MiraCosta College History
1930s - The Beginning
In 1932, when a furnished house in Oceanside rented for around $13 a month and hamburger sold for 10 cents a pound, talk of establishing a community college in North County started. Though the idea was initially rejected, it soon became evident that an economically-shaken Oceanside needed a way to provide local students with a college education without having to leave home.
In 1934, the Oceanside-Carlsbad Union High School District board voted to establish a community college, to be located in one wing of Oceanside High School (circa 1938) and led by Superintendent/Principal George R. McIntyre. Known then as the Oceanside - Carlsbad Junior College Department of the Oceanside High School District, the school opened on September 3, 1934, with 20 faculty members who taught about 130 students. The college offered 16 courses that were accepted as credit toward advanced standing at the University of California. The college also offered vocational courses for students not wishing to transfer to a university.
Fresh from high school, students formed social clubs and participated in many activities. In the first two years after opening, football, basketball and track teams were formed; the drama department presented two plays; and the A Cappella Choir performed in different towns in the district. The journalism class established the weekly school paper, “O-C Campus,” which was a combination of the high school and college newspaper.
The students also published a yearbook, “the Phalanx” and formed a sorority, “Coraphilia” and a fraternity, “Keymen” (pictured above). To differentiate themselves from the high school students who shared the same campus and followed the same bell schedule, freshmen students wore green felt skullcaps, nicknamed “dinks.”
A student booklet printed in the late 1930s highlights the importance that student activities played in the early years of the college. The booklet advised, “Specialized training and cultural academic work are supported by a well-planned social life, a health program, and an opportunity for growth through the enjoyment of leisure-time activities.” Pictured are students socializing during "College Hall."
Just months after offering the first classes, the local community voted to continue the existence of Oceanside - Carlsbad Junior College (O-CJC), with 84% of votes cast in support of the college. In April 1935, the California State Board of Education approved its permanent establishment.
1940s - The War Years
The 1940s were dominated by World War II, and this was no different at Oceanside-Carlsbad Junior College. The war affected both the enrollment at the college as well as the type of programs offered.
During the early 1940s, enrollment at MiraCosta remained relatively unchanged, with about 100 students taking classes each semester. This changed as the war progressed. In 1943, enrollment dropped down to 55 students, most of whom were women. Enrollment picked up again as veterans took advantage of the G.I. Bill, which allowed more men than ever before to get a college education. By 1946, 250 students were attending Oceanside-Carlsbad Junior College.
In response to the war, the college added a summer session so that students could finish their studies in a shorter period of time. The college also allowed for specially-combined classes of high school and college students. Women began taking courses that were previously unavailable to them, such as welding classes. When word got around in 1941 that women at the Oceanside-Carlsbad Junior College (O-CJC) were taking welding, newspapers took interest. O-CJC graduate Eleanor (King) Hagen’s photograph was featured in the “Los Angeles Times,” the “Boston Herald” and even on the cover of the August 11, 1941, “Newsweek.”
“We really put Oceanside-Carlsbad Junior College on the map,” remembers Hagen.
Besides the changes to course offerings, some student activities also slowed down during the war; for example, athletics were canceled until the 1946-47 school year, though other activities continued to be encouraged. School spirit was still high; in fact, in 1947, O-CJC had a prize-winning float, “Graduation Day,” in the Pasadena Rose Parade. “Miss Oceanside,” “Miss Carlsbad,” and “Miss Junior College” rode the float, which also featured an owl that blinked its eyes and moved its head.
As the decade progressed, the college saw a record number of Marines and sailors (both men and women) who wanted to make up high school and junior college units, and earn high school diplomas and associate degrees. In response, the Oceanside-Carlsbad Union High School District expanded its night school offerings. In September 1944, the Oceanside-Carlsbad Evening College went into full swing, offering courses such as chemistry, English, history, math, wood shop, auto mechanics, weaving and sewing. As a result of the increased offerings, the enrollment for evening college increased more than 50 percent by the second month of the semester.
1950s - The Fun Times
With the end of the war, America experienced both an economic and a population boom. The 1950s at Oceanside-Carlsbad Junior College were also a time of growth—in academic standards, enrollment and physical presence.
