Almost 40 years ago, when Lake Tahoe Community College first opened its doors, the institution was operating out of what‘s now the Econo Lodge on Highway 50 in South Lake Tahoe.
Administrators had chosen a hotel as the site for their new college, and it was quickly remodeled in the summer of 1975. Hotel rooms were converted to fit the needs of the school, but evidence of the old business could still be seen when classes started later that year.
“We began classes here in ’75,” said Dr. James Duke, the first LTCC president, as he stood in the Econo Lodge on Wednesday during a 40th anniversary press conference. “The only college in the world with restrooms in every faculty office and fireplaces in every classroom.”
Now, 40 years after the college was voted into existence with strong 66 percent approval on March 5, 1974, LTCC operates out of a 164-acre campus off Al Tahoe Boulevard with a faculty of 40 full-time employees. It serves 5,500 students each year and offers a full-service library, centers for fitness education, child development and performing arts, a commercial-grade culinary arts kitchen and more.
In its first year, the college started with 1,400 students and a faculty of 14 full-time employees.
Roberta Mason, an original and current LTCC board member, recalled what organizing the college was like in the beginning.
“By September of ’75, within one year, we had the whole structure and a location, which is this hotel,” she said.
Some faculty, administrators and students who were involved with LTCC near the time of its inception attended the press conference Wednesday. One of them was Jonnie Crawford, who was a one of the 11 students in the college’s first graduating class.
“I liked it,” Crawford said. “We knew everybody here. We got to know all of the faculty, and they were good. The original faculty here was superb.”
Michelle Risdon, current president of the Academic Senate, said LTCC continued to hire experienced staff during the past four decades, resulting in a strong faculty.
“The college, in my opinion, has done an excellent, outstanding job in the past 40 years of putting together a group of faculty that I’m proud to work with and call my colleagues,” she said.
“I for one am very hopeful about the future,” Risdon added. “I’m excited to see what contributions and innovations this group of faculty will bring in the next 40 years.”
Many students also are thankful for the creation of LTCC and the benefits it brings to the community, said Alicia Agnew, president of the Associated Student Council.
“I’m so thankful for the roots that were started by all of you founders out there who made it so that students like myself don’t have to leave the place that we love to get the groundwork for a wonderful education,” she said at the press conference.
“To see that we’ve started at this tiny little hotel and now have the amazing campus that we have,” Agnew added, “and to even see the growth that I’ve seen in our campus in my three years attending there is just remarkable to me.”
LTCC will continue celebrating its 40th anniversary at a June 7 dinner and memorial unveiling.