Most people called upon to be interim president at a community college would hope for a period of stability and prosperity. That’s not the sort of year Ellis Dunn was handed. He remembers revising the budget downwards five times during the 1981-1982 academic year.
Some general cost-saving measures had begun in the 1970s when community colleges statewide shifted to hiring more part-time instructors, called adjunct faculty today. While grounded in economics, the change provided the opportunity for the college to provide a wide range of classes taught by instructors with specialties.
Another healthy step during Dunn’s year as president was his decision to ban smoking in classrooms, offices, hallways and other public areas at school. Today’s tobacco-free campus may make the idea seem less significant. But it was a forward-thinking ruling by Dunn, himself a smoker at the time, and a precursor of the college’s Healthy Penguin Nation initiative, launched in 2008.
Penguin pride was on display throughout the decade. In 1988, the college made plans to remove the penguin from the floor of the Clark gymnasium. Students held a protest to protect the penguin. Their efforts to thwart that "fowl" deed resulted in news coverage in The Columbian newspaper and a compromise that kept Oswald in his place of honor in the gym.
The business division continued to feature courses in heavy demand on campus. Dr. Antonio F. Scarpelli, former business division chair, recalled that when he retired in 1986, the average age for Clark students was about 29. Over several decades, the division had initiated programs in real estate certification, insurance certification, computerized accounting, business math, fashion merchandising and many more.
Program leaders also took note of cultural trends. Under the leadership of Patricia Watne, director of women’s programs, Clark sought to provide options for women entering the workplace in different roles. In an effort to celebrate successes and create “something positive to look forward to,” Watne organized the first Women of Achievement program. The awards program, first held in 1985, was founded to recognize and honor local women for their outstanding community contributions.
Twenty-five years later, the Women of Achievement celebration is a partnership between Clark College and the YWCA Clark County and has become Southwest Washington’s largest event honoring women.
One of the major events of the eighties took place during the 1983-1984 academic year when the college celebrated its 50th anniversary with a joyful reunion of past presidents, faculty, staff and students from throughout Clark's proud history.