What do Dave McElhatton, Ron Dellums, Joe Morgan, Leo Bazile, Angela Davis, Belva Davis, Sheila E., Ted Lange, Ray Sherman, Sandre Swanson, Tré Cool, Barbara Lee and tens of thousands of others have in common? They are all alumni of the Peralta Colleges -- Berkeley City College, College of Alameda and Laney and Merritt Colleges in Oakland.

This year is the golden anniversary of the Peralta Community College District, and there is much to celebrate. But first, a little history lesson: in November 1963, the voters of Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland and Piedmont voted to establish the district, and on July 1, 1964, the Peralta Colleges were born.

Five decades may seem like a long time, but the district's history goes back much further. The name Peralta was chosen because the cities that make up the district are located within the 1820 land grant given to Spanish soldier Luís María Peralta.

When Oakland's first public trade school opened in 1915, the city voiced a bold, new vision for public education, announcing that "the modern school system should serve the needs of all the children of all the people."

Longtime East Bay residents may remember those early schools: the Part-Time School, and then, the Central Trade and Technical Institute, founded in 1927.


Advertisement

In 1948, Central Trade was renamed Joseph C. Laney Trade and Technical Institute by the Board of Education. The Merritt School of Business -- founded in 1929 -- moved to the former Grove Street campus of University High School in 1946. And, in July 1953, both schools were merged into a single institution, Oakland Junior College. In 1958, the name became Oakland City College.

After the formation of the district, the two schools were renamed Laney College and Merritt College. In 1965, a bond issue was passed to build a new downtown campus for Laney, a new Oakland hills campus for Merritt and a new college in Alameda. Laney opened its new site in 1970; College of Alameda and Merritt College -- home of the Black Panther Party -- opened their new campuses in 1971.

For a short while, there was another Peralta College. Feather River College was formed in 1968 when Plumas County joined Peralta. The concept was to mix urban and rural college districts. Sadly, the experiment ended in 1988, and Feather River became a single-college district.

Berkeley City College began in 1974 as the Berkeley Learning Pavilion. It was renamed the Peralta College for Non-Traditional Study and later Vista Community College. In 2006, BCC moved into its new state-of-the-art building in downtown Berkeley. It is one of the most advanced urban community college campuses in the country.

The Peralta Colleges will hold a number of events to commemorate its golden anniversary. The first will be the Peralta CommUNITY Festival from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 28 at district headquarters, 333 East Eighth St. in Oakland. The event will feature music, food, community booths, entertainment provided by college departments and a host of great community activities. It's free and open to everyone.

Commemoration Day will celebrate the actual 50th anniversary at 10 a.m. July 1 at district headquarters. This event, also open to the public, will feature elected officials, the laying of a time capsule and remarks by state Chancellor Brice W. Harris. Food will be served.

Put the 50th anniversary Black and White Gala on your calendar, to be held by the Peralta Colleges Foundation this fall. Who knows? Maybe a few famous alumni will be there! Learn more about Peralta College history and 50th anniversary events at www.peralta.edu.

Reach Jeffrey Heyman at jheyman@peralta.edu and follow him at Twitter at @JeffHeyman.

---