

A successful 1935 bond campaign — the money would fund the construction of the present-day campus — set off a wild student celebration that included a snake dance up and down Glendale Boulevard.

During the height of World War II, enrollment dropped precipitously to 312 students, with women outnumbering men 29 to 1. “College men … can be quite choosy and independent in dating coeds,” the student newspaper, El Vaquero, noted.

Thereafter, enrollment reversed course, growing steadily through mid-century, hitting benchmarks of 3,036 students in 1961, 6,096 students in 1971, and 10,161 students in 1981.

In 1968, John Davitt was hired as the dean of student services. He would eventually be promoted to president, a position he held for 21 years, the longest in California community college history.

Thousands of Glendale residents turned out to greet President Bill Clinton when he visited Glendale Community College during his reelection campaign in June 1996. (His local stopover also included lunch at Rocky Cola Café in Montrose.) On stage to introduce him was then-Student Body President Hazel Ramos, who is now a faculty member.

Most important are the people who have populated the college, current faculty members told me. Careers of 30 years or more are not unusual.

It’s a rich legacy, and with many generations of students ahead, it’s one that the current stewards of the college need to work hard to sustain. Those stewards, of course, include all members of the Glendale community.


You may not be able to buy a table at the gala event this weekend, but you can attend a football game or board of trustees meeting.

In the meantime, a toast will do.

Here’s to 85 five years of history, and the 85 yet to come.

MEGAN O’NEIL is a former education reporter for Times Community News and current graduate student at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. She may be reached at