The History of Orange Coast College

Alma Mater
Orange Coast we hail,
Thy praises we now sing.
May our pirate flag guide us today
As thy sons and daughter sail.
For as we go down thru the years,
your spirit we will share.
With loyalty we sing to thee,
our Alma Mater fair.
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  1. 1947

    Orange Coast College is established on Jan. 27, 1947 with Dr. Basil H. Peterson as the first OCC president.
    Dr. Basil H. Peterson as the first OCC president


    OCC’s first operating budget of $264,253 is approved by the College’s newly authorized District board of trustees.
    Members of board of trustees looking at map

    1948

    OCC is awarded 243 of the Santa Ana Army Air Base’s original 900 acres, and Newport Harbor Union High School’s night program becomes OCC’s first active classes. Aerial View of Santa Ana Army Air Base in 1948


    Classes officially begin on Sept. 13, 1948 with 515 students, 728 evening students, and 30 faculty members. Large group photo with students and faculty members

    1949

    The Technology Building becomes the first permanent structure on campus. 1948 students and faculty members

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  3. 1950

    Orange Coast College hosts its first summer school session.

    The OCC Sailing Club defeats UC Berkeley.

    OCC offered its first health occupation program - Nursing. Nursing would be offered at OCC until the 1969-70 academic year when it was transferred to the newly formed Golden West College.

    “The Barnacle” expresses campus opinion of a probable war with the Soviet Union within ten years. The Barnacle - Orange Coast College newspaper

    1951

    OCC’s Clocktower is installed on campus, as a landmark for the College’s first Library.

    A rifle range is built for the College’s Rifle Club, behind the Agriculture Building in old Santa Ana Army Air Base barracks.

    student in front of the clock tower
    1952

    Construction begins on a 14,000-square-foot Student Center Student Center being constructed

    1953

    A fire destroys the original Santa Ana Army Air Base chapel adopted by OCC. The burnt chapel


    OCC leases land adjacent to the Lido Channel to serve as a base for the College’s crew program. OCC Crew

    1954

    OCC’s iconic nautical flag pole is installed on campus. Founders of OCC in front the flag pole

    1955

    Construction on the College’s theater — designed by renowned architect Richard Neutra — is completed. Students exiting out of the theater


    OCC’s football stadium opens. OCC students on the stadium bleachers


    OCC began an “X-Ray” technician program and was the first junior college to offer this training in the nation. In June 1956 OCC graduated its first class; this is the longest continuing health occupation training program at the college. Newspaper clipping of OCC with unique X-Ray class.

    1956

    More Neutra-designed structures on campus are completed, including the Science Building and Planetarium. The Science Building

    The Planetarium

    Barron Knechtel, science instructor, demonstrates Spitz planetarium projector

    1957

    Students vote to change the school’s colors from maroon and grey, to scarlet, black and white. Patch from swim team letterman jacket with school colors

    1958

    OCC’s campus now consists of 13 new structures, including an agriculture building and library.

    The College is forced to begin charging admittance to drama performances after more than 5,000 people turn out for the presentation of “Finian’s Rainbow” with a seating availability of only 1,200. Aerial view of the campus

    1959

    Total enrollment grows to 7,645 students; the number of full-time instructors has grown to 97. Students waiting in line to enroll for classes

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  5. 1960

    The Forum is built, making it the first large lecture hall classroom on campus. The Forum building


    Orange Coast Junior College District’s Board of Trustees vote to become a multi-campus district. Board of Trustees in a meeting

    1961

    Ground is broken on a new $900,000 gym. Board Member Harry Lebard and Basil Peterson review plans for new gymnasium

    1962

    The new gymnasium is officially dedicated and named for OCC President Dr. Basil H. Peterson. Front of the new gymnasium

    1963

    OCC wins a victory at the Junior Rose Bowl, 21-0. The OCC football team

    OCC football player tackling their opponent

    1964

    Dr. Peterson retires as president and district superintendent, and Dr. Norman E. Watson is selected as OCC’s second president for a short time, before taking the newly created position of district chancellor. Dr. Peterson

    Dr. Norman E. Watson


    Dr. Robert B. Moore becomes OCC's third president. Dr. Robert B. Moore

    1965

    "Tumbleweeds to Roses," a history of Orange Coast College is published. Dr. Basil Peterson hoildng Tumbleweeds to Roses book


