Voters approved formation of a college district in the Coachella Valley in a landslide vote that created a local two-year college. College of the Desert was founded that year and the initial five-member Board of Trustees was seated. COD got its name from a Palm Springs teenager, Douglas Crocker, who won a contest sponsored by the district and local newspapers.
After three years of study and planning, contracts were let for the construction of nine buildings on 160 acres at Monterey Avenue and Avenue 44 (now Fred Waring Drive) in Palm Desert. The buildings had been funded in 1959 by a bond issue of $3.5 million. COD’s first students arrived in the fall of 1962.
COD received its first accreditation on Oct. 14.
Voters in the Coachella Valley approved a new $2 million bond issue to complete the first phase of COD construction. Within four years, construction was completed on the library (now the Hilb Center), the Gymnasium, and the Agricultural Science, Agricultural Technology, Nursing and Engineering buildings.
Residents of the high desert voted to join the college district and the Copper Mountain Campus got its start. Copper Mountain would become a separate district in 1999.
Dr. Fern Stout succeeded Dr. Roy McCall and became the second Superintendent/President of the community college district.
The guest speaker at commencement was famed comedian and actor Bob Hope. Both he and music leader Fred Waring received honorary degrees, Humane Letters and Music, respectively.
The College of the Desert Alumni Association was established in the spring of 1983. In 1985, the Alumni Association was chartered by the State of California as a non-profit, tax-exempt, charitable organization. The COD Foundation was incorporated on July 20, 1983. The first president of the Board was Robert Spiegel.
COD’s agreement permitting the McCallum Theatre to build on the college campus on the corner of Monterey Avenue and Fred Waring Drive came to fruition when the showcase civic theater opened. The long-range agreement provided the College with use of the facility for campus musical productions and events such as commencement exercises. Billy Idol performed in Wright Gymnasium on March 13.
The Foundation Auxiliary was founded and is made up of 350 members whose stated purpose is to serve as goodwill ambassadors of the college.
COD began to offer programs related to golf course management and maintenance. The Coachella Valley Campus of California State University, San Bernardino, opened on the COD campus, allowing students to complete upper division courses in the Coachella Valley. The district appointed its third Superintendent/President, Dr. David George.
The Board of Trustees changed the name of the Coachella Valley Community College District to Desert Community College District. At Indio High School, the college began offering classes as part of a planned Eastern Valley Center.
The Child Development Resource and Training Center opened, offering affordable child care to students, staff, faculty and the public, and training in child care careers. In 2002, it was renamed the McCarthy Family Child Development and Training Center.
COD's Boone Football Field was the site for a local concert by the Beach Boys on May 1.
Construction began on a new library, a unique city-county-college facility in which the new building would house Palm Desert City and Riverside County public libraries as well as the College library.
The Multi-Agency Library opened. The Dining Hall was renovated. Dr. William R. Kroonen became COD’s fourth Superintendent/President.
In February, Lori and Harvey Sarner donated 1,000 volumes on, about and by Winston S. Churchill. This library collection is one of the most complete in the United States. Over two hundred volumes have since been added to the collection.
The former college library was remodeled as a student center and renamed the Hilb Center in honor of its benefactors, Jeane and Justin Hilb. The original Lecture Hall was renovated and renamed the Carol L. Meier Lecture Hall. The Faculty Resource Center opened.
Theater One, the campus theater, was rededicated in honor of Bob and wife “Mike” Pollock. The Pollock Theater’s first performance was an original play by the Hollywood screenwriting couple. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held to begin construction of Math and Social Sciences buildings on the Palm Desert campus.
In March, Harold Kress, known for his outstanding achievement in film editing, donated two Oscars to the College of the Desert library. They were awarded for his work on the films How the West Was Won and The Towering Inferno. Kress was also a former COD film and mass communications instructor.
Trustees selected Dr. Maria Sheehan to be COD’s fifth Superintendent/President. Dedication ceremonies were held for the new Math and Social Sciences buildings, the first new classrooms in three decades. The satellite Eastern Valley Center opened in Indio with some 1,800 students.
The Marks Center for the Arts opened with galleries named for its benefactors, Don and Peggy Cravens, Bob and Barbara Leberman, and the COD Alumni Association. The old foundry, closed for a decade, was rebuilt with private donations. The 40-year old science building was completely renovated inside with all new laboratory equipment and furnishings. The dedication ceremony held in January unveiled the new name, the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Science Building. The $2 million renovation was made possible by private donations. Also, a new academic calendar went into effect shortening semesters from 18 to 16 weeks while class times were expanded.
In March, voters in the Desert Community College District voted overwhelmingly to authorize the sale of bonds, enabling the college to renovate its 40-year-old campus and expand for future growth. The bond issue totaled $346.5 million.
Artist’s renderings were released showing two proposed new buildings, Nursing and Health Sciences and the City of Palm Desert Public Safety Academy at College of the Desert. Planning continued on other projects, a Multi-Purpose Classroom Building, an Alumni Centre, and the Learning Commons. All three will be built concurrently, with groundbreakings tentatively scheduled during 2008.
