Early success cemented the foundation for Central Arizona College’s bright future

PINAL COUNTY, Ariz. – What is 40 years? Is it measured in mathematical terms or defined by history? Maybe it’s both.

Forty years is a major milestone for marriage. Some call it the new 30. Calendar historians might prefer to define it as two score instead of the common man’s term of four decades.

Diehard Phoenix Suns fans probably want to forget the NBA Draft of 40 years ago when the Suns, despite winning just 16 games in their inaugural season, lost a coin flip to the Milwaukee Bucks for the right to pick first. The Bucks chose Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and won a title two years later.

For Central Arizona College, 40 years reminds the institution of its birth, its legacy, its purpose and its history. Organizations that flourish and grow over the course of 40 years obviously are doing something right.

Forty years ago CAC started its journey. Looking back on its history, those first accomplishments are far greater than reading bullet points on a page – they helped cement the foundation of today.

The CAC forensics squad qualified for the national championship tournament in St. Louis. Qualifiers included Olga Jacquez (Eloy); Mary Metzger (Casa Grande); Sally Schulman (Tucson); Bill McSwain (Stanfield); Ken Underwood (Coolidge); Joe Ricks (Denver, CO); and Mark Swanson (Chinle).

The newly-elected charter officers of the CAC Rodeo Club who led their squad into intercollegiate competition included John Whitlow (Florence); Denny Haught (Casa Grande); Susan Pettijohn (Casa Grande); Blayne Spilsbury, (Casa Grande); and Brenda Crockett (Casa Grande). William L. Cavenee was the faculty sponsor.

The governing board of Central Arizona College unanimously voted to dedicate the science hall to the memory of C. Leroy Hoyt. Hoyt was a member of the original five-person board appointed in January of 1962 following the vote to establish what is known today as the Pinal County Community College District. He served in this capacity until his appointment as Pinal County representative to the Arizona State Board for Junior Colleges.

The CAC board approved a seal for the college, designed by William Hudson, dean of student's affairs for the college. The center of the gold seal contains the seal of Pinal County which represents mining. Below a saguaro cactus and a cotton plant are depicted. The entire design is surrounded by the Pima sun symbol. The gold center rests on a green background, representative of the school colors. The college seal was drawn and produced by the late Don Ratz who was as CAC art instructor.

Mrs. Robert Simmons, Sr., a resident of Casa Grande who was enrolled full-time at CAC in the elementary education program, submitted the winning entry in the contest to name the school newspaper. The CACtus published its inaugural edition on Sept. 26.

In 1969, the college started its second year of teaching at the Arizona State Prison. During its first year, 100 inmates registered for the program. Since then, CAC has educated thousands of inmates.

It didn’t take long for CAC to start expanding into other service areas. In September of 1970, CAC finished its $1 million Career Center on the Gila River Indian Reservation. Nearly 300 students who were Pima and Maricopa Native Americans signed up for classes. After operating the center for 20 years, CAC turned over the career center to the Native American community.

The governing board gave its approval for the employment of Joe L. Jimenez, a member of the Nambe Pueblo Indian tribe of New Mexico, as director of the Career Center in Sacaton. The Gila River Career Center’s million-dollar training facility was officially dedicated on Oct. 22, 1971. Jimenez said that approximately 100 students were enrolled in classes at the location. Students were taught such skilled and semi-skilled trades as child care, clerical, automotive, welding and construction.

The Associated Students held their first election of officers on Nov. 26, 1969. The following students were elected: Rick Gibson, president; Marion Stewart, vice president; Debbie Millspaugh, secretary; Joanne Hoefler, treasurer; Cynthia Aspinall, Larry Herrera, Ryan Fulk and Ron Probasco, sophomore senators; and Karen Boyd, Terry Boyle, Bill Hawkins and JoLynn McNeil, freshman senators. Today, Gibson is a member of the PCCCD Governing Board.

The Central Arizona College Dedication Ceremony was held on Sunday, Jan. 11, 1970. An estimated 3,000 local and state residents, dignitaries and officials filled the gymnasium for the event.

In the spring of the 1970-71 academic year student elections were held with Jo Lynn McNeil becoming the first female president of the CAAC Associated Students. Other students elected included Debbie Millspaugh, vice president; Marilyn Bianco, vice president; and Patty Bianco, treasurer. Sophomore senators included Maxine Norris, Bill Hawkins, Joanne Hoefler and Joe Ruiz.

Linda Smith of Arizona City, a sophomore business major, was named Miss CAC. Smith was originally named first runner-up in the competition behind Pat Casey of Coolidge. But Casey married Tom King of Florence and moved to Colorado, leaving Smith to assume the duties.

On May 22, 1970, another CAC first was celebrated – this time in the nursing department when a class of 14 students received their degrees. The class of graduates included Ernestina Whitlow, Barbara Meiser, Carmen Guitard, Soccoro Otera, Erna Urquijo, Mary Ann Solano, Carol Herron and Debbi Allison - all of Superior; Hazel Kelin of Winkelman, Edna Henson, Louise Stepp and Susan Knight of Casa Grande; Diana Hernandez of Marana; and Carmelita Thomas of Eloy. The program was directed by Bonnie Powers.

