City College celebrates 100 years of learning

Beverly Brock has only faint memories of her great-grandfather, Charles L. McLane. But she knew he wanted everyone to have the best possible education.

For her, that became a bachelor's degree in English from Stanford University. But for thousands of others, the path to higher education has run through Fresno City College -- the institution established by McLane in 1910.

Friday, Brock was one of about 1,000 people who honored the college's birthday in a formal centennial convocation at Ratcliffe Stadium. Hundreds of people -- mainly students -- gathered on the stadium's home side to watch officials turn the page on City College's first 100 years and open the next century.

Dignitaries and speakers ranging from Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin to California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott recounted the college's history and its ongoing influence in the community.

Deborah Blue, chancellor of the college's parent State Center Community College District, sounded a theme repeated throughout the day: "It all started here."

In 1910, City College -- or Fresno Junior College back then -- was the first community college in California and only the second in the country. The first was Joliet Junior College, established in Illinois in 1901.

When it opened, City College enrolled 20 students and shared a campus with Fresno High School in downtown Fresno. Today, the college that pre-dates modern plastic, television and sliced bread enrolls more than 25,000 students on its 103-acre campus in central Fresno.

Officials presented the founder's award to Brock, 68, of Sanger. She said she remembers little about her great-grandfather, who was in failing health when she was a child.

But she said her mother, Barbara Harris Brock, passed on memories of playing in McLane's office when he was president of Fresno State Normal School -- the forerunner of California State University, Fresno, founded in 1911.

Because McLane helped found Fresno State, Brock said she also may be part of the university's centennial celebration.

Friday's convocation was the last official centennial event for City College, which has spent nearly a year honoring its history, alumni, students, staff and community contributions.

City College freshman Aaron Seewald, 18, of Fresno walked over after class to watch the ceremony and eat a slice of celebratory birthday cake. He didn't know much about the college's roots before Friday.

But after hearing the arc of the City College story, Seewald said he is "inspired to try even harder."

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