Focus on 50 Celebrates History of Whatcom Community College

Written by Bob Winters, Arts & Humanities Division Chair, Whatcom Community College

The Whatcom Museum is pleased to present Focus on 50, an exhibition dedicated to the 50th anniversary of Whatcom Community College. A stroll through the exhibition on the first floor of Old City Hall tells the story of how the country’s first “college without walls” grew to become a college without limits, now ranked among the top 150 community and technical colleges in the United States.

The exhibit features a photo archive of the college’s experimental roots: classes held in an abandoned supermarket on Marine Drive; a tin shed in Boulevard Park turned “crafts studio” (the current site of Woods Coffee); the “Whatcom on Wheels” bookmobile that toured the county. Included are artifacts from the college’s past: the first computers introduced to the college almost 40 years ago; early examples of Whatcom’s course catalogues and advertising; the original hand-carved wooden signs that identified Whatcom’s rented spaces from Blaine to Bellingham. With its mission to provide access to a college education to everyone in Whatcom County, and its promise to always put the student first, Whatcom Community College evolved from its decentralized “satellite centers” to a beautiful 72-acre campus in Bellingham’s Cordata neighborhood. Come see and hear the stories of the creative educational pioneers whose vision guided the college from a radical concept to a nationally recognized center for innovation in liberal arts, technology, and professional fields.

If you live in Whatcom County, the odds are strong that either you or someone you know has been touched by Whatcom Community College. Whether it was in its experimental “alternative learning” days in the late 1960s and 1970s, or during its consolidation and growth in the ’80s and ’90s, or more recently, as the college is poised to take education into the future through cloud-based, mobile, and online learning—Whatcom has been transforming lives and building our communities for 50 years. Come share the story of the college’s remarkable journey and celebrate a half-century of turning dreams into reality.

The exhibition remains at Old City Hall through May 31. It then moves to Whatcom Community College’s campus. Learn more about WCC’s year-long 50th anniversary celebration at whatcom.edu/50.

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