BEND, OR -- Central Oregon Community College is throwing a party, and everyone is invited! The school will celebrate the Bend campus’ 50th anniversary with a number of community activities, including a ceremony naming the Campus Center in honor or R.L. and Joyce Coats who donated much of the land where the campus now sits.
Their daughter, Roberta Coats Bowles, tells KBND her dad strongly believed in the importance of college, but also helped develop other parts of what was then a small lumber town. "My parents came here in 1947 and at that time there were a lot of men, they were that type of people where they did what they had to do. He was just one of many people who built Bend into a much bigger place than it was. He was fearless and unstoppable."
COCC opened in 1949, with four part-time faculty offering night classes to 109 students. Bowles says her dad had a strong belief that everone should have an opportunity for higher education. "Being 11, I don’t have any memory of them discussing [the land donation]. But, I do know, once I was in high school, I was aware COCC met at Bend High School at night. And, I knew that was part of the reason he felt like they needed a place, a home."
The school moved to 150 acres on Awbrey Butte in time for the 1964-65 school year, with five buildings and 700 students. Today, COCC is home to 17,000 students across campuses in Bend, Redmond, Madras and Prineville. Bowles says her dad would likely have been uncomfortable with all the fanfare given in his honor, today. "I think it’s probably one of the best things he did; I don’t think he would think of it that way, because he just lived each day. He was not someone who cared if he left a legacy, that’s why it’s taken 50 years for them to name a building after him."
Today's Golden Anniversary celebration begins at 4 p.m. The dedication of the Coats Campus Center takes place at 5:45 p.m. For more on the history of the college, visit our Podcast