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History of Fullerton College

A good beginning makes a good ending.”  So reads an old English proverb, and if what it says is true, then Fullerton College certainly has all the makings for a continually successful future.  As the oldest continuous community college in California, Fullerton College’s roots can be traced back to a time when the city of Fullerton was primarily an agricultural community devoted to growing, packing and shipping citrus products.  Originally enrolling 28 students in its first year in 1913, today Fullerton College boasts an enrollment figure of nearly 20,000, with figures anticipated to reach more than 32,000 by the year 2020.

Fullerton Junior College, as it was known from 1913 to 1972, was born out of a proposal made in April 1913 by then principal of Fullerton Union High School Delbert Brunton that the board of trustees authorize two years of postgraduate study at the high school.  The idea was approved, and classes at Fullerton Junior College officially began in the fall of that year.  Out of the 28 students who enrolled as freshmen, 14 eventually graduated, and enrollment figures totaled 44 at the start of the 1915-1916 school year. 

While the beginning years of the two-year college concept were quite unstable (Los Angeles, Hollywood, San Fernando and Anaheim Junior Colleges were shut down during this time), Fullerton Junior College remained in operation.  During the teens and 20’s, the curriculum at Fullerton Junior College continually changed to meet the specific needs of the time.  Military drill, oil drilling technology, manual arts and shop courses were offered during WWI, and by the mid-20’s, semi-professional courses such as typing, stenography, bookkeeping and office practice were standard fare. 

The college’s first newspaper, The Weekly Torch, was introduced in 1923, in addition to its annual Torch Magazine.  The Torch newspaper was later renamed The Weekly Hornet, and has been in continuous publication for the past 76 years.  The first club at Fullerton Junior College, the Literary Club, was formed in its second year, followed by the Collegians and the College Woman’s Club the following year. 

In 1934, Superintendent of Fullerton Union High School and Fullerton Junior College Louis Plummer compiled a “master plan” for Fullerton Junior College that would soon lead to the development of the campus as we know it today.  In his thesis for his Doctorate titled “Building Requirements for Fullerton Junior College,” Plummer outlined a need for 36 classrooms to accommodate an anticipated enrollment figure of move than 1,600 students by the year 1950.  At the time, Fullerton Junior College was utilizing about 60 percent of the high school’s resources, which by 1950, would need to be dedicated solely to the high school alone. 

Later that year, the school board of directors purchased a 14-acre parcel of land located adjacent to the high school on the east side of Lemon Street for the use of Fullerton Junior College.  A master plan for the property was developed in 1935 and was approved and partially funded with the help of the Federal Government and the Works Progress Administration.

The first building to be completed on campus was the commerce building, now known as the Business and Computer Information Building (Bldg. 300) in 1936, followed by the Administration Building (Bldg. 100) and the Industrial Building (Bldg. 600), now known as North Science, in 1937.  The Student Union, or Student Center as it is now referred to (Bldg. 800), was built in 1938, and all plans included in the original 1935 master plan were finally realized in 1956 with the completion of the Language Building (Bldg. 200), or William T. Boyce Library.  Additional acreage was later purchased incrementally until Fullerton Junior College reached its present size of nearly 70 acres.

In 1965, the North Orange County Community College District (NOCCCD) was formed to oversee both Fullerton Junior College and Cypress College.  Up until this point, Fullerton Junior College was still owned by Fullerton Union High School, and there was overwhelming support for Fullerton Junior College to break away from the high school and adopt its own ownership and government.  With the NOCCCD, Fullerton Junior College finally had its own board of trustees who would dedicate themselves exclusively to the college’s needs.  Later that same year, the college began acquiring the land that it occupied by buying it back from the high school.

Following the reorganization and ownership changes, it was decided that Fullerton Junior College should be renamed to reflect its newfound independence from the high school.  By 1972, Fullerton Junior College simply became known as Fullerton College.

No major construction took place on campus during the 1970s, however, in 1977, Fullerton College was designated an Orange County Historical Site. Soon after, in the early 1980s, construction did pick up again. In 1982, a major signage project took place which identified major classrooms and buildings for student reference. The 2000 Building, located across Chapman Avenue was completed the same year and currently houses a variety of programs including Counseling, Admissions & Records, the Bookstore, Academic Support Center, and Distance Education.

In 1984, the California legislature passed AB 1XX which established a mandatory enrollment fee of $50 per semester. Students taking less than 6 units only paid $5 a unit, and those taking non-credit courses were exempt from fees. Until that point, students had not paid an enrollment fee and were only responsible for the cost of textbooks and any laboratory fees required for specific classes. As a result of the increase, student enrollment dropped 2,300 to 16,652.

In spite of the dip in enrollment, the college continued to expand throughout the 1980s. In 1980, classes, mainly self-paced and general business, were first held in the former Wilshire Junior High School, which closed the year before.  Ten years later, in 1990, the college celebrated the opening of the Plummer Parking Structure on the corner of Lemon Street and Chapman Avenue. The project was funded by the North Orange County Community College District in conjunction with the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency.

As the cultural makeup of Orange County changed, greater emphasis was placed both issues of diversity and cultural understanding.. Fullerton was awarded its first Title III Hispanic Serving Institutions Grant in 1996. Funded by the US Department of Education, the grant was designed to enhance academic programs and student services for underrepresented students. Fullerton received $350,000 in its first year. In 2002, the college received a Title V Hispanic Serving Institutions Grant, and in 2003, partnered with Santa Ana College and CSU Fullerton for a Title V Collaborative Grant.

In an effort to promote diversity, the Cadena/Transfer Center was also established in 1996. A dual-purpose center, it offers both transfer assistance and cultural resources to students, faculty, and staff. The Office of Equity & Diversity, which was originally established in 2000, also sponsors a number of cultural events, including visits to the Museum of Tolerance, panel discussions featuring members of Gay and Lesbians Initiating Dialogue for Equality, and a presentation by Little Rock Nine member Terrence Roberts.

Two years later, in the spring of 2002, North Orange County voters passed a $239 million facilities bond measure, benefiting the North Orange County Community College District. The nearly $135 million allotted to Fullerton College has already allowed for the critical renovation of current campus facilities and construction of new facilities.

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North Orange County Community College District
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