District History

The Creation of Foothill and De Anza Colleges

(excerpted from "Foothill College - The First 25 Years")

In July, 1956, Henry M. Gunn, Superintendent of Schools in Palo Alto, called a meeting of the other local high school superintendents and representatives of their school boards to explore the possibility of a junior college. Included were: Charles Crooke, Mountain View; A.C. Stevens, Jr., Fremont; Rex Turner, Sequoia; and Merrill Vanderpool of Palo Alto who was chosen chairman. County Superintendent of Schools O.S. Hubbard was invited to attend as well as William Odell of Stanford and James Tormey of San Mateo School District and, later, state representatives as they were needed. After 18 months of study, in 1957,  the formation of a district received approval from the State Department of Education.

The first elected Board of Trustees convened July 1, 1957. The Board included A. P. Christiansen, Dr. Howard G. Diesner, Dr. Robert C. Smithwick (Chairman), Mrs. Mary Levine, and Robert F. Peckham.

A.C. Stevens, Jr. acted as consultant and superintendent for nine months, while the search was conducted for a permanent superintendent. Calvin C. Flint, President of Monterey Peninsula College, was named District Superintendent and President, to start March 1, 1958. The new college was to be called Foothill Junior College, although President Flint declared it to be "not junior to anyone,'' a point upon which he always insisted. In September, 1958, the Board of Trustees officially changed the name to Foothill College.

Dr. H. Christian Zweng headed the Citizens Committee for the Bond Election, comprised of groups from Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos, Cupertino and Sunnyvale. In May, 1958, the bond issue (10.4 million dollars)  passed by more than three to one, and plans for a permanent campus could be started. 

The Board of Trustees appointed an Augmented Board for Site Selection whose job was to search for appropriate sites and recommend a final choice to the Board. On September 15, 1958,  the Board of Trustees selected the 122-acre site on El Monte Road in Los Altos Hills as the permanent location for Foothill College.

The school's name had been selected from several choices: Peninsula, Junipero Serra, Toyon, Mid-Peninsula, Earl Warren, Herbert Hoover, Santa Clara, North Santa Clara, Altos, Valley, Skyline, Highland and Intercity . The new college was to serve an area encompassing Palo Alto, Stanford , Mountain View, Moffett Field, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Cupertino, Monta Vista and part of Sunnyvale. Its seal promised "Educational Opportunity For All."

A spirit of excitement and determination grew in the community.  Calvin Flint advocated "keeping the tax dollars home" by opening a school at once. Few buildings were available, but the old Highway School on El Camino Real in Mountain View was declared salvageable by engineering studies, and work began. At the same time, the enthusiastic new faculty and staff prepared their schedules and courses for opening day with pioneering zeal.

Foothill College's response to its community's needs brought into being a junior college which opened September 15, 1958, only six months after the hiring of the new superintendent. Its early promise was first fulfilled when in March, 1959, Foothill became the first California college to be given full accreditation in its first year of operation. By June, 1959, the end of the first school year at the temporary Mountain View campus, the architects had key building plans of the campus-to-be, and purchase of the El Monte site was completed. Attention then turned toward readying the site itself for construction. Between September and December, 1959, preliminary site development and grading were completed. 

By the opening of classes, September 5, 1961 , the total campus was finished, except for the gymnasium and auditorium, which were due to be completed in November. Students began attending the first U.S. campus to be built all at one time, a singular advantage to its architectural success. Expenses for the construction, in addition, had been kept to almost exactly the state average for cost per student. The average construction cost per square foot was $17.13.

Public recognition and emulation of Foothill was widespread. The campus won a number of awards for its design, two of them before the campus was completed. The U.S. State Department placed Foothill on its official tour of the Bay Area, and the campus received countless visitors from the U.S. and abroad. Numerous newspaper and feature magazine articles lauded the school not only for its architecture, but also for the unique way in which the planners and builders created a college responsive to the changing needs of the community which it serves.

Quickly, Foothill College fulfilled the prophecies of its success. Enrollment at its new Los Altos Hills campus increased so rapidly that officials expected it to reach capacity by 1966. Because early enrollment projections called for a minimum of two campuses, in 1959 an alert Board of Trustees had already negotiated a $1.5 million lease-purchase agreement for a 112-acre parcel in Cupertino.

On September 8, 1962, District voters approved, by 4 to 1, a $14 million bond election for construction of the second campus.

Built on land with an interesting history, the new college took its name from Captain Juan Bautista de Anza, an early Spanish explorer sent into California by the Viceroy of Mexico to establish mission sites. Historians agree that his expedition, en route to what is now San Francisco , camped on March 25, 1776, at Arroyo de San Jose Cupertino, the present Stevens Creek.

Architects Associated Ernest J. Kump and Masten and Hurd chose for the De Anza campus a "contemporary mission" design, which reflects the land's early history. Buildings with adobe walls and red tile roofs blend Spanish and modern architecture. Although Kump, Masten and Hurd designed both Foothill and De Anza Colleges, their architectural themes were very diverse. However, it is noteworthy that each campus has won the prestigious National Honor Award of the American Institute of Architects, Foothill in 1962 and De Anza in 1969. An article in the San Francisco Chronicle, December 19, 1969, stated, "Both Foothill and De Anza Colleges - five miles apart - are public community colleges. They are without question the most exquisite of the 90 in the State."