One hundred years ago, teachers at the old Sacramento High School at 18th and K streets in midtown began teaching college-level classes to former high school students.
A year later, in 1917, World War I disrupted those classes. But by 1920, the fledgling Sacramento Junior College started by Belle Cooledge was back on track with 16 students and a course lineup that included French, psychology, logic and zoology.
On Saturday, the campus later renamed Sacramento City College will celebrate its centennial milestone with an open house expected to draw up to 5,000 community members and another 1,000 high school students. The event will feature concerts, chemistry demonstrations, sports clinics, campus tours, vintage cars and the opening of a 25-year-old time capsule.
The aim: Celebrate the past and enroll more students in the future.
“We’re one of the oldest institutions in the state of California, the first educational institution in the Sacramento area,” said Michael Poindexter, interim president of Sacramento City College. “Many people have left this institution and have gone into the political arena, into theater, into law. You name the particular area and they have probably passed through Sacramento City College.”
The college moved to its existing Freeport Boulevard site in 1926. Today, it has 23,000 students enrolled.
Luminaries who have graced the 60-acre campus included Northern California artists Wayne Thiebaud, Fred Dalkey and Gregory Kondos; writers Joan Didion and Herb Caen; actress Jessica Chastain; state Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye; and Tower Records founder Russ Solomon.
Cooledge taught math, became the college’s first principal and served as its dean of women. She retired in 1947 and won election as first woman mayor for the city of Sacramento.
In 1947, Sacramento Junior College hosted the newly created Sacramento State College. The state college began with 120 full-time students and held classes early, late and during lunch to avoid crowding the junior college’s 3,053 full-time students.
By 1952, Sacramento State grew to 2,146 students. It opened its own campus on a tract of land along the American River that year, according to a Sacramento City College publication marking the school’s 50th anniversary.
Sacramento Junior College was renamed Sacramento City College in fall 1959. The Los Rios Community College District formed five years later and included two colleges: Sacramento City and American River.
Centennial festivities began in August with art shows, performances and a footrace. Saturday’s open house runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. More events are planned through the academic year, including an anthropology exhibit, concerts, archival displays and vaudeville shows.