    Diane Keaton (nee Hall) performs as a student in OCC's production of "Bye Bye Birdie." Diane Keaton

    1966

    The Coast Community College District officially becomes a multi-campus district with the opening of Golden West College in Huntington Beach. Golden West College Campus


    Bob Dylan cancels a concert on campus due to a motorcycle accident. Bob Dylan

    1967

    Dr. Henry Kissinger, politician and secretary of state in the Nixon Administration, speaks at OCC. Dr. Henry Kissinger speaking on the phone


    OCC’s Sailing Center in Newport Beach erects a prefab steel building to house the College’s rowing program. Prefabricated steel building and crew team standing outside

    1968

    Orange Coast College’s marching band ends its run. OCC marching band walking down the street

    Marching band performing on the football field

    1969

    A new four-story library is built (the building is now known as Watson Hall) New library under construction

    Illustration of new library

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  7. 1970

    OCC’s Recycling Center is built following a visit from environmental advocate Ralph Nader. The Recycling Center


    The Sailing Center adds a bulkhead, docks, and single cement building to its oceanfront facilities in Newport Beach. Construction of the Sailing Center

    1971

    Campus radio begins broadcasting. Campus radio station

    1972

    The Associated Students of Orange Coast College vote to establish a health fee to help provide health services to every student. OCC Health Center


    The District acquires a license to operate the PBS television station KOCE-TV, enabling televised course offerings. PBS News sets

    1973

    OCC’s Children’s Center opens with fanfare and clowns. children following the teacher

    1974

    OCC’s student newspaper “The Barnacle” reports that “streaking” is becoming a common practice on campus. Two men streaking on campus

    1975

    The Coast football team wins the Avocado Bowl for their second national crown. Coast Football Team posing on bleaches of football stadium

    1976

    Bob Hope performs on campus. Bob Hope

    1977

    OCC’s competitive surf team is formed, and captures the state surfing championship in its first year. OCC Surf Team

    1978

    OCC’s Student Health Center opens its doors, the largest community college health center in California at the time. Student Health Center

    1979

    Orange Coast College student population becomes the largest in the country, at 28,887. Long line of students in the main quad waiting to register for classes


    The Men’s Basketball team wins the State Championship, and the College’s Speech team wins their first national title by a record-breaking 45 points. Basketball team cheering together Speech team holding trophy

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  9. 1980

    OCC’s hosts an art exhibit titled “Ansel Adams: A Survey.” The opening is attended by Adams. Ansel Adams with camera


    The College’s public sailing program begins. Student sailing a boat Sailing coach speaking on a megaphone to other boats

    1981

    Food service students win 33 awards at the 16th annual Culinary Art Show. Group of food service students behind a table of food


    Pirates defeat Harvard and Yale JV eights for the first time at the San Diego Crew Classic. Crew team with trophy

    1982

    Dr. Robert B. Moore retires as president. Dr. Bernard Luskin, the founding president of Coastline Community College, becomes OCC’s fourth president. Dr. Robert B. Moore Dr. Bernard Luskin exiting from a car in front of the Coastline Community College bookstore


    The College’s 65-foot sloop, the “Alaska Eagle,” is donated, and becomes the Sailing Center’s flagship vessel. The Alaska Eagle sails out to sea

    1983

    The College holds its inaugural Alumni Hall of Fame event. 4 OCC Alumni at event holding a famed certificate 3 other OCC Alumni at event holding a famed certificate

    1984

    Dr. Luskin retires as president. Dr. Luskins sitting a chair


    Denzel Washington visits campus for a celebrity basketball game. Two basketball players jumping for the tip off on flyer titled celebrity basketball

    1985

    Dr. Donald R. Bronsard becomes OCC’s fifth president. Dr. Donald R. Bronsard


    Jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie performs on campus. Dizzy Gillespie playing trumpet

    1986

    OCC’s Foundation is established with Doug Bennett as the Executive Director. Doug Bennett


    Dick Tucker steps down as head football coach after 24 years. Dick Tucker talking to his players

    1987

    A new campus safety office opens in front of the Moore Theatre. Campus Safety Building

