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Looking Back: Wenatchee Valley College

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Wenatchee Valley College's new Music and Art Center (MAC) opened its doors to the community last month.

It is a beautiful state-of-the-art facility that was a milestone achievement after years of planning.

But there have been many other milestone achievements throughout the history of WVC. Let's take a look back:

  • The beginnings of a junior college in Wenatchee go back as far as 1931.

In May of that year, there had been discussion of establishing a college here but a committee of local Chamber of Commerce members, after investigating the plan, recommended to not move forward until financial aid was made available through state legislation. At that time, junior colleges had no legal status in the state. A bill passed in 1929 making them a part of the state educational system had been vetoed by the governor.

  • In the fall of 1939, dreams became reality with the opening of Wenatchee Junior College.

While the state supported the formation of the two-year school, it did not provide funds, according to Dr. W.B. Smith, superintendent of Wenatchee schools. Several local residents provided funds to get the school going but its survival depended on fees and tuition.

A student had to be a graduate of a four-year high school with the "proper credentials" of 32 credits to be admitted. Tuition was $130 for the school year (in advance), or $47 each quarter.

Among the courses offered were business administration, biology, botany, chemistry, English, French, German, history, mathematics, philosophy, psychology, physical education, physics and engineering, public speaking and drama, sociology and political science.

Beverly Kellogg, of Wenatchee, and LeRoy and Mary Lou LaVigne, of Cashmere, were members of the first class. The photo was taken during WVC's 25th anniversary in October of 1964.

  • In the fall of 1941, the Wenatchee School Board, managing the operation of the junior college back then, received word that Wenatchee Junior College was officially a public junior college and a part of the state school system of higher education.

  • In 1945, a measure was introduced in the state House of Representatives to provide $300,000 for construction of a new campus. The college had been using classroom space in the already overcrowded high school building.

  • In December 1949, Mr. and Mrs. A.Z. Wells deeded as a gift their home and five-acre estate in Wenatchee to the junior college. The estate would be used as a nucleus for a vast building program for the college. The Wells property, built in 1907 by W.T. Clark and a well-known showplace of the valley, was located on Fifth Street between Miller and Western. Planning began immediately for the first college structure to be built on the site. Additional land would also be acquired adjacent to the property.

  • Students would begin classes at the new campus in the fall of 1951.

There were many activities and events for students to get involved. The photo shows the Wenatchee Valley College float during the 1956 Apple Blossom Festival parade.

It won third-place in its non-commercial division.

  • Moving forward to the 1960s, things were happening. There were new programs in nursing and medical lab technology, new facilities for agriculture, forestry and biology.

  • Occupational education was also one of the fastest growing areas in WVC's curriculum. In 1966, less than 15 percent of the students were enrolled in occupational classes. By 1969, over one-third of the 1,500 students enrolled were taking occupational courses.

In 1969, the newest of WVC's facilities was the greenhouse. When done, it would serve the agriculture, forestry and biology departments.

Agriculture instructor Dr. Harry Keppeler, who constructed most of the tables himself, is shown in the photo, going over some characteristics of a plant with horticulture students Gregg Hendrick, center, and Mark Schmidt.

That year also marked the first year for the auto technology program at WVC. Thirty-six students met five hours a day with instructor Bill West.

Local industry encouraged establishment of the program. First year covered design, construction and use of engines.

The building was formerly the bus barn which was remodeled.

Ten Wenatchee High School students became the first to enroll in a new electronics program for high school credit in 1969. Among them were, from the left in the photo, Ken Huff, Jim Gebhardt and Mike Kelly.

This was a pilot program at the time.

Former Alcoa engineer Jack Willmorth was the instructor.

Other milestones in the history of Wenatchee Valley College include:

  • Construction of the gymnasium, dedicated Dec. 7, 1962. Frank Mataya was basketball coach.

  • Construction of the $1 million addition to Batjer Hall in early July 1972. This project and the $1.5 million Library Media Center were officially dedicated in May 1973.

  • The end of the Knights football program in 1991. Sandy Cooprider was coach.

I know there are many more events over the years. What are your memories of Wenatchee Valley College?