|The history of Chemeketa Community
College begins in a West Salem elementary school on McNary Avenue
and 3rd Street. Operated by Salem Public Schools, Salem Technical-Vocational
School offered Machine Shop Practice as its first full-time
program in 1955. Ten students were enrolled that first year.
Since that first year, the college has experienced steady growth,
both in enrollment and in the number of programs offered. In
1957 enrollment reached 100 students, and electronics, engineering
and practical nursing had been added to the curriculum.
Classes continued at the elementary school until 1964, when
the school moved to the site of its present campus on Lancaster
Drive. The campus soon included a one-story brick building,
a machine shop, a welding shop, and a number of temporary
buildings. In 1969 the voters created a community college
district, which covers more than 2,600 square miles in Oregon's
Mid-Willamette Valley. It includes Marion, Polk, most of Yamhill,
and part of Linn counties. A contest was held to name the
new school and entries were solicited from Salem Tech students,
as well as from all the district high schools. In December
1969 the Board of Education approved the name Chemeketa, a
Native American term for a place of peace. Historically it
was a place where the various tribes of the Willamette Valley
would gather together to conduct their councils, renew friendships
and share ideas. It seemed a name ideally suited to the new
college, and on July 1, 1970, Salem Tech officially became
Chemeketa Community College. Paul Wilmeth was named the first
In the early 1970s Chemeketa's enrollment was more than
1,100 full-time students, an enrollment that has grown by
approximately eight percent every year since. Also in the
1970s the college received accreditation by the Northwest
Association of Schools and Colleges.
As enrollment grew, so did the number of programs offered.
In the eight years between 1974 and 1982, the campus added
six new buildings to house the growing enrollment and the
new programs. To better serve the district's population, the
Dallas, Santiam, McMinnville and Woodburn campuses were established.
Chemeketa has always been responsive to concerns and needs
of the business community, and in 1983, when Boise Cascade
began cutting back its Salem operation, Chemeketa was asked
to help retrain employees. As a result, more than 180 Boise
Cascade employees made the transition into training and new
careers. The project was so successful that Chemeketa combined
several programs into a Training and Economic Development
(TED) Center in 1986. Today the center, located in downtown
Salem, is dedicated to the improvement of businesses and organizations
throughout the Mid-Willamette Valley.
In 1993 Building 1 was opened, housing the staff offices
and campus bookstore. In 1996 voters approved a $35.2 million
bond measure, allowing the college to build new classrooms,
repair existing facilities, and update training equipment
for students in technical programs. This resulted in the 72,000-square-foot-
Learning Resource Center, which houses the library and nine
high-tech classrooms, and the Technology Classroom Building,
with 14 computer labs and a 465-seat auditorium.
Chemeketa was the first community college in Oregon to offer
students the opportunity to earn a degree without ever setting
foot on the campus through home study courses . Today the
college offers classes, certificates and degrees through study
online. During winter term 2001 more than 3,300 individual
students took advantage of a broad range of academic and technical
courses and programs offered through distance learning, which,
in addition to online classes, includes telecourses, Chemeketa
Television and courses by mail.
Chemeketa serves more than 51,000 students in 2001. The diversity
of the student body has also increased over the years and
the college now has the largest Latino enrollment of any college
Compiled by Melaney Moisan, Public Relations/Marketing Coordinator,
Chemeketa Community College.
Contact Ms. Moisan for sources.