Jerry R. Patton was named the sixth president of College of the Desert. In the fall, ground was broken on new construction projects including the Coeta and Donald Barker Foundation Nursing Complex and the Public Safety Academy.
Construction began on another in a series of buildings funded by Measure B when a groundbreaking in April launched the future Donald and Peggy Cravens Student Services Center. In October, the college obtained its own chapter of the national community college honor society, Phi Theta Kappa, naming it Beta Rho Iota. COD celebrated its 50th anniversary as a California Community College District.
In February, the college opened its temporary campus in Mecca/Thermal. In March the college held an official grand opening celebration for the Public Safety Academy. May 1st marked the ribbon cutting for the newly completed Coeta and Donald Barker Foundation Nursing Complex and the new Alumni Centre opened Nov. 19.
On Jan. 20th the Desert Energy Enterprise Center opened in Palm Springs. April brought the grand opening of the Donald and Peggy Cravens Student Services Center. The groundbreaking ceremony for the new Classroom Building was held in June and students enjoyed the grand opening of the newly renovated COD Café called Beeps, in September. The college’s Educational Master Plan was significantly updated in the spring which will guide campus-wide decision making for the coming years.
In February, the Coeta and Donald Barker Foundation Nursing Complex was awarded the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver designation, followed by the Public Safety Academy LEED Silver in June. The college’s new radio station KCOD 620 AM went live in March, completely run by students. The McCarthy Family Child Development and Training Center received accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children in August. The same month, the college received reaffirmation of its own full accreditation by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC). A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the Communication and Humanities building in December.
Desert Energy Enterprise Center (DEEC) celebrated in March the significant donation of a solar trough to its solar thermal technology training program which is a partnership among college, industry and government entities. The Donald and Peggy Cravens Student Services Center was awarded LEED Gold certification in April. In May, the Board of Trustees named Dr. Joel Kinnamon the college’s seventh president, starting in July.
Mike Mozingo, Radio and Television Writing student and KCOD DJ, won first place for the Most Innovative Show by the Intercollegiate Broadcasting Systems. Construction began on a new Visual Arts building, gymnasium and Applied Sciences buildings. The Communication Building was ready for fall semester classes. The Agriculture Building will be modernized. Photovoltaic Carports were installed to save the college approximately two-thirds of its utility costs. In Fall 2013, the Fire Academy welcomed students for the first time.
The first time in College history the women’s softball team hosted the play-off game. It was the fourth time in College history that the team made the play-offs. The Indio Campus opened to students in February. The three-story, 40,000 square foot center for higher education is in the heart of downtown Indio. The Riverside County Fire Department donated two fire engines to the college. Summer classes were held in the new Visual Arts and Kinesiology buildings. Wright Gymnasium was razed to make room for new tennis courts. The new Agriculture Science, Early Childhood Education, Gymnasium, and Stagecraft buildings are set to open for Fall classes.
Former COD student trustee, Aaron Bonner, is now in the prestigious Capital Fellows Program in Sacramento. Two students won Nikon photography awards out of 17,000 photographs submitted from around the world. KCOD CoachellaFM, the student-run radio station, won 4 awards at the National Broadcasting Conference. For the first time ever a COD student, Todor Nikolov, won the coveted Jack Kent Cooke scholarship. He was one of 90 selected nationwide to receive the scholarship which can be up to $40,000/year for the final years of college to achieve a bachelor’s degree. Architecture students designed and built the golf cart float and numerous COD students and alumni walked in the annual parade. This year winning the Sweepstakes Trophy for best overall entry. Cast members, directors, choreographers and lighting design earned 7 Desert Theater League awards for our plays and the spring musical. The VN program was reapproved by the Board of Vocational Nursing until 2019. The Intensive English Academy was selected as a “recommended program” by the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission. Our Human Services/Alcohol and Drug program was selected by the California Consortium of Addiction Professionals as the first recipient of the Spotlight Award for Outstanding Educational Institution. Fall classes were held in the new Agriculture Science, Early Childhood Education, Gymnasium and Stagecraft buildings. Each multi-faceted facility has expanded learning opportunities for students. In May, over 1,100 degrees and certificates were awarded to the largest graduating class in the more than fifty-year history at the College.
In early 2016, College of the Desert began consolidating its career-based services into a single location under one management, creating the new Career and Workforce Solutions Center. Centralizing student support services has already gone a long way to assist students in accessing the support they need and thereby improving the likelihood of success. The College received the 2016 Clean Air Education and Outreach Award from the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD). This prestigious award honors visionaries in the South Coast region who have helped to fight for clean air through innovation, leadership and exemplary service. The EDGE program received the 2016 Chancellor’s Student Success Award, which is presented to programs that succeed in supporting students as they achieve their higher education goals. KCOD, the College’s radio station, earned a nomination as the best national Community College Radio Station in the country by the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System. This was the first time in the five-year history of the program that the radio station was nominated for this prestigious title. The football team won the American Mountain League Championship, men’s golf placed third in the state and COD’s top women’s doubles team claimed the state tennis championship For the second straight year, the College graduated its largest class in history, conferring more than 1,100 degrees and certificates. The East Valley Campus Expansion wrapped up in fall 2016. Additions included an Interdisciplinary Lab with a Lab Prep Room and two general use classrooms. A new maintenance vehicle enclosure and re-design of the existing detention basin were also included with the expansion.
