Coming back home for Pierce College’s 50th anniversary homecoming
“Happy birthday, Pierce College!” These words echoed throughout the Pierce College Fort Steilacoom Health Education Center gym Oct. 8.
The occasion was the college’s 50th anniversary homecoming celebration after Brian Benedetti, director of marketing and communication, told the audience to say this to capture the moment on camera.
Homecoming served to celebrate the college’s 50 years and bring the past and present college community together, as well as others in the community.
The HEC turned into the site for this celebration, decorated with balloons and the college’s 50th anniversary cake with lights twirled around each layer, offering cupcakes.
The kickoff began at 1 p.m. with opening remarks from Marty Cavalluzzi, Pierce College Puyallup president, and Denise Yochum, Pierce College Fort Steilacoom president.
During the kickoff, a few songs were performed by the Lakes High School marching band. There was also an introduction of special guests, including Melanie Stambaugh, state representative for the 25th district, Denny Heck, congressman for the 10th district, as well as various Board of Trustees members. Past, present and current students and staff were also recognized.
Pierce retiree of 16 years, Jim Mullen, was one of the guests. He began working at the college in 1968.
At first, Mullen had a split assignment, working at the college’s counseling center and also as a professor. After about 20-25 years, he taught psychology full-time.
On one history banners presenting photos and information, Mullen is featured in two photos, one of which he’s sitting with students inside the former Albertsons grocery store – more specifically, the produce room.
“Obviously, it was unfinished (and) kind of cold,” Mullen said. “Eventually, we built two classrooms in that building. At first, the produce room was the only classroom.”
Mullen said that during his time at Pierce, the students and faculty were wonderful, and that his experience was more ‘fun’ than ‘work.’
“The thing that would characterize our faculty and our school in those days – and I hope it’s still the same – we cared a lot about students: are you teaching psychology, or are you teaching students,” Mullen said. “The philosophy at that time was we were teaching students psychology.”
The kickoff continued with words from Pierce College Chancellor Michele Johnson as well as Heck, and Don Anderson, mayor for the city of Lakewood, who presented a proclamation to Pierce for 50 years.
A video was also presented, sharing the history of the college over the last 50 years, such as how it began in 1967 in an empty Albertsons, and in 1990, the first building on the Puyallup campus opened: the Gaspard Administration Building. After the kickoff, activities included face paintings by Raider Athletics cheerleaders, campus tours, food trucks, Science Dome showings and booths offering information, such as for programs at Pierce and the Lakewood Police Department.
Mark Alyabyer is currently a student in the dental hygiene program, and worked at the program’s booth, which offered stickers to add to the campus passport – a flyer for collecting stickers at the booths and once filled up, it could be turned in for a chance to win an iPod Shuffle.
“My hope is that we can get people involved and get people to come into our actual clinic, and take care of their teeth,” Alyabyer said. Department open houses/reunions were also held, such as for veterinary technology.
The 50th anniversary of veterinary technology will be in 2019 as the program started in 1969, Debbie Wong, program support supervisor, said.
“We started in little portables to what we have today,” Wong said. “Hopefully the legislature will approve funding so we can have a new building, so we can have better enrichment for the animals that are here on campus.”
The new building would be outside the current facility in the Cascade Building. Additional equipment within this building would allow for more teaching and also education for the students, Wong said. For example, a life-sized horse model is of
interest for practice prior to working with an actual horse, but must allow the space, Wong said.
“We’re not sure what it’s going to look like yet if we do get funding from the legislature, but I think it’d be cool if the building could be built and occupied by 2019,” Wong said. “Then we could have a big 50th alumni reunion/open house to a new facility. It will just be perfect – it may not happen, but hopefully it can.”
By the end of the homecoming at 5 p.m., cupcakes had been eaten, speeches had been given and photos had been taken. Program information had been shared, individuals reunited and the birthday for Pierce College was celebrated.
The next event for Pierce College’s 50th anniversary will be the Athletics Hall of Fame Dinner March 25, 2017 at the Fort Steilacoom campus.