Celebrating 75 Years

of Launching Stars...

Congratulations to City's Mathematics and Debate teams for consecutive, national top team and first place individual honors.
Congratulations to the LACC Radiologic Technology Department for graduating classes with national exam passage rates as high as 100%, and to the new Registered Nurse program--recognized by the District for excellence.
Congratulations to LACC's Fine Arts departments and their recent alumni award honorees: Melvin Edwards, sculptor; Carolyn See, author; Bob Florence, composer/musician; Albert Hughes, filmmaker; Cindy Williams and Robert Vaughn, actors; and to a Hollywood Who’s Who list of award-winning alumni in front of and behind the cameras.

Congratulations to the LACC’s Men’s Basketball Team for its 11th straight conference championship, second state championship, over 65 players advancing to Division One universities,  15 alumni playing professionally, and consistently ranking in the top 10 of community college programs in Basketball Times.  A salute to our other teams who have produced a track Olympian, noted professional and collegiate baseball players, and even an NFL Superbowl MVP. 


Congratulations to City's Mathematics and Debate teams for consecutive, national top team and first place individual honors.

   Got a story about your
   experiences at LACC to tell?

Aerial view of LACC, circa 1939

   Share it with us...we'd like to hear
   from anyone who has attended
   LACC and has something to say
   about their time here. Just click this
   Share Your Story link, and tell us
   all about it!

Main Page

75th Events

Notable Alumni

Share Your Story


The History of Los Angeles City College: The Los Angeles City College site is one of the most important locations in the history of education in Los Angeles. LACC is not only the first community college in the city, but also served as the initial campus for both UCLA and Cal State Los Angeles.

In the Beginning...

1960s: The Times They Were a-Changin'

1930s: Hope in the Depression

1970s & 80s: Increasing Diversity

1940s: World War II & the GI Bill

1990s & Today: New Initiatives

1950s: Joining the Boom



  In the Beginning...

In the 1880s, the population in the City of Los Angeles was a mere 20,000. Higher education consisted of one high school downtown as well as the Normal School (at the site of today’s LA Library). The Normal School provided graduates with credentials to teach grades K through 12. Today’s LACC site was still farm land owned by Dennis Sullivan. The Administration Building sits about where his farmhouse used to be. Hollywood was one of many small suburbs and Melrose Avenue, lined with eucalyptus trees, served horse and buggy traffic.

Then came the construction of the Pacific Electric Interurban Railroad in 1909 connecting downtown LA with Hollywood.  Mr. Sullivan’s 26.9 acre farm was now the perfect spot to locate an institution of higher learning --what later became Los Angeles City College.

Since Hollywood was now more accessible, the LA Board of Education decided to relocate the Normal School from crowded downtown to Hollywood. The relocated Normal School opened in 1914 and consisted of nine brick buildings in a northern Lombard Italian style, an architectural style popular at the time. One of the first buildings was the administration building with a distinctive cupola. The school also sported a picturesque commons lined with eucalyptus trees.

The Birth of UCLA

In 1919, in response to Los Angeles’ demand for its own local university, the Normal School became the southern branch of the University of California at Berkeley. But students couldn’t get their degrees from the southern branch, they could only take classes here. Finally in 1925, pressured by population growth, UC Berkeley permitted the southern branch (now UCLA) to grant degrees. Among UCLA’s famous graduates at that time was Ralph Bunche, who went on to become U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

The area surrounding UCLA on Vermont and Melrose became a little version of modern Westwood, with shops, theatres and restaurants to cater to the student population.

Meanwhile, cheap land and abundant sunshine made Southern California, and especially Hollywood, the new center of moviemaking. Disney’s first production office was located just a half-mile north of the campus, just off of Vermont Avenue. Columbia Studios was on nearby Sunset Blvd. and Paramount was about a mile west on Melrose Ave. The campus became a popular place to shoot movies. The buildings by this time were covered with fig vines and served as a perfect stand-in for eastern ivy-league schools. Actors like Buster Keaton could be seen shooting films here, such as "College" in 1927.

In 1929, the university realized that its existing campus wasn’t big enough. It thus purchased open land in what would become Westwood. The first new UCLA buildings, including Royce Hall, which still stands today, resemble the architecture of LACC’s old buildings. This is undoubtedly due to the influence of Ernest Carroll Moore, the UCLA provost at the new Westwood site, who had also been the provost when the university was here in Hollywood.

