San Jacinto College celebrates 50 years of serving East Harris County
For 50 years, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens and communities of East Harris County. This Fall, the College community began a yearlong celebration of the remarkable journey that has brought us to where we are today – a leader in educational excellence in our region. Our anniversary theme, “Reaching for Tomorrow,” embodies the very things we stand for here at San Jacinto College. We empower our students to achieve their goals and explore new opportunities as they reach for their own personal tomorrow – and we’ve been doing this for 50 years.
The support from our communities was interesting and varied during those early times. For those of you that don’t know the history of how San Jacinto College came to be, allow me to take you back. On January 14, 1960, members of the Deer Park, La Porte, and Pasadena independent school districts met face-to-face to discuss the possibility of what was termed “a tri-county junior college.” The next month, supporters of the junior college plan began circulating petitions calling for the creation of a college in the Channelview, Deer Park, Galena Park, La Porte, and Pasadena independent school districts. A steering committee formed, and in March of 1960, they presented the Board of the Harris County Department of Education with enough signatures to take the plan of a new junior college to voters. Although the vote passed, it was actually defeated in Channelview and Pasadena, and our founders realized that our challenges had just begun. Nevertheless, East Harris County Union Junior College District was born.
Lawsuits were filed by citizen groups who were opposed to being included in the taxing district, and by citizens challenging the constitutional authority of all community colleges in Texas to collect taxes. A group in the Channelview area attempted to withdraw the Channelview school district from the College District, eventually appealing to the state legislature to introduce a bill authorizing an election to dissolve the College district. A bitter legislative fight followed, but fortunately, it failed to pass. There was also a lawsuit filed regarding the property on which the first campus would be built. It was a rocky beginning for the College, which in September of 1960 was renamed San Jacinto Junior College, and some of the news clippings reflecting on our creation referred to it as “the second battle of San Jacinto.” I am glad that for our sake, and more importantly, that of our students and community, those leaders persevered, and enabled us to be here today – 50 years later – to serve our community.
San Jacinto College first opened its doors on Sept. 18, 1961, in a downtown Pasadena storefront, with an initial enrollment of 700 students that quickly grew to 876. Look how far we’ve come in 50 years! Today, we serve more than 30,000 credit students in 140 disciplines, and we continue to see growth in our future.
For the first three years, the College operated at two different locations – the downtown storefront Pasadena location and the science building on what is now known as the Central Campus. All operations were officially moved to the current Central Campus site in June of 1964, and the College flourished.
Growth is what spurred the College to seek a second location in the North Channel area in the late 1960s. The San Jacinto Junior College North Campus began offering night classes at North Shore High School in 1971, and four short years later the campus officially opened. Expansion to the North Channel area was important, because of the rapid growth, changing demographics, and the desire to serve and meet the educational needs of the entire taxing area. Today, the North Campus is experiencing tremendous growth with a current enrollment of over 7,000 students, and we are expanding our facilities to meet that need so that our students can succeed.
As East Harris County continued to rapidly develop, so did the College. A third campus, the South Campus, opened in 1979 with 1,210 students, to meet the needs of the South Belt-Ellington area. With the addition of this campus, the enrollment for the entire College soared to nearly 15,000 students. The South Campus opening enrollment is one of the largest first-year enrollments for any college in Texas history.
When I read about the history of San Jacinto College, I think, ‘Wow, our history is impressive.’ Not just because of what our founders faced as they created this great institution, but because of the many lives that have been inspired along the way. Our history is not about the buildings on each of our campuses or the great technology we have in place. Our history is about the excellent high quality education we provide to our community, the students who come through our doors, and the dedicated support services that have been delivered by our employees for the past 50 years. Our history is about our people.
As we celebrate 50 years of achievement, we recognize that the faces at our College have changed, our campuses themselves have transformed, and even our name has undergone a transformation (in 1995 the Board of Trustees changed the name from San Jacinto Junior College to San Jacinto Community College District). But our passion for helping students succeed has never wavered. Recently, San Jacinto College was named an Achieving the Dream Leader College and a veteran friendly college. Although so much has changed, we have not lost our vision of helping students achieve their dreams, passions, and goals; but rather we are more committed than ever to this vision. I want to thank each of you who, for 50 years, have believed in our College and dedicated your time, money, and energy into making San Jacinto College the strong institution that it is today.
Our yearlong celebration began on September 19, 2011, when nearly 20 cities and elected officials declared that day as San Jacinto College Day. Our students and employees came together in October to form a giant, human “50” for a commemorative photo. Each of our campuses is incorporating the College’s Golden Anniversary into campus events such as welcome week and Fall Fest at the South Campus. In the Spring, our Central Campus theatre department will present the first play ever performed at San Jacinto College, and the North Campus will incorporate a 50th Anniversary celebration in conjunction with one of its baseball games. Additionally, videos of each decade are being created, as well as a coffee table book celebrating the College’s many accomplishments. Finally, in May of 2012, we will culminate the yearlong celebration with a gala, hosted by the San Jacinto College Foundation, at the Johnson Space Center.
I invite you, our community, to join us in the many activities we have planned throughout the year. I also encourage you to share your San Jac story on our anniversary website. Since our founding, San Jacinto College has been a pillar in our community, and we look forward to sharing our 50th anniversary celebration with you.
Here’s to another 50 years and more of serving our community. Thank you for your continued support.
On behalf of all of the faculty, staff, and administration at San Jacinto College, I wish you and your families happy holidays and a very happy new year.