President marks Clark College's 80 years

Knight takes note of history, looks ahead at school's State of the College address

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter



Clark College: That was then, this is now

Student enrollment

1933: 22.

2014: 13,730.


1933: $110 per year if paid in advance.

2014: $4,209.

Number of programs

1933: one, liberal arts.

2014: 37.


1933: One building, the Hidden House, 100 W. 13th St.

2014: Four locations: the main campus at 1933 Fort Vancouver Way, Columbia Tech Center, WSU Vancouver and downtown Vancouver’s Columbia Bank Building

On the Web

As Clark College celebrates 80 years, it's grown considerably from its birth in 1933, when 22 students studied one program, liberal arts, in the college's one building, the Hidden House in downtown Vancouver.

Today, Clark College has 13,730 students in 37 programs of study.

At Thursday's State of the College address, after being introduced as the "penguin in charge," Clark College President Bob Knight bounded up to the podium and grinned.

"We were born out of the dark days of the Depression," Knight said. "What will we look like at 100? What steps can we take to ensure that Clark at 100 is the vibrant and important place it is today?"

He noted that student enrollment is down, but said: "That's something we predicted. It's a good thing. It means people are finding jobs."

Knight spoke of programs that have changed and grown with workforce needs, including the fields of bioscience, aeronautics and automotive.

Clark offers more engineering classes that transfer to four-year universities than any other community college in the state.

In the spring, Clark will offer its first bachelor's degree, a Bachelor of Applied Science in dental hygiene.

The space in the dental hygiene building is being tripled, thanks to a $1.5 million boost from the Firstenburg Family Foundation, Knight said.

A new Veterans Center on the second floor of Gaiser Hall will soon be completed and will assist the nearly 800 Clark students who are veterans.

Nodding toward Vancouver businessman Elie Kassab, seated in the second row, Knight said he hoped Kassab's new apartment building rising downtown not far from campus would house some of Clark's 137 international students from 27 countries.

Later this spring, the college plans to purchase land to build a $35 million satellite campus in north county.

In the summer, Clark College will break ground on its STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) building.

Knight touted the college's strategic plan that will lead it into the future.

"The thing that won't change is our commitment to student learning," he said. "We can never forget that the student comes first."

Knight said that the Clark College Foundation has raised $19.1 million in its "Ensuring a Bright Future" campaign during "the worst economic period since the Great Depression."

Knight looked toward foundation president Lisa Gibert and said, "We're not done yet."