In 1953, Robert V. Rogers was hired as the director of the Oceanside-Carlsbad Junior College, a position he held for ten years, though the title changed to president halfway through his term. Rogers was committed to raising the academic standards and improving the overall reputation of the school. He modified the college catalog, worked with an accreditation team on the quality of academic programs and initiated a formal commencement ceremony. In 1956, the college was officially accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
By 1959, Oceanside - Carlsbad Junior College was prepared to accommodate 500 full-time students in classrooms on 30 acres adjacent to Oceanside High School. Although this was a welcome expansion, the increased enrollment was putting a squeeze on the high school and in 1960 administrators began looking for a new permanent home for the college.
Most of the student activities revolved around the sports teams, especially the football team, which enjoyed big crowds on game nights. In fact, the 1950 yearbook credited football as the incentive to get back to school after summer. In 1957, under the coaching of John W. “Bill” Corchran, the college’s football team won the South Central Conference championship and the yearbook responded by devoting 13 pages just to football.
Meanwhile, 1959 homecoming queen Irene Horvath turned the nation’s eyes on Oceanside-Carlsbad Junior College. “Life” magazine visited the campus to meet the 72-year-old queen, and newspapers, magazines and even television cameras captured shots of Horvath on the shoulders of a few football players.
1960s - The Rebirth
The 1960s brought big changes in America. This was the decade of youth; post-war baby boomers became teenagers and young adults, moving away from the conservatism of the 1950s and toward change that profoundly affected the cultural fabric of America. This was also a decade of big changes for the college, which permanently separated itself from the high school and moved to the campus location where it is today.
In 1960, electors of the district voted to establish a separate junior college district. In 1961, voters approved a bond that provided the money needed for a new campus. After years of searching for the perfect property, the college moved to its present 121-acre hilltop location in 1964 (featured above circa 1963). The property, purchased for $575,000, was part of a parcel owned by renowned ice skater Sonja Henie.
On September 21, 1964, 590 day students enrolled in classes on the new campus, and another 1,200 registered for evening classes. That same year, John MacDonald, a 1941 O-CJC graduate, was named superintendent/president of the college, a position he would hold for 18 years, until his retirement in 1982.
After the college completed its first semester, students and staff began circulating ideas for a new name for the college. A special committee was formed to study the name change. Gloria Carranza, then student body president and now a MiraCosta Board of Trustees member, suggested “MiraCosta,” Spanish for “behold the coast.” The name, which refers to the panoramic ocean and coastal mountain views from the campus, stuck and further cemented the college’s separation from the high school district. The name change was not universally embraced; in fact, it stirred a lot of controversy in the community, especially among people who wanted the name to retain the locations the district served. In the end, MiraCosta won out and the name was adopted by the board. The final act of separation came when the college district elected its own board separate from high school district.
Through the leadership of Oceanside community activist, Elmer Glaser, MiraCosta College created a foundation in 1966. The foundation announced five goals: student financial assistance, support for construction of buildings and improved plant equipment, improvement of buildings and grounds beautification, support for new equipment and materials, and support of special programs. The foundation, with the assistance of the newly-formed advisory council and Vice President of Student Services Bill Foran, also created the annual Medal of Honor banquet, which recognized academic excellence.
1970s - The Growth Years
The changes sparked in the ‘60s, including war and social changes, continued in the ‘70s, with many of the "radical" ideas of the ‘60s creating changes in mainstream American life and culture. Amid the social challenges of the decade, American culture flourished. MiraCosta was also flourishing, as the college experienced more growth than in the four previous decades combined. Not only did the student population increase from 2,000 students in the early ‘70s to nearly 9,000 a decade later, but the number of buildings and course offerings at MiraCosta grew as well.
By 1970, a women’s locker room had been built, an exercise room was added to the gymnasium, an agricultural area and horticulture greenhouse had been developed and a theatre stagecraft building was erected. In 1972, the college built the music, art buildings and several other minor buildings. Also in 1972, at the request of the Oceanside and Carlsbad Unified School District boards of trustees, MiraCosta agreed to take over their adult education programs, including adult high school education, English as a second language, citizenship and a variety of enrichment courses. Later in the decade, MiraCosta added an auto body repair and paint shop, a children’s center and tennis courts. In 1973, MiraCosta welcomed what has now become a college landmark—the Blayney Tower. The tower was given to the college by Dana Caroll and Eleanor Monroe Blayney in memory of their son, Robert Monroe Blayney, who was killed in action December 11, 1944 while serving our country in France.
