In January, Phoenix College kicked off their centennial celebration by unveiling a time capsule. The capsule includes written quotes from students, faculty and staff expressing what is most meaningful to them about their time at the college, which was established 100 years ago this past September.
The college started celebrating early because many of their usual events have been canceled. Their September 13 Founder’s Day was transformed into a virtual party, and their November Gala is being moved to the Spring of 2022, when they’ll celebrate their 100th graduating class.
The administrators of Phoenix Union High School District founded Phoenix College in 1920 because they believed there needed to be more than one college in the Valley. At the time, Tempe Normal School, the precursor to Arizona State University, was the only college in the Phoenix area. The next closest institution for earning a four-year degree was the University of Arizona in Tucson. Phoenix College was started as a two-year school, so the founders partnered with the University of Arizona to develop the curriculum.
“One aspect that encapsulates what makes us most unique for the period [is] the fact that we have never been a segregated school,” Development Director Deborah Spotts said. “We’ve always been integrated and open to everyone. That’s always been a point of pride for us.”
Spotts relates how, in 1964, Phoenix College’s football team traveled to Georgia to play in the NJCAA Georgia Peach Shrine Bowl Championship. Georgia was very much segregated at that time, so the players and coaches were shocked to be playing an integrated team.
“As anyone can imagine for this era, this caused some consternation in the town and the stands,” Spotts said. “Phoenix College has always been ahead of what was happening nationally. We currently have a student enrollment of more than 50% Hispanic. Our diversity is another tremendous point of pride for us.”
The college is also famous for having trained civilian pilots for World War II, and when the GIs returned home, Phoenix College was there to offer night school for the vets. Fast forward to the 1980s, and the college was offering computer learning programs that, at that time, were typically only available at large powerhouse universities like Stanford.
“We’re set up to serve all types of students in different situations. Students can take classes during the day or at night. We’re very accommodating,” Spotts said.
Many students take the core freshman and sophomore classes and then transfer to a four-year university to complete their bachelor’s degree. Phoenix College also offers two-year degrees, such as nursing and dental hygiene, for those who are looking for more immediate and specialized training.
“One major project we’ve been working on for the last couple of years, in anticipation of our centennial, is our history book, which is coming out this fall,” Spotts said.
Entitled “Our Past. Your Future. The History of Phoenix College,” this coffee table-style book was written by local author and Phoenix College alumna Stella Pope Duarte, with a forward penned by Arizona State Historian Marshall Trimble, who’s also an alumnus.