Mt. SAC Celebrates 70 Years of Education

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When students arrive in the morning to Mt. SAC’s full parking lots off the bustling streets of Grand Ave. and Temple Ave. they may find it hard to believe that 70 years ago the school started as a lone military hospital with a single road leading into the valley. English Professor John Brantingham remembers how mornings started when he was a student at Mt. SAC several years ago.

“The parking lots, I don’t know if this was just when I first started as a student but I remember the parking lot being dirt but it might have been that they just had to repave it, dirt and no lines,” Brantingham said. “You go out there in the morning of my first semester, everyone would just kind of make their own rows of cars in the morning, just kind of buzzing in.”

However, Mt. SAC had a long history before Brantingham started at the college. Mt. SAC was founded by the four local school districts; Pomona, Covina, Bonita, and La Puente to serve the growing communities as veterans of World War II returned home and sought to finish their education. The local communities in a 7-1 vote approved the college in December 1945.

Mt. SAC was formed in 1946 with seven founding divisions:

When the school was founded Mt. SAC’s early art students created early versions of the school mascot, Joe Mountie. Originally named Monsieur Sac, the school’s mascot first appeared in the college’s yearbook, The Chaparral, in 1947. Monsieur Sac later became Little Joe and was accompanied by his lady friend, Lil Josie. Joe’s early baby-faced designs are a far cry from today’s bearded Joe Mountie. As well, Joe seems to have traded his lady friend for his four-legged friend Montie.

Like Joe Mountie, the Mt. SAC campus, too, evolved over time. The campus originally stood isolated with a lone road leading from Valley Boulevard to a Spanish style stucco building where the Mountie Café now stands. Grand Avenue and Temple Avenue were built to allow for increased traffic with the building of the new stadium, now Hilmer Lodge Stadium, which was dedicated by the then representative of the area, Richard Nixon.

In 1966, Mt. SAC’s science department transformed 10 acres of swampy land in the corner of the campus into the wildlife sanctuary that offers tours for local students. About a decade ago, Building 26 was gutted and renovated turning an old auditorium into the writing center, the speech and sign success center, and the planetarium. In addition Building 26 and the left over military hospital buildings, much has changed over the years for Mt. SAC.

“The library was completely different; it’s the same building but they had to change it and that’s because of the internet,” Brantingham said. “There was one room dedicated to periodicals and one room dedicated to books. You go in there and look around for the right magazine and inevitably not get it.”

Other changes to the campus that Brantingham witnessed include recent additions such as Building 66 the Language Center, Building 13 the Design Technology Center, and the new Mountie Café. Brantingham added that he favored the new Mountie Café for giving students a place to go between and after classes.

“I like that kind of change because it allows students to internalize knowledge,” Brantingham said. “If my students go off and complain about me and the lessons then they’re learning the lessons better than if they go home and play video games.”

Though the school has changed drastically in terms of the campus itself, there have been transformations in other areas of the college. English Professor Gary Enke has seen his department go through various phases.

“When I was hired in 1990, the English Department was an incredibly contentious group of highly intelligent people,” Professor Gary Enke said. “At my very first department meeting, two of my colleagues got in a huge fight about policy, and one of them stormed out of the room.”

Professor Enke was the former chair of the English department when the journalism program rejoined the English department after several years in the communication department in an attempt to merge journalism with radio and television. When it was decided that the journalism program and the production of the student newspaper, the Mountaineer; which started in 1946, would transfer back to the English department he had one condition, that the position would be entirely devoted to the newspaper. Professor Toni Albertson was hired as the first full time journalism advisor, a position she still currently holds, and some years later had the program ditch the newspaper for all-digital publications. “Because of Toni’s energy and commitment to
students, the program has grown from a small print newspaper, to a magazine, to a cutting- edge program that prepares students to work in the full range of emerging media,” Enke said. “We are fortunate to have two exceptional professors–Toni and Gina DePaola–teaching in the program and mentoring students.”

Among other notable programs on the Mt. SAC campus is the school’s athletic program that host the school’s Mt. SAC Relays. The Relays were started by track and field Coach Hilmer Lodge and have garnered attention from around the world with competitors ranging from high school athletes to Olympians. Hilmer Lodge Stadium and the relays have become associated with the words, “where the world’s best athletes come to compete.” Mt. SAC’s athletics program is also known for the annual Mt. SAC Cross-Country Invitational, the largest invitational in the world. “The cross-country course has always been the best and most difficult course,” Brantingham said.

While Mt. SAC has seen tons of growth over the past 70 years it will surely continue to grow in the future as well. While the future growth of technology may be hard to predict Professor Enke hoped for a future that allows Mt. SAC to continue to grow in its inclusivity. “In the very near future, I hope we as a Department can find ways to support our most vulnerable students–especially undocumented students, people of color, and LGBTQ–in the wake of the great anxiety created by the election of Donald Trump,” Enke said. However, with the amount of space dwindling and recent legal clashes with the City of Walnut, Mt. SAC is quickly running out of room to grow. “I wonder how long it’s going to be before we have satellite campuses, it’s going to be a while, but we seem to be out of room here, not just in terms of physical space but how much Walnut can handle, how many people can come to this town and not completely disrupt everything else going on,” Brantingham said. “I’d really love to see a campus in downtown Pomona to give access to people who have a hard time getting here by bus because there’s not a good connection from Pomona to Mt. SAC.”

The future possibilities and the 70 year of Mt. SAC have given the students and faculty of the campus plenty to celebrate about. In part of the celebration Mt. SAC hosted a community carnival on Saturday, Nov. 5 to celebrate the school’s 70th Anniversary.