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PCC’s 50 years of revolution on display at The Oregon Historical Society
Photos and Story by James Hill
This year, Portland Community College is celebrating its 50th birthday. Since 1961, the college has had a wealth of fascinating stories that showed the determination of founders and staff to make a community college work and thrive in Portland.
Those stories are on full display this spring at The Oregon Historical Society.The exhibit, “PCC: 50 Years of Education Revolution,” opens today (Tuesday, Feb. 28) and goes through June 17 at OHS (1200 S.W. Park Ave.).
Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is free for OHS members and Multnomah County residents or $11 for adults, $9 for students and seniors, $5 for youths (ages 6 to 18) and children 5 years or younger) get in free.
“The PCC story is a fabulous story,” said Oregon Historical Society Director Kerry Tymchuk. “It is part of Oregon’s history from, of course, Dr. De (Amo DeBernardis) to now president Pulliams. Portland wouldn’t be Portland and Oregon wouldn’t be Oregon without the number one educator in Oregon and that’s Portland Community College. We are proud to host this exhibit.”
When Oregon’s Legislature approved the formation of community colleges in 1961, the Portland Public Schools launched PCC, which had been its adult and vocational education program. From its humble beginnings of serving a few hundred students in the an old portable building behind Benson High School, PCC has grown to being the largest post-secondary institution in Oregon with an enrollment of 93,500 annually.
“As Portland Community College celebrates its 50th Anniversary, this exhibit looks back on the times, the struggles, and the people through stories, photographs and artifacts,” said PCC District President Preston Pulliams. “The exhibit ‘PCC: 50 Years of Education Revolution’ examines those early years as that novel idea took form and set the path for the large, multi-faceted college we know today.”
The exhibit features founding president Dr. Amo DeBernardis’ original desk and many of his artifacts, including a gavel he made in his woodworking shop (still used today by the PCC Board of Directors) and a concrete test core from the first building built at the Rock Creek Campus. The core symbolized his struggle with politicians, local governments and his own board of directors in getting Rock Creek built in Washington County. With his own corner of the exhibit, “Dr. De” symbolized much of the exhibit’s theme by his tireless fight to establish the college and make it open and accessible.
In addition, there is a comprehensive and colorful PCC timeline and lots of stories about the college’s philosophy and people from its past. There will be displays showing how PCC students looked in the 1960s, including a nursing outfit, the first female auto technician instructor uniform (specially made), and fire science and emergency medic gear. Plus, people can see tools of the trade from the PCC radiography lab and look at interactive 2-dimensional View-Masters that show the college in its infancy, and much more.
For more on PCC’s history, read the college’s History Series: “PCC’s first campus was Failing” “The “Battle for Rock Creek” and “A bankruptcy leads to Cascade Center” and “The Impossible Dream: Sylvania gets built.”