    1988

    A 10-year plan is adopted to begin replacing the first permanent buildings on campus, from the 40s and 50s. The demolition and construction of buildings


    The College begins its Visiting Scholars program. Dr. Vladimir Sakharov

    1989

    Dr. Bronsard retires as president, and David A. Grant becomes OCC’s sixth president. Dr. Bronsard speaking at a podium Dave A. Grant


    Bill Gates visits campus to give a talk titled “The Future of Computing” at the Moore Theatre. Bill Gates

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  11. 1990

    OCC Crew beats Cambridge University A newspaper clipping reads - OCC crew whips top British boat

    1991

    OCC’s Farm, which originated with the birth of the College, is closed. A barn on the farmland

    1992

    OCC’s Robert B. Moore Theatre is renovated with enhanced acoustics, added air conditioning, and improved seating. Inside the Robert B. Moore Theatre


    Then-Governor Bill Clinton visits OCC President Dave Grant. Bill Clinton and Dave Grant

    1993

    Newly remodeled Associated Student Center and Cafeteria is opened. The Student Center

    1994

    The new Plastination Laboratory opens. Building signage reads - Plastination Laboratory, dedicated to the George Hoag Family Foundation


    A new Technology Center opens; it is the most advanced facility of its type on any community college campus in the nation. The Technology Center

    1995

    David Grant retires as president. Dave Grant in rocking chair


    OCC honors WWII veterans with the dedication of two bronze plaques installed at the base of the campus flagpole.

    1996

    Margaret A. Gratton becomes OCC’s seventh president, the first women to ever serve in the post. Margaret A. Gratton


    The College’s colors are changed from scarlet, black and white to orange and blue for its 50th anniversary. OCC commemorative items along with a cake and bouquet of roses on a table

    1997

    A campus-wide wiring project is completed, making all classrooms and faculty offices internet accessible. Employee setting up a computer


    The donation of a motor yacht named “Wide Waters” launches OCC’s large powerboat instruction program. Motor Yacht

    1998

    OCC’s Harry and Grace Steele Children’s Center is dedicated. The Children's Center

    1999

    OCC Middle College High School graduates its first class of 33 students. Students in cap and gown


    The College hosts its first Science Night, which invites youngsters from neighboring schools to a night of displays and demonstrations by OCC science faculty and students. OCC faulty with students holding sea urchins

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  13. 2000

    OCC’s Sailing Center adds a 3,200-square-foot nautical library, and changes its name to the School of Sailing and Seamanship. Sailing Center

    2001

    A day of remembrance consisting of students and staff is held on campus following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Student and staff gathering around the main quad.


    The College’s “Alaska Eagle” yacht voyages to Antarctica. The Alaska Eagle yacht in Antarctica

    2002

    Margaret A. Gratton retires as president, and Gene J. Farrell becomes OCC’s eighth president. Margaret A. Gratton Gene J. Farrell


    The College’s Art Center opens, and Gertrude R. Doyle pledges $1 million to construct the Frank M. Doyle Arts Pavilion. The Arts Center


    A small island off the coast of British Columbia named “Rabbit Island” is donated to OCC. Entire view of Rabbit Island A dock on the Rabbit Island Group of visitors to the island

    2003

    OCC’s Emeritus Institute is formed. Group of OCC Emeritus

    2004

    OCC’s soccer and football fields are renovated with synthetic Field Turf surfaces using Measure C funds. The football field The soccer field


    The first Orange County Children’s Book Festival held on campus draws 10,000 people. Crowd of people at the Children's Book Festival

    2005

    Gene Farrell retires as president and Robert V. Dees becomes OCC’s ninth president. Gene Farrell holding a congratulatory cake Robert V. Dees

    2006

    A Starbucks opens on campus. Inside Starbucks


    Norman E. Watson Hall, the Fran Albers Maintenance and Operations Center and the Giles T. Brown Forum are named and dedicated. The Giles T. Brown Forum building

    2007

    OCC’s Fitness Complex opens. The Fitness Complex Building


    Kareem Abdul Jabar visits OCC after co-writing a book with English professor Raymond Obstfeld titled “On the Shoulder of Giants.” Kareem Abdul Jabar and Raymond Obstfeld

