Over the course of the 2016-17 school year, Pierce College will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a series of events, community service, a new website and more. It will be a year of celebration and community involvement, a year of gratitude for all the years the school has served its student body, and also a year in which the school seeks to give back to its community.

“We’ve been providing the community a service and access to education for 50 years now, so that’s pretty cool,” says Brian Benedetti, Director of Marketing and Communications at Pierce College. “Our mission is to create quality educational opportunities for a diverse community of learners to thrive in an evolving world. We see our role as providing resources, guidance, training and assistance to people in our community.”

Pierce College 50th Anniversary
Tacoma Community College gifted a giant wooden cake to Pierce for its 50th anniversary (TCC used it the year prior). Photo courtesy: Pierce College.

Pierce College has taken that mission and served as an integral part of the Pierce County community for five decades. A large number of people in Tacoma and surrounding cities have attended classes at the school, whether they’re seeking a degree, a professional certificate, preparing to transfer to a four-year school, or taking a class or two for personal enrichment.

“We’re a good stepping stone for people to advance and get out of lower paying jobs,” says Benedetti. “Last year, we had more than 20,000 students that we were training for the work force or preparing for a transfer to a university. Our graduates help increase the state’s economic vitality and quality of life, because we’re creating entrepreneurs, employees, consumers and tax payers.”

While Pierce has 20,000 students today, it started in 1967 with just 1,500 students in a former Albertson’s grocery store (fondly called Albertson’s U at the time).

Pierce College Albertson's U
Students study at “Albertson’s U,” Pierce College’s nickname in the early days as it was located in an old Albertson’s. Photo courtesy: Pierce College.

How to celebrate not only the school’s longevity, but also the accomplishments of its thousands of students started off pretty grand. Pierce College spoke with other schools that had planned anniversary celebrations to get a sense of what worked well and to whittle down the expansive list of ideas. They settled on three major new events specifically to celebrate, and then will add a 50th theme onto other events throughout the year.

The first major event will be Pierce College’s very first homecoming, but don’t assume homecoming means a semi-formal dance open to students only. Pierce is going all out for its homecoming and invites past and present students, faculty, staff and any interested members of the public to come join in the fun. The celebration starts with a volleyball game against rival Tacoma Community College on October 7, and then on October 8 homecoming will fill the Pierce College Fort Steilacoom campus with festivities.

“It’s going to be like a carnival atmosphere,” says Benedetti. “We’re going to have campus tours, a high school band, various program booths, and free popcorn and cupcakes. There’s going to be department reunions so people can come back and see each other and see how the college has changed. We’ll have showings at the Science Dome, some food trucks and displays. We’ll have face painting. We have a guy who does science tricks that kids especially like. We’ll have places for people to write their memories down or record their memories on camera if they want to. We’re still gathering even more ideas.”

Cascade Building
The Cascade Building at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom campus. Photo courtesy: Pierce College.

If homecoming is a success, they hope to make it the start of a new tradition.

The next major event is the Pierce College Gala on April 22, 2017. “That’s going to be a semi-formal evening to look back on our history and honor some exceptional alumni,” explains Benedetti. “It’s a fundraiser as well.”

Festivities will include welcoming in donors as well as past alumni to show gratitude and celebrate their contributions both to the college and the community. Pierce College also plans to open one of its time capsules that was put together 25 years ago, and create another time capsule set to be opened in another 50 years, and this will most likely take place at the gala.

The final event will be a capstone on the Puyallup Campus on June 10, 2017.

“Our closing event will be our capstone at the Puyallup Campus where we’ll cap off the year,” says Benedetti. “We’ll look back on things that have happened this year, we’ll thank the community for what they’ve done for us, and remind them what we’ve contributed, and then talk about the future. It will also have a real party atmosphere.”

Beyond the three new events, other Pierce College events throughout the year will have a 50th theme, including a 50th themed hall of fame dinner by the Athletic Department. Expect to see special displays, memorabilia and ways to record memories at other happenings and events.

“Another thing we’re doing throughout the year to give back to the community is something we call service learning,” adds Benedetti. “Service learning is tagged onto things we do with our students, who have a service learning component to their course work. We’re going to challenge people to do 50 hours of service to celebrate 50 years, and we’ll give them some recognition if they reach that goal. But even if they can’t reach that goal, we just want to encourage everyone in our college community to get involved in some kind of service activity to give back to the community as a way of saying thanks. We have a large list of all the kinds of things we can help them get involved in.”

Gaspard Building
The Gaspard Building on the Puyallup campus. Pierce College has two campuses – one near Steilacoom and one in Puyallup. Photo courtesy: Pierce College.

Pierce College’s 50th year is also all about documenting memories. Pierce50.com is a site dedicated to videos, recorded interviews and written memories by anyone who wants to reach out and talk about how Pierce has positively changed their life or helped them get to where they are today.

“At all of these events, we’re going to have video booths and that kind of thing, or people can send us videos or written memories or just a recording of their voices talking about a fond memory. What we want is to have at least 50 stories for 50 years. We already have about 35.”

Watch for ways to get involved or join in the celebration throughout the 2016-2017 school year. If you’d like to see some of the memories for yourself, check out Pierce50.com. To learn more about the college, visit Pierce College’s website.

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