History and Traditions

Founded in 1933, Clark College is the oldest institution of higher education in Southwest Washington. From its beginnings as a private junior college founded during the Great Depression, through its incorporation into the Washington State public education system in the 1940s, to its position today as the largest community college in Southwest Washington, Clark has developed a rich history and relationship with both its own community and the community around it. Many of its annual events, like its Jazz Fest and Sakura Festival, are traditions that go back years or even decades.

Those interested in researching the history of Clark College are welcome to contact the college's Office of Communications & Marketing as well as Cannell Library for information about their respective archives of historic materials.


Over its 80-year history, Clark College has produced many notable alumni. A few examples are:

Visit the Clark College Foundation's alumni page to learn about more of Clark alumni's contributions to the world.


Commencement is a milestone in every academic year -- the ultimate celebration of student success.

On June 14, 1934, Clark Junior College honored its first – and only – graduate at its “first all-school banquet and dance” at Vancouver’s Castle Grill.  Mrs. Frances Bunnell Wilde received the college's first diploma.

Since then, the ceremony has been held in both college and community locations. For many years, it was held in the gymnasium of the O'Connell Sports Center. In recent years, it has been held at the Sunlight Supply Amphitheater in Ridgefield, Washington.

To find out more about attending and/or participating in our annual Commencement and High School/GED Completion Ceremonies, please visit this helpful page in Campus Life.

Penguin Nation

Oswald the Penguin has been Clark College's mascot since the college was first founded—in fact, he was donated by the college's very first student—and he has been embraced by the college community ever since. Over the years, Oswald has shown up in yearbooks, athletic events, music videos—even topiary! Students can often be seen sporting penguin-emblazoned shirts as they walk around campus. Clark's sports teams are all called the Penguins, and the college community is often nicknamed the "Penguin Nation." Visit the  Penguin Nation page to learn more about the evolution of Oswald.