    2008

    A new Library is opened on the southwest side of campus. The library building


    The College breaks ground on a new Allied Health, Biology and Consumer Science building. Administrative members of the OCC breaking ground with shovels

    2009

    Bob Dees retires as president. Robert Dees


    OCC’s Sailing Center is renovated with improvements including wheelchair accessibility, a women’s locker room, and seismic safety upgrades. Sailing Center under renovations Renovations completed to the Sailing Center

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  15. 2010

    Dennis Harkins becomes the 10th president of Orange Coast College. Dennis Harkins


    OCC welcomes 80 veterans and their guests for the 34th annual reunion of airmen who were assigned to the Santa Ana Army Air Base. Veterans and guest in front of the Captain's Table restaurant

    2011

    OCC sends a record 2,274 students to CSU/UC campuses and takes the top spot among California’s 110 community colleges in the number of students transferring to the state’s public four-year universities. OCC student meets with a UC representative


    The College’s new ABC Complex opens just in time for the spring semester. Members of OCC sit at the opening of the ABC Complex


    The Barto family donates a $2 million 92-foot yacht to OCC’s Sailing Center, named the Nordic Star. It is the largest boat ever donated to OCC. The Nordic Star, 92-foot yacht

    2012

    Local voters pass Measure M, a $698 million bond to be distributed among the Coast Community College District’s three campuses in order to improve facilities. The ABC Complex


    OCC is listed as one of “103 Great Colleges to Work For” in the fifth annual survey conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education, due in large part to the employee health and wellness programs coordinated by the District Wellness Committee. Welcome to Coast billboard

    2013

    OCC completes a nearly $5 million renovation, which includes a new recital hall with seating for 77, stage lighting, and state-of-the-art acoustics. The upgrade also includes 8 new Steinway grand pianos. Ribbon cutting ceremony in front the Robert B. Moore Theatre Steinway grand pianos


    OCC unveils a large painted logo in front of the Student Center. Students surrounding the OCC painted logo

    2014

    After 30-plus years, OCC bids farewell to its flagship, the Alaska Eagle. During her time at coast, the 65-foot sloop carried some 3,000 students for nearly 300,000 miles at sea to such destinations as Alaska, Hawaii, Australia, Antarctica, and South America. The Alaska Eagle


    The Orange Coast College Machine Technology Program installs a 3D Concept Laser Printer valued at $325,000, a gift from an anonymous donor who wants to encourage training for good paying jobs in manufacturing. Instructor and student by the 3-D Printer

    2015

    OCC opens its Mathematics, Business and Computing Center in the fall. The 90,000-square-foot interdisciplinary complex includes 10 computer labs, three lecture halls and 30 faculty offices. Ribbon cutting ceremony in front of teh MBCC building


    For the first time since 2009, the Victory Bell returns to Costa Mesa as the Orange Coast College football team nabs a win over rival Golden West in the “West-Coast Showdown.” Football player holding the Victory Bell

    2016

    OCC breaks ground on a new Planetarium; with a 40-foot domed ceiling, immersion theatre, Foucault Pendulum, and Science on a Sphere NOAA display globe, the facility will be the first of its kind in Orange County, and will serve as a vital science center for generations of K-14 students. Doug Bennett giving a speech Members of the A=administration and Board of Trustees are breaking ground with shovels


    Orange Coast College ranked number two among 50 colleges around the country assessed by valuecolleges.com based on educational return on investment. The College also ranked 12th among 381 two-year institutions in the United States for producing the highest-paid graduates in a payscale.com College Salary Report. Students walking on campus in front of the MBCC building

    2017

    OCC opens its new Recycling Center, with the hopes that it will be the first building in the world to receive LEED, SITES, and TRUE Zero Waste designations. Students and staff in front of the Recycling Center


    The College's horticulture program invites members of the public to view a rare corpse flower bloom. The stinky inflorescence has the potential to grow more than 10 feet tall, and emits a smell that some have likened to rotting flesh. crowd of people witness the corpse flower crowd of people observing the corpse flower starting to bloom


    Orange Coast College paid homage to deceased coach, administrator and faculty member Jane Hilgendorf by dedicating the College's gym floor in her name. Hilgendorf dedication at the Peteson Gym

    2018

    OCC kicked off the New Year with the grand opening of its Pirates' Cove food pantry. Shelf of food with a hanging OCC spirit flag


    As the Spring 2018 semester got underway, the College launched a new and improved mobile app to help students, faculty and staff stay more connected on campus. OCC App shown on phone screen


    Orange Coast College's Fashion department unveils its first on-campus pop-up retail shop, located in a shipping container and aptly named "The Box." The Box logo sign mounted to the side of the shop.


