By Dr. Kathleen Rose
The first day of fall semester is always special at Gavilan College. It’s a time when new students, many who have never attended college before, many the first in their families to attend college, join returning students in the seasonal rituals of a new academic year.
This year’s first day was especially momentous, for it marked the 100th consecutive year for Gavilan College to welcome a new class of students to the promise and opportunities of higher education.
A hundred years ago, in 1919, the citizens of San Benito County decided to add college courses to their high school, making college accessible and affordable for the rural students of Hollister. This decision had a greater impact on our community than they could ever have known. San Benito Junior College, at that time a part of San Benito High School, became the 11th community college in the state of California. Today there are 115 community colleges in our state, forming the largest system of higher education in the world.
Our college grew with its community. By the 1950s, it was time to join with other communities to create a community college district that could stand on its own, separate from the high school, and marshal the resources to build a campus, add career programs, and expand to meet the needs of the post-war world. The college moved from its original home at the high school to a temporary campus at the Hollister Airport.
In 1963 the Gavilan Joint Community College District was formed and San Benito Junior College was renamed Gavilan College. The trustees of the new district passed a bond measure, located land between Gilroy and Hollister, and planned a campus. The main campus opened in 1967. Additional buildings have been added to the campus since then, as well as satellite sites in Morgan Hill and Hollister, an aviation site in San Martin, and an instructional site in Coyote Valley.
With the passage of Measure X in 2018, we will be breaking ground for a campus in San Benito County next year.
Over the decades, tens of thousands of students have entered Gavilan College, starting the journeys that led them into the arts, politics, business, medicine, law enforcement, technology, and every other field of endeavor. There are few in our community who don’t have a connection, in some way, to Gavilan College.
For those of us who work at the college, it is a special honor to be the celebrants of the centennial and to share the story of our college history. We invite you to celebrate with us all year. As we start with a sold-out Centennial Gala Sept. 7, we will kick off a year in which we will celebrate 100 years of Gavilan College in everything we do. Visit the college and remember to thank those citizens, in 1919, who began a tradition of fall semesters for us to follow.
Dr. Kathleen Rose is the president of Gavilan College.
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