The geographic area served by MiraCosta also expanded. In 1976, the area served by the San Dieguito High School District was added to the college district, thus creating the MiraCosta Community College District. Within a few months, MiraCosta began offering classes in a Solana Beach office building. It wasn’t long before the college needed larger facilities, so it leased a vacant elementary school from the Del Mar school district to use as a southern center. It was dubbed the Del Mar Shores Center.
With all this expansion, the diversity of the student body began to grow; MiraCosta was attracting a more diverse population in terms of age, ethnicity and previous educational background. Women also were able to participate in athletics for the first time in MiraCosta history.
1980s - A Time of Transition
America in the 1980s was marked by hostile takeovers, leveraged buyouts and mega-mergers. While the economy exploded and Americans shopped ‘til they dropped, MiraCosta College was also experiencing growth and transition.
In 1980, MiraCosta purchased a 47-acre site near the San Elijo lagoon, on Manchester Avenue in Cardiff, which would one day serve the southern portion of the district. Until construction was completed, classes continued to be held at the Del Mar Shores Center. In 1988, after much negotiation with the Coastal Commission, the San Elijo Campus opened its doors; the first semester, nearly 2,500 credit students enjoyed classes at the beautiful campus—1,000 more than were expected.
On the Oceanside Campus, a new state-of-the-art theatre opened its doors in May of 1981, and the construction didn’t stop there. In 1987, students launched a legislative campaign to pass a senate bill to authorize a local-option building-use fee to raise funds for a student center on the Oceanside Campus. With the successful passage of the bill, and the help of the MiraCosta College Foundation, the spacious 25,000-square-foot center, complete with a magnificent ocean view, opened in time for the start of fall classes in 1990.
MiraCosta also saw a change in leadership. After nearly 20 years of serving as MiraCosta’s superintendent/president, John MacDonald retired in 1982 and H. Deon Holt became the college’s new leader.
By the end of the decade, MiraCosta had nearly 11,000 credit and noncredit students taking classes.
1990s - Technology Takes Over
The 1990s were truly the electronic age—the World Wide Web changed the way people communicated and by 1998, 100 million people were plugged into the Internet. MiraCosta College kept up with this technological boom by adding new high-tech buildings and programs, which offered students a state-of-the-art educational experience.
In the early 1990s, construction began on a 33,600 square-foot, $8 million building on the Oceanside Campus that would house a science complex; computer labs for math, English and foreign languages; engineering technology and open student use; as well as a high-tech teaching/learning center. During this time the district began to build the fiber-based network that would create the infrastructure to connect MiraCosta to the information super highway and guide the way to MiraCosta becoming a leading force in academic and administrative information technology.
MiraCosta's Adult Learning Center opened in 1992 at a newly remodeled site on Horne Street in downtown Oceanside . The center offered several noncredit programs, notably English as a Second Language, Adult High School Diploma and GAIN (Greater Avenues to Independence.)
During the 1990s, students and community members also enjoyed new programs and services. MiraCosta created the Student Ambassador Program, in which selected students represent the college in student outreach and community relations efforts. MiraCosta was also invited to be one of only eight colleges in the state to participate in Project Puente, a program aimed at increasing the transfer rate of Mexican-American students from community colleges to the University of California. The college also created the College-Bound and the Summer Bridge programs. Students also enjoyed a revitalized Honors Program. In 1995, the LIFE group (Learning, Inspiration, Fellowship and Enrichment, now known as Learning is For Everyone) began offering discussion groups, classes and lectures each Friday to community members.
In 1996, MiraCosta snagged a $150,000 grant to help create a biotechnology center for Southern California, where it developed new curriculum, accepted donations from industry on behalf of the region, performed outreach to local high schools, and coordinated with local and state-wide initiatives in respect to biotechnology workforce development.
