Text -- The Fabulous Fifties

Clark Ogden Meadows siteAs the 1950s began, huge changes were in the works for Clark College.

By September 1951, the college proudly announced that its enrollment would top 525 students, even as general registration efforts continued .

An evening program also began in 1951, the same year in which students first reported to the Applied Arts Center on Clark College’s future main campus.

Most liberal arts classes continued to be held at the Ogden Meadows campus through 1958, with technical/vocational courses taking place on the new site.

By the summer of 1958, the college boasted six new buildings for nursing, science, humanities, social science, art, physical education and a student center with administrative offices and a library.

Administrative changes in the 1950s affected both locations. Dr. Paul F. Gaiser, who had served for 11 years as both district superintendent for Vancouver Schools and president of Clark College, resigned the superintendent’s position in March 1952 and became Clark’s first full-time president.

Dr. Gaiser had already made his mark on the college in wartime. He’d been instrumental in acquiring large amounts of machinery from the Kaiser Shipyard, thereby giving a huge boost to the school’s ability to provide vocational education.

Legendary coach Skeet O'Connell and Clark athletes
In 1956, the college gave bragging rights to community men and women when Clark won state basketball championships three out of four academic years spanning 1952 to 1956.

That accomplishment was followed in 1956 by Clark scoring a baseball state championship against the favored Yakima Junior College. The series took place on a field east of Mill Plain Boulevard and Fort Vancouver Way. Led by coach Claude “Skeet” O’Connell, the Clark players bested reigning champion Yakima in two straight games (2-1, 2-1).

Another source of Penguin pride began at Clark in 1951 with the advent of practical nursing courses. Interest in this area would burgeon throughout the decade, and by 1960, Clark College could boast of being the first to have an accredited Associate in Arts professional nursing curriculum in Washington - one of only 19 in the Western United States.

On October 25, 1958, Clark College celebrated its 25th anniversary in a big way

Tony Bacon, a Clark alum who is now the editor of The Daily Insider, was then a reporter for The Oregonian newspaper.  In his news article about the anniversary celebration, he noted, “Amid bright sunshine and a 19-gun salute, the most modern college campus in the state was dedicated…Saturday in ceremonies that lasted the entire day and far into the night.  It was Clark College Day in Vancouver.”  Bacon added, “For the first time in its 25-year history, Clark College has a permanent home, a sprawling tree studded 60-acre campus in the heart of the city, with room to grow even more.”  Bacon also noted that the college’s new president, Dr. Dwight C. Baird, was officially inaugurated that day. 

That sense of excitement and expansion continued into the next decade.