    OCC's Speech and Debate team does what no other community college has ever done: win four national championships in a row. The Speech and Debate team sitting together with their awards.


    Orange Coast College receives a California Community College Maker Implementation grant of $340,000, enabling the College to build an inclusive makerspace community, provide internships, embed making into its curriculum, and prepare students with STEAM skills. OCC Makerspace logo: Experience maker culture & Experiment new ideas.


    The Orange Coast College Foundation receives the largest donation in its 32-year history — a gift of $1.8 million from the estate of late philosophy professor David Johnston to establish the M.F. & Marvel Monia Johnston Scholarship Fund. Pencil sketch drawing of David Johnston


    OCC launches a College Promise program called "Pirates Promise" that offers all students free tuition for one year. Graphic of Pirates Promise program in text with orange and blue colors


    Orange Coast College kicks off its 70th anniversary celebrations with a re-dedication of the school's football stadium facilities. 70th Anniversary logo


    After nine years leading OCC, President Dennis Harkins announces he will be retiring. President Harkins was OCC's 10th and third-longest-serving, president, and oversaw the passage of Measure M and subsequent construction projects, such as the Math, Business and Computing Center. Portrait of Dennis Harkins

    2019

    OCC’s Vice President of Instruction Kevin Ballinger is named interim president. Ballinger takes the helm at a critical time for OCC and leads the College through its accreditation process, the implementation of a new statewide math and English placement model, and helps frame OCC's Guided Pathway Project. Portrait of Kevin Ballinger


    Orange Coast College renames the OCC Track and Field Complex after longtime coach, administrator and Pirate Hall of Famer Jim McIlwain, who coached the Pirates’ cross country teams for 10 seasons and track and field for 12. Jim Mcilwain at the OCC Track and Field


    OCC officially opens the doors to its long-awaited Planetarium, with a grand opening ceremony that brings out hundreds of employees, donors, local officials, project collaborators and community partners. OCC planterium at sunset


    For the second year in a row and third time in four years, the Orange Coast College women's swim team captures the state crown at the 2019 California Community College Athletic Association State Swimming and Diving Championships. OCC Women's Swim team holding championship banner


    A team of six OCC students are the only community college students to qualify to compete in the first-ever ESPN Collegiate Esports Championships in Houston, going up against hundreds of colleges and universities from across the United States. OCC Esports team standing together


    The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) reaffirms Orange Coast College's accreditation for seven years. In addition to the reaffirmation of accreditation, the Commission also commends OCC for its collaborative planning processes, commitment to professional development and for fostering an environment of innovation.


    The Orange Coast College Recycling Center takes sustainability initiatives to a new level by becoming the first facility in the world to achieve LEED Gold certification, Sustainable SITES Initiative (SITES) v2 certification in California, and TRUE Zero Waste certification. OCC Recycling Center building


    Following a national search, Angélica Suarez, Ph.D. is selected to serve as the 11th president of Orange Coast College. She is the second woman and the first Latina to take the helm at OCC. Portrait of Dr. Anelica Suarez at the Planetarium


    Orange Coast College's Pirates' Promise Program ups its free tuition assistance, offering a second year of support for returning students in addition to first-year students. Graphic of Pirates Promise program in text with orange and blue colors


    Two resident desert tortoises at the Orange Coast College Harry and Grace Steele Children's Center become parents, with six hatchlings emerging from one of the Center’s sandboxes. Two tortoise hatchlings held in hands

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  17. 2020

    OCC suffers an enormous loss, with the passing of Head Baseball Coach of 27 years, John Altobelli, who perished alongside his wife and daughter in a helicopter crash. John Altobelli holding trophy


    In response to an unprecedented global health pandemic caused by the spread of COVID-19, a strain of Coronavirus, Orange Coast College makes the difficult decision to temporarily move all of its classes to an online format, in order to protect the health and safety of its students and employees. Graphic of girl sitting in front of computer at home