1929: LACC Opens its Doors

The campus left behind by UCLA was purchased by the LA Board of Education for $700,000 and turned into Los Angeles Junior College, or as it is called today, Los Angeles City College. On Sept. 4, 1929, LACC opened its doors for the first time and welcomed 1,350 students (75% of whom were vocational majors).

By its first semester, the college was already the fourth largest such institution in the country.

The new president was the charismatic Dr. William Henry Snyder, former principal of Hollywood High School. He handpicked the college’s first 54 pioneering faculty members.

Dr. Snyder saw the mission of the new college as twofold: (1) "providing career training coupled with general education in fields that did not require a four year university degree" and (2) "offering the first two years of transfer education, allowing students to take their first two years of college while still living at home." He said that "the skill classes had to provide saleable skills, be intensive, and be practical and that the academic courses should be general, inspirational and give a bird’s eye view of the fields they attempted to cover." Dr. Snyder set up the new curricula to meet local labor market needs. The first catalog listed the following vocational programs: civic health, aeronautical engineering, civil engineering, mechanical and electrical engineering, general business, secretarial science, and the social arts.

The college had a ready market for its classes. For one, the college had an open door policy and did not charge tuition (until 1984). The 1920s in LA had seen a period of strong population growth which was fueled by a real estate boom, the discovery of vast oil fields, the start of tourism as a major industry, and the emergence of the film industry. City’s campus was also very accessible as the red line street cars and buses stopped at the college and fare was an affordable 7 cents.


1930s: Hope in the Depression

In 1931 LA voters chose to create a separate LA Junior College District which had its own taxing power and allowed the college to draw upon State funds based on college enrollment.

Throughout the years, whenever the economy had a downturn, people flocked to LA City College. The Depression of the 30s was no different. People didn’t have money to go to the university, jobs were scarce, so they came to LACC. Enrollment grew from 4,500 students in 1933 to 6,200 in 1939, to 6,600 in 1940. The college instituted a number of unique programs including a mortuary curriculum and a nursery tending program.
We became the first west coast college to provide full-scale opera production training. During this same period, the LA Times carried an article referring to the school as a "hotbed of communism" during the famed Hollywood film strike. College debating champion True Boardman went on to form the Armed Forces Radio Services.

1940s: World War II and the G.I. Bill

Enrollment dropped dramatically during World War II. From a high of 6,600 students in 1940, to 2,300 in 1944. Many faculty had to leave City to look for jobs elsewhere. The demands of the war did, however, prompt the beginning of evening school classes. LACC helped the war effort by conducting courses for the Army Specialized Training Program, the Naval Reserve, the Aviation Ground School, and the Civilian Pilot Training Program. Classes in map reading, radio orientation, weather forecasting, and flight instruction were taken by students in uniform, who gave a strikingly different appearance to the traditional campus. Some LACC instructors traveled 200 miles to Owen Valley where they conducted classes in pilot training.

After the war was over, the school had to serve the deluge of students who came to the college under the G.I. Bill. From 1945 to 1947, LACC enrollment shot up from 3,000 to 8,000. Half the student body were veterans. They were older, serious, academic, and more worldly. Nearly 75% of all students came to LACC to prepare for transfer to a university -- a direct reversal from the college’s early days when career training was the predominate goal.

In 1947, with thousands of students ready to transfer, the college embarked on a unique experiment and formed a four year school on its campus—Los Angeles State College of Applied Arts and Sciences. The idea to do this came from LACC’s faculty who envisioned a flexible vocational curriculum lasting from one to four years. It was a commendable idea, but in practice it proved unwieldy with two presidents, two administrations, two student bodies, and one set of facilities on one campus.  The experiment ended in 1955 when the four-year school moved east to become California State University at Los Angeles.





1950s: Joining the Boom

California’s population swelled to over 50 million in the 1950s. LACC grew from 12,000 students in 1950 to 17,300 by 1960. The college received its first accreditation as a junior college in 1954 and began an ambitious eight-year construction program to replace its original, unreinforced masonry structures with the buildings we see surrounding the campus quad today.

