Cochise College will officially celebrate its 50th anniversary during the 2014-15 school year that begins July 1.
But the wheels of progress that set plans for the college into motion began turning years prior to the institution’s first classes in September 1964. Some might argue that the college’s 50th anniversary actually passed in 2011 or 2012.
On the national level, there occurred prior to the college’s existence an economic transformation from military industries to consumer goods requiring a different type of worker. Soldiers returning from service came with access to the GI Bill. Baby boomers waited in the wings to take on new challenges and drive enrollment.
Those were the times in which Cochise College was founded. Right in the middle of the Vietnam War, during a decade of profound social change, it was one of more than 450 community colleges to open across the nation.
In Cochise County in 1961, a steering committee explored the possibility of a college and some residents offered to drive car-less voters to the polls to express support of the effort to establish a taxing district. Following the vote, the county school superintendent appointed the first Governing Board, which met and reviewed the results of the Junior College Survey of Cochise County, a fascinating document published by Arizona Educational Consultants from the College of Education at Arizona State University. The board even announced the site of the college’s first location, now the Douglas Campus, in 1961.
The year 1962 appears on the Cochise College seal, a formal mark used for very official communications. That’s because Cochise County faced two important votes in 1962. Residents approved $1.6 million in bonds to support construction of the college and also chose the members of the college’s first elected — rather than appointed — board.
During the 23 months between their election and the first college classes, the board hired and laid to rest the first Cochise College president, who passed away 50 years ago this month; broke ground on the campus; and hired the second college president, along with faculty, staff and administrators who took up temporary office space at the famed Gadsden Hotel.
Despite all of these details, Cochise will celebrate 50 years in keeping with its first year of classes. The years just beginning also mark the golden anniversary of other significant world events, of which we’re reminded by the release by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum of condolence letters sent to Jackie Kennedy after JFK’s assassination, and by a recent “Rolling Stone” cover commemorating the year The Beatles took America by storm.
I have a deep respect and awe for the history of this college and for all who shaped it into what it is today. It’s likely that something in this column sparked questions among readers, and we look forward to answering them by telling our story as part of our anniversary celebration.
J.D. Rottweiler is president of Cochise College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.