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By Miriam Raftery

October 23, 2011 (El Cajon) – Dressed in mini-skirts, love beads, Letterman jackets and other nostalgic garb, approximately 300 guests turned out to celebrate Grossmont College’s 50th anniversary gala last night.

The world was rapidly changing when the college first opened its doors in 1961 on the campus at Monte Vista High School. (The next year, a bond measure funded construction at today’s location.) Back in 1961, John F. Kennedy had just been elected president, succeeding Dwight D. Eisenhower. The Beatles rocketed to fame. America launched its first man into space and the President vowed to put a man on the moon within a decade.


View video of President Kennedy's inaugural speech:  Then, as now, it was a time of hope--and a time of strife.


Also in 1961, Freedom Riders took a stand for Civil Rights after the Supreme Court banned segregation. The mini-skirt had just been invented; hot fashion trends included Stiletto heels, Capri pants, and pillbox hats popularized by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. Judy Garland sang at Carnegie Hall. The President founded the Peace Corps. The Cold War strained diplomatic relations; at year’s end, the Viet Nam War began.

Last night’s gala attracted many alumni as well as community supporters. SDG&E spokesman Don Parent looked dapper in a letterman’s jacket. Grossmont College President Sunny Cooke donned a miniskirt and go-go boots for the occasion, while Chancellor Cindy Miles sported a flowery dress, fringed shawl and sandals for the occasion.


A live auction, silent auction and raffle raised funds to help students in need with scholarships and short-term funding needs. Auctioneer Steve Hamann and Grossmont's enthusiastic president Cooke urged audience members to boost their bids--all for a good cause.  


ECM intern David Hurst, an aspiring sportscaster, expressed elation upon learning he held the winning ticket for a wide-screen TV.


Ernest Ewin, executive director of development of the new Foundation for Grossmont and Cuyamaca Colleges, praised donors for their generosity. 


For the past two and a half years ending in June, the two colleges raised over $810,000 (including $580,000 raised by Grossmont's Foundation. When added to initial gifts and matching funds from the Bernard Osher Foundation through the Foundation for California Community Colleges, a total of $1.6 million has been raised--giving at least 81 perpetual student scholarships of $1,000 ever year in over 15 academic subject areas forever. 


A raise-the-paddle event followed, where generous donors anted up even more funds to help the growing number of students in need amid today’s challenging economic times.

The event took place at the newest building on campus, a Health and Sciences complex. Chancellor Miles urged the audience to offer up “a huge round of applause for taxpayers for voting for the bond measure to build this beautiful building.”


A band performed music from the college’s early decades, while students from Grossmont’s dance department performed and a groovy time was had by all who came.

Vintage photos of Grossmont College through its first fifty years may be viewed at this link: View a video of the "fabulous 50" gala provided by the college district at


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