Long gone were the days of waiting in line to register; in 1997, MiraCosta began offering a new service: a touch-tone telephone registration system dubbed “REGI,” eliminating the need for students to stand in line to register. For the first time, students were also able to take classes online. MiraCosta also welcomed a new superintendent/president; in 1994, Deon Holt retired and Tim Dong (pictured on left) took leadership of the college, a position he would hold until 2004.
2000s - Marked By Change
In the 2000s, MiraCosta's three campuses continue to change and grow. The college has completed several large construction projects that put it on the map for its technological and arts offerings, and enrollment has reached a new high.
In 2000, the Adult Learning Center relocated to its current permanent location on Mission Avenue in Oceanside and was renamed the Community Learning Center. Over the years the center has expanded its adult education offerings to include parenting classes, workshops for older adults, and programs for those who are physically and mentally challenged. The Cisco Academy, which offers training in computer networking, is also housed at the center. The college's North San Diego Small Business Development Center is right next door.
In 2002, MiraCosta opened the doors to its beautiful new Child Development Center on the Oceanside Campus, which provides both academic instruction to students and child care services to student, staff and community families. The curriculum is specifically designed to encourage early childhood learning.
Also on the Oceanside Campus, years of planning and work culminated with the opening of the $13- million, 48,000-square-foot library and information hub in 2003. The two-story library is nearly three times the size of the building it replaced and is home to an extensive collection of books and journals, more than 400 computers, the Tutoring Center, Math Learning Center, Writing Center, Teaching Innovation Center, a television studio, teleconferencing center and other high-tech academic facilities.
In November 2005, MiraCosta, in partnership with Genentech and other local biotech firms opened the biotech facility, an impressive 3,500-square-foot, state-of-the-art building designated as a Center of Excellence in bioprocessing by the U.S. Department of Labor. Across the street from the biotechnology facility, a remodeled Horticulture Complex was dedicated in August, 2007. This state-of-the-art, 15,250- square-foot building houses a greenhouse, laboratories and classrooms specifically designed to give students a “hands on” learning experience in the art and science of cultivating plants.
In the past nine years, MiraCosta has also invested in the arts, and now boasts a beautifully remodeled theatre and a new creative arts building. In the beginning of 2007, MiraCosta’s newly remodeled theatre hosted its first show. The theatre, a contemporary space designed specifically for college actors by San Diego's Old Globe architect Gene Weston, seats 243 and features a more accessible and welcoming entrance, new seats and paint, a new curtain, an expanded lobby and box office, and remodeled restrooms.
The latest addition to the Oceanside Campus is the Creative Arts Building, which measures 21,600- square-feet and boasts an outdoor studio overlooking a spectacular view of Oceanside all the way to the ocean. This state-of-the-art building replaces the music building and one art building constructed in the ‘60s and houses the college’s art and music programs--with classroom studios for painting, drawing, and printmaking and recording studios, piano labs, and rehearsal space. In 2010, the college opened the 400-seat, 12,000 square foot Concert Hall, which not only provides students first-hand experience in a professional performance setting, but also provides the community with a beautiful venue to enjoy MiraCosta’s top-notch music performances.
On the San Elijo Campus, students are enjoying the new student center, which opened during the 2008 spring semester. The new center houses the college bookstore, a cafeteria with indoor/outdoor and rooftop dining, health services, student activities, and meeting and multi-use conference rooms.
MiraCosta also saw some changes in leadership during the current decade. In 2004, Tim Dong retired after serving 10 years and Victoria Muñoz Richart took over as superintendent/president. Dr. Richart served just under three years, and after her departure in June 2007, MiraCosta had two interim superintendent/presidents, John Hendrickson and Susan Cota.
In March, 2009, MiraCosta welcomed new superintendent/president Francisco Rodriguez (pictured on left).
As the campus grew during the 2000s, so did student enrollment. Student enrollment reached an all-time high in spring semester 2010, with more than 14,000 credit students enrolled and another 8,000 noncredit students.
MiraCosta continues to make history as the campus grows in both size and enrollment.
Curious about the history of the cities in MiraCosta’s District? Click for links to local historical societies.