Through much of its 75-year history Glendale College had been in dire need of a major facelift, but has now blossomed into a virtually brand new campus under the stewardship of President John A. Davitt, who was honored at the groundbreaking of the new Science Center Complex Sept. 28.
As the school celebrated its 75th anniversary, it also commemorated Davitt as the longest-serving president in the state of California at 17 years. The Board of Governors of California Community Colleges acknowledged this achievement in 2002 when it presented him with the Presidential Leadership Award for his excellence in the areas of fundraising and community relations.
“[Dr. Davitt] is a great man who has truly dedicated his life to serving GCC’s students,” said Joe Denhart, the coordinator of the Lifelong Learning Center. Denhart, who has been at the college since 1979, said that “GCC is a great college” and that “it wouldn’t be what it is today without [Dr. Davitt].”
Aiming for the Sky
Several hundred people gathered for the official dedication of the new Science Center Complex, a much anticipated project whose construction Davitt spearheaded.
A ribbon cutting ceremony marked the opening of the four buildings that make up the new Science Center Complex. The Cimmarusti Science Building (CS), the Arroyo Seco Building (AS), the Santa Barbara Building (SB), and the Camino Real Building (CR) all feature the newest classroom and laboratory technology.
The Science Center Complex not only houses many laboratories, classrooms, and lecture halls, but also a state-of-the-art planetarium.
Professor of Chemistry David Hurst believes the new planetarium will be an invaluable tool for instructors.
“Teaching astronomy is a two-sided enterprise,” said Hurst. “There are lots of beautiful pictures to show and there are technical ideas to explain. The planetarium we now have.enables our astronomy teachers to do both of these better.”
The 30-foot-high dome has 48 seats and uses the latest in technology, including Sky-Skan’s digitized projection systems and SkyVision’s High Definition Full Dome Video system.
According to GCC Board of Trustees President Dr. Armine Hacopian, the planetarium is one of four of its kind in the world. It has direct cable connections with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Mt. Wilson, Stony Ridge Observatory, and the Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope.
Project architect John Tongish refers to the planetarium as the “signature building.” Its equipment is considered to be the most advanced in GCC’s extensive repertoire of technological resources.
“It’s a link to the world, where anything can be demonstrated virtually from NASA or the Internet,” said Tongish. GCC worked in collaboration with NASA in developing the new planetarium.
Guests were treated to a demonstration of the planetarium’s innovative technology. According to Hurst, looking through a telescope only provides a two dimensional view of the universe, but that the planetarium’s technology is capable of displaying three dimensional views. It allows the audience to visualize the movement of the stars and planets.
To highlight the special addition, the roof of the dome was accentuated by a colorful tile design created by Robert Kibler, Chair of the Visual and Performing Arts Division and Head of the Ceramics Department.
Those in attendance were also offered tours of the complex. The planetarium, lecture halls, and laboratories not only have Internet access, but are fully equipped classrooms wired for laptop use by students. The technology and equipment are made available to the campus thanks in part to two brothers who contributed to the structures.
The Cimmarusti Science Building, which houses the new planetarium, was named after Larry and Ralph Cimmarusti for their $1 million donation in 1999. The Cimmarusti brothers, both former GCC students, own and operate more than 140 Burger King and Tony Roma restaurants in five states.
The funding effort for the Science Center Complex also included support from the federal government, the state of California, Glendale Water and Power, community business partners, college alumni, community supporters and college employees.
The site will not only be used for GCC students, but will also be used for teacher training and joint projects with faculty and students from K-12 schools. Local residents have access to science resources, lectures, displays, and planetarium shows through the GCC Community Science Education Center.
75 Years Young and Still Making History
A video presentation hosted by Dr. Davitt and Professor of History Dr. Marguerite Renner told GCC’s history from its humble beginnings. The GCC Vocal Ensemble performed age-old songs to highlight the historical time periods through which the college has endured.
Though the Science Center Complex may appear to be new, what is now called the Camino Real Building is one of two original GCC buildings. According to Dr. Renner, the Camino Real Building was originally built and opened in 1937 along with the Administration Building.
Coincidentally, it had served as a science building. The structure was completely remodeled with new interiors and rededicated as a part of the science center. With the exception of the building’s exterior walls, it is an entirely new building.
