Salt Lake Community College celebrates 75 years with brief speeches and a time capsule openingOct 12, 2023 02:49PM ● By Carl Fauver
The SLCC Taylorsville campus was all decked out last month for a special tribute day to mark the school’s 75th year serving students. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)
Barely three years after a pair of atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan officially drew World War II to a close, a new educational era opened in Salt Lake City. Initially called the Salt Lake Area Vocational School, the institution now known as Salt Lake Community College welcomed its first 246 students on Sept. 14, 1948.
Harry S. Truman was in the White House, Britain’s King Charles was still two months from being born and gas was 26 cents a gallon.
Sixteen different courses were offered by 23 instructors during that first year, mostly to GIs who’d just returned from the war. By the end of year one, enrollment had grown to some 1,400 students.
On Sept. 14, SLCC marked its 75th “diamond jubilee” anniversary – with an outdoor ceremony and time capsule opening – on the lawn at the school’s “main campus” in Taylorsville (4600 S. Redwood Road).
From its humble beginnings, SLCC has grown to become Utah’s largest two-year college, with nine locations serving more than 40,000 students annually. The school now offers eight fields of study and is recognized as one of the top ten providers of associate degrees across the United States.
SLCC President Dr. Deneece Huftalin welcomed the 75th Anniversary Tribute audience to the sun-soaked ceremony. She was followed by brief comments from: SLCC Board of Trustees Chairman Brady Southwick, Utah Lt. Governor Diedre Henderson and Taylorsville Mayor Kristie Overson.
Attendees each received a high-gloss 75th anniversary commemorative magazine. In it, President Huftalin noted: “From 16-year-old students combining college courses with high school completion to 72-year-old students finally achieving their educational dreams, SLCC has touched the lives of millions of Utahns.”
Ever-expanding to meet the needs (and locations) of its students, SLCC opened its newest 90-acre campus on Aug. 4 in Herriman. The site is a joint project with the University of Utah where students will be able to earn an associate’s degree from SLCC and then move on to pursue a U of U undergrad degree, all at the same location.
Officials describe the new southwest Salt Lake Valley campus as a “first-of-its-kind partnership between two Utah higher education institutions.” It is expected to serve more than 2,000 students during this academic year and nearly 7,000 by 2025.
Southwick told the diamond anniversary gathering he is proud and humbled to be involved with such an amazing organization.
“We can’t overstate the impact Salt Lake Community College has had on our community and state,” Southwick said. “The role SLCC plays is critical.”
Henderson lived in Taylorsville for several years and attended her sophomore year at Taylorsville High School before her family moved away. She read an official gubernatorial proclamation citing SLCC’s special day.
“From the ‘Greatest Generation’ to ‘Gen Z,’ this is the fifth generation to take advantage of this institution,” Henderson said. “Here’s to the next 75 years.”
The original Salt Lake Area Vocational School was located near downtown Salt Lake, near 4th South and6th East. Founding school President Howard Gundersen held that post only one year. But his successor, Jay Nelson, would remain at the school’s helm nearly three decades (1949-1978).
Midway through Nelson’s tenure, the school dedicated the site of the Taylorsville Redwood Campus in 1963. That’s also when the school took it’s next-to-last name, Utah Technical College at Salt Lake. The first classes were held on the former farm acreage a few years later.
“This campus opened to students in 1967, long before we were a city,” Overson told the 75th Anniversary Tribute audience. “I love walking through this beautiful campus, especially this time of year, as the leaves begin to change colors. Every day, I see our residents taking advantage of the training provided by SLCC. We celebrate your accomplishments.”
Following the official ceremony, Overson also added, “Taylorsville has so many strong partnerships with SLCC. Our Arts Council, in particular, has made use of the Alder Amphitheater many times. Our community symphony also partners with the school. It’s a wonderful, strong relationship.”
Following the handful of brief speeches, a bit more levity was introduced when a time capsule was opened. It seems no one thought to create a time capsule when the school first began greeting students in 1948. Instead, the time capsule items unveiled dated back to July 1988. That was just after the very first school year during which the institution was officially called Salt Lake Community College.
Michael Atkinson was SLCC’s student body president that year (1987-88). He’s also with the school now as an academic adviser. He and current Student Body President Joyce Wambuyi shared the time capsule contents, which included newspapers, books, coffee mugs and an official SLCC flying disc (“Frisbee”).
“I like to tell potential SLCC students, our parking is much better and our tuition is much better,” Atkinson said following the ceremony. “Salt Lake Community College is not as stressful or overwhelming as other schools can be.”
For nearly 60 years, SLCC was under the leadership of male school presidents. But, for nearly 20 years, females have been at the helm. Dr. Cynthia Bioteau became the school’s first woman president in 2005, serving to 2013. Dr. Huftalin – the school’s eighth president – has been in the post since then.
Dr. Huftalin has actually served SLCC students, faculty and staff for three decades. Prior to her role as president, she was interim president, vice president of student services, dean of students and director of academic and career advising.
It’s also noteworthy, predating these two women was another female SLCC trailblazer. In 1989, Norma Carr became the first woman athletics director at any Utah college or university.
In its most recent graduating class last May, 3, 330 SLCC students received their diplomas. Their yearly tuition averaged less than $4,300. According to school officials, at a time when staggering student debt is a frequent story in the national news, fully 80% of Salt Lake Community College students graduate with little to no unpaid education bills.
For the next couple of months, SLCC will accept student suggestions for what should go into a brand-new school time capsule. Their plan is to earmark it for opening during the college’s 150th anniversary, in 2098.
Most of last month’s tribute attendees aren’t expected to attend that event. But SLCC officials are quite confident the school’s legacy of providing a quality education at an affordable cost will still be alive and well. λ