In 2017, the College enhanced EDGE by adding a financial support component called plEDGE. The donor-funded plEDGE program supplements traditional financial aid and scholarship resources, creating two years of free college education for local high school graduates. It also provides educational support, including a clear outline of goals and pathways to success. In July 2017, the Richard Brooke Foundation made its first grant of $75,000 for the plEDGE scholarship program for 2017-2018. It was the largest single donation to plEDGE, which is designed to make higher education accessible for all Coachella Valley high school graduates by offering two years of attendance tuition-free. Football won the coveted Palms-to-Pines Trophy over Mt. San Jacinto College.
In 2018, College of the Desert celebrated its 60th anniversary with a year of special events and projects tracing its progress and achievements. Beginning the year, College of the Desert’s Partnership and Community Education (PaCE) program worked with industry leaders and Highroad Consulting Group to develop certificate training programs on human resources and state compliance for the cannabis industry. The opening of an $850,000 observatory on College of the Desert’s Mecca/Thermal Campus, offered full student support services, marked a major milestone in the school’s emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. In March 2018, the College announced a partnership with Palm Springs-based DIGICOM Learning to create the Regional Center for Digital Media Education. After years of negotiation, preparation and anticipation, the Desert Community College District was able to purchase the Palm Springs Mall in April 2018 for what will become the permanent home of College of the Desert’s Palm Springs Campus. Construction began to convert the Hilb Student Center into the College Library. Among the College’s many honors was the Bellwether Award, the nation’s most competitive and prestigious recognition given to community colleges for outstanding and pioneering programs that other colleges might consider replicating. College of the Desert competed against hundreds of programs for the Bellwether Award and came out on top for EDGE (Engage, Develop, Grow and Empower). Men’s Tennis clinched the Conference tournament, winning singles and doubles titles, and sent three doubles teams and five singles players to the CCCAA State Finals in Ojai. Women’s Tennis returned to the court after a one-year hiatus and won the Conference singles and doubles championship. Men’s Golf won the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference Championship. More than two dozen faculty, staff and administrators took advantage of a unique opportunity supported by College of the Desert to obtain a doctoral degree in education focused on community college leadership. The College’s inaugural class started its first eightweek course in Fall 2018.
In January 2019, the College collaborated with the City of Coachella to offer English as a Second Language classes. The Nursing Department gained endorsements from the following regulatory agencies for its curriculum, faculty and facilities: Board of Registered Nursing, Board of Licensed Vocational Nursing, and Board of Public Health for the Nursing Assistant program and Home Health Aide course. Joel L. Kinnamon, Ed.D., Superintendent/President at College of the Desert, was recognized with a prestigious award from the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society in April 2019 for showing strong support of student success. In April 2019, the College Board of Trustees approved an extension of the plEDGE program for 2020 high school graduates, marking its fourth consecutive year providing student assistance. In 2019, more than 10,000 parents, family and friends joined College of the Desert as it celebrated its graduates during a record-breaking commencement ceremony held at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. The College live-streamed the event in which it conferred more than 1,576 degrees and certificates. That number represents a 70 percent increase in College of the Desert graduates since 2012. This was the first year the College held its commencement at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, having outgrown its previous ceremony locations. The 2019 commencement ceremony not only included the College’s largest-ever graduating class, it also marked the graduation of the first participants in the award-winning plEDGE program. Roadrunners Men’s Tennis won their first California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) State team title since 2011 and secured a rare “Triple Crown” by winning the Singles and Doubles titles. The Women’s Volleyball team won the inaugural Inland Empire Athletic Conference title. The Men’s soccer team won the inaugural Inland Empire Athletic Conference title. EDGE was recognized by the League for Innovation in the category of Student Services and Activities. The American Association of Community Colleges named College of the Desert a finalist in two categories: Advancing Diversity and Student Success. Both recognized the EDGE program for its impact on eliminating achievement gaps for diverse student populations and for its significant impact on student success outcomes. College of the Desert was a top-ten finalist for the coveted Bellwether Legacy Award, which recognizes cutting-edge, trendsetting programs that other colleges would find worthy of replicating. It was a follow up to the Bellwether Award, which the College won in 2018. In one of the College’s finest moments of the year, members of its distinguished Symphonic Band were invited to perform at New York’s Carnegie Hall. College of the Desert celebrated the opening of a new student success initiative – the Dreamer Resource Center – on November 4, 2019. The center is dedicated to students who are in an unsteady position with the uncertainty of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).