In 1955, Dr. John Lombardi became president. He led the college for 12 years during a period of consolidation. One college historian noted that Dr. Lombardi was the most influential leader since Dr. Snyder. He set new standards for educational excellence and, while still a dean, integrated the predominately white faculty by hiring four African American instructors. A firm believer of free speech, Dr. Lombardi saw the first stirrings of student activism in the late 50s and had his administrative team out and about on campus to defuse any potentially violent situations.





1960s: The Times They Were a-Changin’

During the 1960s, LACC began to offer classes covering remedial instruction. Also introduced were such innovations as peer counseling, the Mobile Advisement Center, and tutoring. Responding to student requests, the college established an American Cultures Department with new courses in Afro-American, Asian-American, and Chicano Studies. New occupational programs included dental assisting, occupational therapy, nuclear medicine technology, human services, computer technology, electronics technology, and biomedical electronics technology, among others. By 1965, LACC’s library held 115,872 volumes, the largest community college collection on any campus in the country. Community service programs also came of age, with new not-for-credit classes in recreational areas.

The campus had its share of student unrest as did many campuses throughout the U.S. During four days in March, 1969, students conducted campus protests. They set up barricades of tables and chairs at several campus entrances, broke windows, and moved across campus as a roving mob. Large numbers of police stood by ready to act.

By the end of the 60s the ethnic composition of LACC’s student body was no longer predominantly Caucasian. One of every three students was African American, one in seven was Asian, and one in ten had a Spanish surname.

LACC was administered by the LA Unified School District until 1969 when it broke away with its sister schools to form the LA Community College District.

1970s & 80s: Increasing Diversity

During the late 70s, college enrollment peaked at 22,000 students. The student demographics continued to increasingly reflect the growing multiculturalism of the city. LACC began hosting celebrations for "Black History Month," "Cinco de Mayo" and the "Asian American Cultural Week."

As waves of new immigrants settled in Los Angeles, the college added more English-as-a second-language (ESL) classes. In fact, in 1986, more than half the students enrolled took the ESL form of the college placement test. In 1990, that number rose to 70%. The number of basic skills classes also greatly increased. To assist students with enrolling, a new student assistance center was opened in the late 80s, employing a multilingual staff.

The new immigrants were motivated to succeed in their new home. Success stories of students who knew little or no English when they started at LACC, but who moved on to successfully complete college studies, were often heard at the dean’s honor tea ceremonies.

Dr. Stelle Feuers was the college’s first woman president in 1978, and she and those who followed had to contend with diminishing resources. Voters passed Proposition 13 in 1977 which took away all colleges’ right to raise money through local taxation leaving the college reliant on Sacramento for funding. The result was inadequate funding through the 80s and early 90s. In 1985, it was necessary to cut back five allied health programs including nursing (which was reinstated in 2002). And, as a result of a statewide mandate, LACC began to charge enrollment fees.

But all was not bleak. Students continued to excel in a variety of disciplines. Theatre, speech, photography, and cinema students took major awards in their fields. The business curriculum was popular, and unique programs like Dental Technology and Radiologic Technology flourished. 1980 saw the construction of a new Communications Building to hold the growing Cinema -TV Department. Its radio curriculum dropped by the wayside as live radio programming greatly diminished.






1990s - Today: New Initiatives

In the mid 90s the new subway system was built with a stop at the Vermont and Santa Monica Blvd. corner. LACC’s men’s basketball team under coach Mike Miller took two state championships. Computers were introduced into most curriculums. And, classes in digital technology began taking on increasing importance in the cinema, art, and photography programs.

During Dr. Mary Spangler’s presidency from 1997 to 2003, voters passed two major construction bonds giving the college $300 million to re-envision itself for the new millennium. Construction is now underway for a new admissions center, parking facilities, physical education building, and science and health careers building.

Dr. Spangler fostered increased college-business partnerships and the college purchased the historic Van De Kamp bakery site in 2001 for a proposed northeast campus. Under her tenure the college’s foundation increased its endowment tenfold. The college continued to receive impressive federal grants and in 2003 it received a sterling accreditation by the college’s accrediting agency.

Dr. Doris Givens was named interim president in 2003.

(Special thanks to Fred Piegonski for compiling this history from the book "Visions and Revisions," among others, and from notes on the early history of the college by former LACC faculty member and administrator
Dr. Louis Hilleary


          return to top of page