Pikes Peak Community College developed in an American history context. After World War II —with G.I. Bill support — community colleges proliferated. In the 1960s, Baby Boomers added demand. A 1961 Colorado committee proposed four new “junior” colleges. They included Colorado Springs, anticipating growth, largely military. By 1968, El Paso Community College opened.
In the 1970s-80s, high-tech and medical industries, and returning Vietnam veterans, pointed to vocational education, which was 70 percent of EPCC’s enrollment. EPCC became a Servicemen’s Opportunity College. Ft. Carson “sold” EPCC land for a new campus for $1, to support military access. The architect was Clifford Nakata, a Japanese American who had suffered WWII “relocation” with his family. They named the new campus Centennial, dedicated on August 18, 1976, because of the U.S. Bicentennial/Colorado Centennial year. The college also proposed a new name, becoming Pikes Peak Community College on March 21, 1978.
Growth in the 1980s-90s led PPCC to develop other campuses. In 1986, the Downtown Studio Campus opened at 19 North Tejon St. It moved in 1993 to the former St. Mary’s High School.
In 2016, PPCC received $1 million, from the Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation, to develop a Creative Commons downtown. Now DTSC is also expanding into the nearby Gowdy Building. Again, in 1986, PPCC used Rampart High School as a north campus. It finally acquired land, completing Rampart Range Campus in 1998. In 2008, PPCC hosted The Classical Academy on its acreage, leading in concurrent enrollment of high school students.
In the later 1980s, diversity and equity priorities increased. In 1989, Marijane Paulsen became the first woman president of PPCC. Joseph A. Garcia became PPCC’s first president of color in 2001. In 2016, PPCC hired its first executive director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and began anew to address underrepresented minorities.
Still changing with the times, in 2019, PPCC ventured into Cybersecurity as a major program. In 2018-19, PPCC successfully proposed its first two bachelor’s degrees, hearkening back to vocational/medical roots: a Bachelor of Applied Science in Emergency Services Administration and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
With over 18,500 enrollments in 2018-19, PPCC has come a long way. Its first 50 years validate goals ascribed to community colleges historically: community colleges would be affordable and adaptable to society’s needs. They would make higher education available to a majority of the population. Community colleges would be one of the best investments in America’s future.
Generously Submitted by Katherine Scott Sturdevant , Professor of History, Pikes Peak Community College