After area residents expressed a desire to have their own local college, the school opened in 1927 as Glendale Junior College. Classes were initially held at Glendale High School until a major earthquake forced them to be conducted in tents. In 1935, the school received bonds and grants amounting to $390,000, allowing the school to purchase its current site and build the first two buildings.
GCC opened with only 139 students and nine faculty members and now stands with a student population of nearly 26,000. The college has evolved to become known as Glendale Community College and has 742 full and part-time faculty members, as well as a support staff of almost 400.
Interestingly, parking has always been a problem at GCC. The director of GCC in 1938 once said, “Parking we cannot park all the cars on campus … Some must be parked on the street. Perhaps later we shall be able to make arrangements so we can use the parking area across the street.”
From parking problems to the election of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the college has seen many memorable moments of the 20th century.
Not only has the school sustained itself through the Great Depression, it has seen many of its students serve in World War II and subsequent wars.
According to Dr. Hacopian, GCC has become “one of the most outstanding and beautiful community colleges in the state.”
Despite having faced construction challenges due to the physical geography of the Verdugo Mountains, GCC boasts having one of the largest student populations of any community college in California.
Excellent Leadership Goes a Long Way
The evening drew much attention to Dr. Davitt’s extensive career at GCC. Although he became the superintendent and president in 1986, he initially joined the college in 1968 as the dean of student personnel services and later served as the vice president of instructional services. In addition to serving as an administrator, Davitt was also a U.S. history instructor at GCC for nearly 29 years.
Dr. Davitt was honored for his 36 years of service when Hacopian announced that the Board of Trustees unanimously decided to name the Administration Building in his honor. The building was officially renamed the John A. Davitt Administration Building.
In her speech, Hacopian said, “That is why, we, the Glendale Community College Board of Trustees have chosen to honor Dr. Davitt at this event … today represents the intersection of significant happenings for the college a celebration of 75 years of educational excellence and the dedication of the Cimmarusti Science Building and the Glendale College Science Center. The opening of these buildings represents a pinnacle, but not the end, of a monumental building program that has taken place during [Davitt’s] administration. When Davitt assumed the presidency in 1986, the campus was in great need of renovation and new buildings. With his leadership, the College has reinvented itself as one of the most outstanding and the most beautiful campuses in the state.
[Davitt] has been instrumental in obtaining funds from the federal, state and local governments, as well as significant donations from individuals, foundations and corporations.[Davitt has] made sure that Glendale Community College will serve students in outstanding facilities well into the future.”
Under his leadership, the Adult Community Training Center, Professional Development Center, Child Care Center, new parking lots, San Rafael Building, San Fernando Complexes, Cimmarusti Science Building, Santa Barbara Building, the new Library Building, and the Student Center were built. Also during his Presidency, the newly renamed Camino Real and Arroyo Seco Buildings, as well as the Sierra Nevada and Verdugo Gyms, were all remodeled.
Davitt was honored yet again when Assemblyman Dario Frommer (D-Glendale) presented him with a resolution, on behalf of the state Assembly, which declared his many years of public service.
Davitt’s experience in education spans more than forty years. Following his education, in which he holds a Doctorate of Education degree in Community College Administration, Higher Education from USC, a Master of Arts degree in Secondary Education and a Bachelor of Science degree in History from the University of San Francisco, Davitt began his career in administration.
He was an administrator at Merritt College in northern California and at Cal State L.A. before joining GCC in 1968.
Davitt’s presence in the administration of the campus has attracted many students. Through the years, the student population has skyrocketed from the 3,000 students at his arrival, to almost 26,000 today.
Students at GCC have also evolved to reflect the diversity of today’s society. Through all of its accomplishments, the college stands strong and prosperous.
Rising to New Horizons
GCC’s growth does not end here. According to Director of Business Services William Taylor, GCC will break ground on the new Allied Health Maintenance and Operation Aviation Building in 2004. Also, Taylor says that a new parking garage is scheduled for construction on top of the upper parking lot in 2005.
“The college has improved tremendously,” said Dr. Hacopian. “We need to have a 75th anniversary celebration for the students.”
Dr. Hacopian believes that the college is one of the best in the state not only because of its facilities and resources, but especially because of its students.
“We have such a diverse background of students,” said Dr. Hacopian. “GCC is what it is today because of that diversity.”
As GCC celebrates its rich history and continued success, many believe the college is poised for further growth. The community is undoubtedly awaiting further positive changes that will continue giving GCC many years of prosperity.