Commencement exercises were held on May 31, 1970. Associate degrees were conferred on 25 charter graduates - Cynthia S. Aspinall, Virginia L. Billingsley, David L. Blessing, Santiago Bojorquez, Lupe Cardenas, Ann A’Lee Crow, Ronald E. Christensen, Dolly D. DeArman, Bonnie J. Delbridge, Joan Dong, Richard D. Gibson, Doris R. Gold, Lorence L. Herrera, Stanley J. Hicks, Gay G. Kleinman, Daniel J. Kortsen, Linda K. McIntyre, Prince E., Palmer, Mary E. Pursley, Naomi R. Simmons, Herschel S. Webb, Lemuel B. Young, Carol J. Guesic, Loren E. Hall, Jr., and Allen G. Robberson.

The first commencement speaker for CAC was Jim Maize, the public relations director for Kennecott Copper Corporation. Awards for high scholarship were presented by Dr. Loren Aldrich, dean of instruction, to Bonnie Delbridge, Gay Kleinman and Mary Pursley. Kathleen Reed received an award for highest freshman scholarship that was presented by Dr. R.F. Schoen, president of the CAC Foundation.

Ray Lara, a Coolidge resident and technical drafting student, was the winner in the contest to select an athletic nickname and mascot. The women’s teams eventually become the Vaqueras.

Despite having to travel 20 miles to practice until the gymnasium was completed in January of 1970, the Vaquero basketball team finished with a 19-9 record during the 1969-70 campaign. Team members included Tim Featherston, Steve Alwardt, John Clark, Greg Dutiel, Joe Acker, Ricardo Parks, Joe Ricke, Donnie Brown, Ira Keeton and Steve Whipple.

The 1969-70 wrestling team consisted of Ralph Sanchez, Bart Davis, Roger Davis, Aristeo Soto, Leonard Herndon and Manager Joe Lugo. The team was coached by David Pearce.

The 1969-70 track team also was coached by David Pearce and featured Ken Geans, Charlie Hune, Rick Pearce, Ira Keeton, Joe Ruiz, Dan McCoy, Pete Guerrero, Tommy King, Mark Gould and Duane Alston.

Freshman Lee Gray was ranked in the Top 10 in the nation among junior college high hurdlers. On March 19, 1971, he set the school record with a time of 14.7.

In November of 1971, Chuck Foster finished ninth in the NJCAA Cross Country National Championships and was named a JUCO All-American.

In 1969-70 the baseball team was coach by Dan Stautz. The club consisted of Ron Baker, Freddie Diaz-Gonzales, Joe Gonzales, Ray “Chiefo” Alonso, Tommy O’Donnell, Rene Mejia, Abraham Martinez, Andy Youtsey, Marc Sewell, Ed Contreras, Fidel “Yaki” Macias, Tom Hollenbach, Steve “French” Whipple  and Ryan Fulk.

CAC’s baseball squad made its season debut before a home crowd on the afternoon of Feb. 24, 1971, when it hosted conference title contender Arizona Western of Yuma. Tim Edwards, in his first year as head baseball coach, listed 19 players on his squad - including 15 from Pinal County.

In the fall of 1970, the CAC Rodeo Team captured many honors. Fran Whatley was outstanding as she led the women to a first-place finish during a competition featuring 15 other teams representing universities and colleges in Arizona and California. Bill Cavenee, a CAC science instructor, was the team’s advisor. Other members of the women’s team included Kay Eicks and Kris Killingsworth.

CAC’s 15-man basketball squad gets its first taste of organized action on the evening of Nov. 11, 1970, when Dan Stautz, the head coach, unveils his team in an intrasquad scrimmage. This year’s squad features five veterans from the first season - Don Brown, Rick Parks and Blayne Spilsbury from Casa Grande; and Joe Ricke and Steve Alwardt of Coolidge. Nine freshman also were part of the squad - Stuart Raakow and Steve Vanderpool of Casa Grande; Ron Marshall, of Apache Junction; Paul Newton and Richard Garcia of Kearny; Willie Jones, Lee Gray and Frank Solano of Hayden; Kerry Rodriguez of Florence; and Tim Taylor, a sophomore transfer from Northern Arizona University. More than half of the players are graduates of Pinal County high schools.

In May of 1971, three new employees were hired for the CAC athletic department: George Young, Carlyle Dean and Lin Laursen.

The 1969-70 Pom Pom Squad consisted of Marilynn Bianco, Karen Boyd, Brenda Crockett, Carol Gibson, Pattie Higginbotham, Kathy Skiba and Mary Tapia. The cheerleaders for 1969-70 were Maxine Collier, Linda Haddock, Bev Jackson, Suzan Pettijohn and Linda Smith.

The 1969-70 Homecoming King and Queen of the Court were Bev Jackson and Ira Keeton.

The first formal dance of the year was the Sweethearts Ball. The charming and graceful candidate from the Hivan-Ishkeen Club - Maxine Norris - was chosen to grace the Sweetheart’s throne. Marc Sewell, candidate from the A.W.S. and Lamplighters clubs, proved his ability to govern as he was crowned Sweetheart’s king.

Problems of romance in the 17th Century are the topics for the musical comedy, The Amorous Flea, staged at Central Arizona College Nov. 18-20, 1971.

A veteran’s club was formed at Central Arizona College. Officers elected to lead the veteran’s organization include Rodger Alston, president; Ray Frazier, vice president; David Stahmer, treasurer; and Peter Villa Verde, secretary.

The popular Spanish instrumental group, Los Vaqueros del Colegio, and the Jazz Choir received a special invitation to perform at the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 27, 1971 in Tempe. The game featured Arizona State University vs. Florida State University. The Mariachi band, under the direction of Dr. James H. Johnson, performed during the pregame show that was televised nationally by NBC. Joseph Secrest served as the conductor of the Jazz Choir.

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