The roots of Santa Barbara City College were established in 1909, when the State of California authorized the metropolitan school districts to tax themselves to fund the first two years of higher education. In 1909 the Santa Barbara High School district began offering instruction for grades 13 & 14. After World War I a parallel adult education program was established, focusing on English as a second language. The high school district served mostly emigrant Italian families, many arriving from the Monte Grappa area of northern Italy in the late nineteenth century.
Between the two World Wars, Santa Barbara State College was established on the Riviera; it took over the higher education functions of the high school district while the expanded adult education program remained within the high school district. The Leadbetter estate, rendered uninhabitable by the earthquake of 1925, was acquired by the state college for its vocational campus, whereon it built the present administration building.
After World War II, the high school district, operating within of City of Santa Barbara complex, reassumed management of Santa Barbara Junior College, which shared space with the adult education program. Meanwhile the state college, reorganized as the University of California in Santa Barbara, moved to Goleta. The Leadbetter estate land was sold by the University to the high school district which moved the junior college to its present location on the mesa campus.
In the 1960’s the State of California mandated all land in the state include junior college districts for purposes of taxation. The boundaries of the districts were to be recommended by the local county school district committees and placed on public ballot. The Santa Barbara committee divided the county into 1.) the Alan Hancock District in the city of Santa Maria, comprising five-sixths of the land area in the county, and 2.) the Santa Barbara District, comprising the elementary school districts of Goleta, Hope, Santa Barbara, Montecito, and Carpinteria. To balance tax benefits, the Alan Hancock District was assigned the islands off the coast of Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley.
In the mid sixties a ballot measure to the Santa Barbara District proposed forming a Santa Barbara Community College district, its boundaries coterminous with the elementary districts. It also proposed splitting the bond indebtedness between the proposed Santa Barbara Community College district and the Santa Barbara High School district, as recommended by the Santa Barbara county committee. And finally, voters were asked to select as the first Board of Trustees seven from the thirty-two candidates who had filed.
As head of the existing adult education program, Selmer (Sam) Wake had the option of placing the program either in the High School district, or in the projected Santa Barbara Community College district. He chose the college district on the understanding the adult education program retain its historic independence. A member of the committee which recruited potential trustees, he served with Dr. Robert (Bob) Rockwell, president of the college, Henry (Hank) Bagish and Elwood Schapansky (both faculty), and Wilbur (Bill) Fillippini, secretary of the local building trades council.
The voters approved the formation of the SBCC district, and seven trustees were elected from those named on the ballot. These were Ben Wells and Kathryn (Kay) Alexander from the Goleta/Hope area, Winifred Lancaster, Sydney (Syd) Frank and Wilber (Bill) Fillippini from Santa Barbara, James (Jim) Garvin from Montecito, and Dorothy Meigs from Carpinteria. Betty Henderson, president of the board of trustees of the High School district, passed the gavel to the new trustees.
An early challenge faced by the new trustees was to provide adequate facilities, landscaping, and parking for SBCC. The college had inherited from the high school district: the mesa campus of over thirtyacres, the administration building built by the state college, a library designed for a projected 2,000 students, and a student center presided over by Marie Lantagne. The athletic director, Bud Revis, described to the Board how athletic programs were limited to the existing stadium (with football field and track), and beach volleyball on Leadbetter Beach.
A solution in form of a joint use agreement with the city of Santa Barbara granted use of Pershing Park and the swimming pool adjacent to the harbor. Bob Rockwell and Lorenzo Dall’Armi developed the agreement. Dall’Armi, the business manager who superintended the first landscaping at the college, was later elected county superintendent of schools. The city provided the land, and the college provided improvements and maintenance for tennis courts and ball fields in Pershing Park. Parking was greatly augmented with city parking lots adjacent to the stadium.
Remaining was an inadequately sized campus, one fifth the size recommended by state guidelines. The trustees soon realized they would be responsible for providing facilities for more than the previously projected two thousand students. Without a firm plan identifying the location of a second campus two bond issues failed to pass. When Dr. Julio Bortolazzo returned to Santa Barbara as president of the college, and with Gertrude Calden and Eli Luriaco-chairs of a bond campaign, he led the effort to successfully pass a bond issue to purchase the property now comprising the west campus. This land doubled the size of the college to 70-plus acres.
There were dramatic changes at the end of the 1960s. An oil rig disaster contaminated both the beach sand and shore birds at the foot of the college, initiating an environmental movement that swept through the country. The U.S. was fully engaged in the Vietnam War; students were drafted, some never to return. Students demanding more control in their college educations resulted in a student trustee elected annually by the students to the Board of Trustees. Eventually, through appointments and elections to fill vacancies, new trustees were added to the board including Dr. Joe Dobbs, Joyce Powell, Ann Gutshall, Gary Ricks, Eli Luria, Leonard Jarrott, Ed Santodomingo, Luis Villegas, Desmond O”Neill, Joan Livingston, and Sally Green. In 2010 the Board of Trustees experienced an extensive turnover, introducing Marty Blum, Marcia Croninger, Lisa Macker, and Dr. Peter Haslund.
In the early seventies, Dr. Glen Gooder came from Los Angeles City College to SBCC’s college presidency with a wealth of experience in community colleges. He continued to promote the close interface characteristic of SBCC between adult education, the college, and the community. Already present were individuals with future important roles in both adult education and the college. These included John Romo, Martin Bobgan, Pat Huglin and Lynda Fairly.
Acquisition of the west campus redirected focus to providing facilities for the adult education program. Two elementary schools obtained from the Santa Barbara and the Goleta school districts significantly involved Helen Pedotti and Eli Luria in the negotiations. The Santa Barbara school was named the Schott Center after Helen Pedotti’s mother whose donated adult education facilities in downtown Santa Barbara were included in the negotiations. The Goleta center was named the Wake Center after Sam Wake.
Eventually The Foundation for Santa Barbara City College was created, its original goal to help provide for an adult education program by then famous throughout the state. On his retirement, Sam Wake served as the Foundation’s first Executive Director. Prominent citizens were recruited for the Foundation Board, including many formerly active as leaders and participants in the adult education program. Eventually the Foundation was to provide valuable help in building the College. Benefactors were remembered in the naming of buildings and facilities such as the Luria library, the Fe Bland forum, the DiLoreto overlook, the Sheinfeld Business Center and the Thornton auditorium.
Building the necessary facilities for a rapidly growing student body remained a central responsibility of the trustees and the presidents of the college. Following the retirement of Dr. Gooder, and after the presidency of Dr. David Mertes, Dr. Peter MacDougall contributed his experience, having previously worked with the state to build community colleges within the Los Angeles Community College district. Assisting him was Alex Pittmon, whose responsibilities ranged widely from paperwork to facilities management.
Perhaps the greatest change nationwide to college education and administration at the close of the twentieth century was the advent of the computer. The College’s first computer filled a building the size of a large garage. The computer age fully arrived at SBCC with personal computers, and the recruitment of Liz Auchincloss to familiarize faculty with their use. It came simultaneously with Dr. Jack Friedlander, recruited by Dr. MacDougall. He eventually became vice-president for academic affairs, in tandem with the emerging importance of the academic senate in the shared governance of the college. Their histories are best told by them.