Highlights in SBVC History 1926-1942
The College is established: 1926
An election to establish the San Bernardino Valley Union Junior College District was
held on March 26, 1926. With no formal opposition to the formation of the college,
the issue carried by an overwhelming majority: 3,079 to 118, or nearly 30 to 1. The
first Board of Trustees was elected on May 7 of the same year. The five nominees (E.
M. Lash, N. A. Richardson, Frank H. Binney, T. Fred Robbins and Charles J. O'Connor)
ran unopposed, and were elected by a small voter turnout.
On June 23, 1926, the Board of Trustees met at a site on the east side of Mt. Vernon
Avenue, about equidistant between the downtown areas of San Bernardino and Colton.
It was suggested that about thirty acres in the northwestern section of the parcel
being inspected would provide the ideal location for the new college, and the Board
directed that an appraisal be made. About a month later, an offer was made to the
owners, Swan and Barton, to purchase the desired land for $1,500 an acre, contingent
upon voter approval of a bond issue. The offer was accepted in early August, and an
election was called for September 23 to vote bonds in the amount of $485,000 to cover
the costs of the land purchase and the initial building construction. The bond issue
passed by a vote of nearly 25 to 1 (3,512 to 141).
On the New Campus: The Jantzen Years: 1926-1929
George H. Jantzen, Superintendent of Schools of the Colton District and principal
of Colton High School, was appointed Dean of the College, a title that was later changed
to "President." Without a campus of its own, Valley College had to schedule classes
during its first year (1926-1927) at San Bernardino High School and Colton High School.
When classes began during the 1927-1928 academic year, the Administration Building
(then called the "Classics Building") had been completed. Classes were carried on
in the midst of construction, and by the end of the school year, the Life Science
Building (then called the "Science Building"), the Gymnasium and the Library had also
The 1927-1928 faculty was made up of eleven men and six women. Nearly 300 students
enrolled for the fall semester of 1927, with the freshmen outnumbering the sophomores
nearly six to one. Fifty-four courses were offered, nearly all with a strong academic
orientation. A number of college clubs were organized, including Y'se Women, La Sociadad
Hispanica, the Indian Paint Brush (Art), Sock and Buskin (Drama), the Forensics Club,
the Honor Society, a Women's Athletic Association, and a Junior Lions' Club. A number
of dances, parties, teas and receptions were scheduled throughout the year, and newspaper
accounts of the time indicate that they were usually well attended.
A building housing a cafeteria opened across Mt. Vernon Avenue, but the most popular
off-campus hangout was "Nick's." Not only was it popular for its milk shakes, but
for the music from an old phonograph and from an even greater attraction, a new radio.
Local reporters first referred to the Valley College football team as the "Jaysees"
or the "Renfromen" (in honor of Coach M. P. "Pinky" Renfro). Searching for a shorter,
catchier name, one reporter called them the "Wrens," and the community quickly accepted
the nickname, although the student body never officially adopted it. The "Wrens" became
the "Indians" in the fall of 1927. The inspiration for the new name was attributed
to the reported discovery of an Indian burial ground while excavating for the original
building. In keeping with the new name, the college newspaper changed its name from
"The Jaysee" to the "Warwhoop."
The Griffing Presidency: 1929-1933
President Jantzen resigned his position effective July 31, 1929, and Professor John
B. Griffing, an instructor in psychology and sociology, was appointed as his successor.
A fifth building was added to the campus in 1929, with the completion of a "Social
Hall," the name given to the first campus center or student union. The astronomical
observatory was completed in 1930.
Student enrollment continued to increase, with over 700 day students registered in
the fall of 1932. Most students planned to transfer to four-year schools, and the
curriculum continued to emphasize academic subjects.
The need for extensive parking lots was not of great concern during these early years.
Students using public transportation to the college made use of the Pacific Electric
streetcars, which passed the college along Mt. Vernon Avenue.
The college felt the effects of the great economic depression of the early 1930s in
a number of ways. In February 1932, Trustee Andrews was asked to identify ways the
campus might be able to economize in the costs associated with the care of the grounds
and buildings. Further purchases of books for the library were deferred. In May 1932,
the faculty passed a resolution offering to accept a 5% reduction in salary, which
was gratefully accepted by the Board. In May of 1933, conditions were even bleaker.
Only seventeen instructors received assurances of a full-time job. Nine more received
promises of at least half-time employment, and four received notices of termination.
When salaries were finally adopted in June, all faculty who were receiving more than
$175 per month had their salaries reduced 10%. Under those conditions, most of the
staff was retained.
In June of 1933, President Griffing submitted his resignation, stating that his health
did not permit him to carry the burden of the position. He requested that he be retained
as a regular teaching faculty member for the ensuring year, and the Board approved
this request. Mr. Griffing left the campus in January 1934 to become the Educational
Adviser for the 9th Army Corps Area. He later served four years in Brazil as the president
of an agricultural college, and then returned to the United States to head the Department
of Education at Tempe State Normal in Arizona (now Arizona State University).
The Ricciardi Presidency: 1933-1942
The college's third president, Nicholas Ricciardi, came to San Bernardino
with a reputation as an outstanding authority on vocational education. Enrollment
during this period was relatively stable, fluctuating between 700 and 1,000 students
per semester. Hazing of new students was an expected and accepted practice during
the first weeks of each academic year. Such good-natured harassment generally ended
with the annual Freshmen-Sophomore pushball context, usually won by the sophomores.
Students and faculty had a strong feeling of community, and many social events were
scheduled, including a Christmas formal, co-ed pajama parties, and a beard-growing
Additional buildings were added to the campus during the Ricciardi years. The Works
Progress Administration (WPA) funded construction of the auditorium. From 1936 to
1938, this project provided employment for over 500 men in the area, resulting in
the most distinctive and architecturally beautiful building on the campus. The auditorium
was accepted by the Board in October 1938, and during that same month, the Drama Department
presented Shakespeare's "As You Like it" as the firstproduction in the new facility.
In other construction projects, State Emergency Relief Administration funds were obtained
to construct a Greek Theatre, and WPA funds were used to fund concrete bleachers for
the stadium and a new vocational building.
During his last year at Valley College, President Ricciardi established a separate
Evening College, made up of three divisions: vocational arts, social arts, and professional
arts. Nora Parker Coy, originally employed as an English instructor, was named Director
of the new program.