In the early 1970s, Central Arizona College quickly found its place in Pinal County

PINAL COUNTY, Ariz. – From 1972-74, the chaos of Watergate and the stress of Vietnam gobbled up the headlines of American papers on a daily basis.

But despite the gloom that seemed to dominate that era, success stories flourished on page two. A mouse carved out his empire in the swamps of Florida. A legendary swimmer made his mark by spitting out seven Olympic Gold Medals. And a Major League Baseball team with a colorful cast of characters and equally bombastic uniforms accomplished something only claimed by the New York Yankees – three straight World Series titles.

While Mickey Mouse, Mark Spitz and the Oakland A’s were trying to make headlines, Central Arizona College went from taking baby steps to a Major League player in Arizona.

Names now emblazoned on buildings around Central Arizona College represent key figures in those youthful years of the institution.

Brad Sizer of Coolidge was elected as the governing board president for the Pinal County Community College District, while Paul Pearce of Eloy was named the secretary-treasurer for the 1972-73 fiscal years.

Local newspapers gave the college headlines for such diverse activities as the first play. The event was presented by the college-sponsored community theater group under the direction of Richard Van Vleet.

An auto mechanics class for women in Casa Grande was taught by Ben Crow, a Casa Grande Union High School auto mechanics instructor.

Noted screen, theater and television actor Vincent Price, who appeared as Edgar Allen Poe’s villain in several motion pictures and was known in pop culture for the voice in Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, staged a one-man show at CAC that was free to the public.

Eight residents were elected to the board of directors of the Pinal County for Senior Citizens organization at the group’s first meeting. The meeting was held on April 28, 1972. The council consisted of Dorothy Nolan, president, Florence; Elmer Dierks, vice president, Oracle; Lidia Luera, Kearny, secretary; and Fred Bush, Winkelman, treasurer. Also elected to the board were Susan Maki, Superior; Dorothy Conrad, Valley Farms; Pauline Davis, Hayden; and Alta Morgan, Randolph.

The Mariachi group Los Vaqueros del Colegio, under the direction of Dr. James Johnson, toured area high schools. The members received standing ovations wherever they appeared. The Mariachi group recorded an album containing 10 contemporary tunes. Johnson arranged all of the music while also directing and supervising the recording session.

Eighteen awards, including eight first-place finishes, were earned by Central Arizona College student publications - The CACtus (newspaper), Oracle (magazine), and The Legend (yearbook). The awards were received during the annual Rocky Mountain Collegiate Press Association Conference in Santa Fe, N.M. Marilyn Taylor, editor of The CACtus, won first-place honors for the categories of feature and sports writing, and a first-place award for non-fiction magazine writing. C.T. Reinebold, the associate editor for The CACtus, received a first-place award for investigative reporting and a second-place honor for feature and news writing. Jerry Halfmann, the photography editor, received top honors for sports and news photography. John Sowers served as the advisor.

Chuck Foster, a CAC All-American long distance runner, broke the three-mile record in San Diego.

Marilyn Taylor took first-place honors in the female persuasive speech division in the national junior college speech competition in Los Angeles.

On June 1, 1972, word reached the CAC campus that head coach George Young had qualified for the 1972 Olympics in Mexico City. This would be his fourth Olympiad.

Steve Jones was elected state president for Phi Beta Lambda - future business leaders of America.

The CAC parliamentary team of Mike Maki, Nancy Ferine, Molly Quijada, Susan Jaime and George Ashford won first place.

Dorothy L. Bray, English professor at CAC, was awarded a National Endowment Junior College Teacher Fellowship. The presentation was from the National Council for the Humanities. Bray spent the summer and fall on the Apache Indian Reservation at San Carlos where she studied the Apache language.

On May 31, 1973, CAC saw its largest graduating class to date when 194 associate degrees were conferred. Cavett Robert, a Phoenix attorney was the featured speaker. Charleen Grove attained the highest grade average – a perfect 4.0, while Dennis Lassuy, Dorothy Boswell and Frank Rabago received scholarships before a crowd of 1,500.

On Sept. 8, nationally-known country western singer Sammi Smith of Coolidge launched the school year with a concert as part of the public event series for 1972-73. Smith gained national recognition with her recording Help Me Make it through the Night.

The state board for community colleges authorized a 48-bed addition to dormitories at CAC, and approved preliminary construction plans for the Aravaipa Campus at its Aug. 28 meeting.

Two Coolidge residents, Dr. James H. Boyd and Robert A. Kintz, filed governing board nomination petitions, and Georgette Chase, a resident of the Gila River Indian Reservation, announced her write-in candidacy. Boyd won with 273 votes.

David Callahan, a CAC art student from Arizona City, was commissioned to paint a 30-foot modernistic mural of a Vaquero on a black horse to decorate the water tower at the Signal Peak Campus. Callahan said that the idea, which he and art instructor Don Ratz designed, started with President Dr. Don Pence. The Vaquero mural is 20 feet wide and 40 feet tall.

Controversy surrounded two cross country runners and the length of their hair. Bill Allen of the Gila River Indian Reservation and Chuck Foster of Fort Defiance were ordered to cut their near shoulder-length hair by head coach George Young. Both refused which led to hearings on campus. Allen said he would rather quit the team than cut his hair. Foster, who kept his hair long, placed fifth at the NJCAA national meet in Pensacola, Fla.

The women’s volleyball team, coached by Lin Laursen, won the Arizona Community College championship.

George Young, track coach and first distance runner to compete in four Olympiads, was inducted into the Arizona Athletic Hall of Fame Dec. 22, 1972.

Chuck Foster broke the 14-minute mark in the three-mile with a time of 13:55.9. Two other runners also placed in nationals. Lewis Green won the shot put with a toss of 51 feet, 6 inches, and Ralph Haynie cleared 14-6 to easily win the pole vault event.

The Whitetaker Pool Company of Tucson was awarded a contract to build the Olympic-size swimming pool for $187,000. Maldonado Construction Company won the $276,000 bid for the dormitory addition.

On April 2, 1973, the district received full accreditation for five years.

Peter Felix, a CAC student of drama, was awarded a full two-year scholarship to Stephens College, a Missouri school recognized throughout the country as a leader in fine arts.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the new fine arts building was held on April 23, 1973.

The first concert for the CAC choral groups, directed by Joe Secrest, was scheduled for Oct. 18 in the CAC Student Center. The choral groups performed light pop-style selections.

On Oct. 29, 1973, the Coolidge Examiner announced plans for the development of a law enforcement academy at CAC to serve Pinal and Gila counties.

Three CAC students - Leona Kempton, Joe Anzures and Pat Sandler - received honors in the National Forensic Tournament at Arizona State University. They were coached by Chuck Hall and Doug Faulkner.

At its first meeting of 1974, Jimmy Karam of Superior was sworn in as a governing board member. Dr. J.T. O’Neil of Casa Grande was elected board president and Paul Pearce of Eloy was re-elected as secretary-treasurer.

The Vaquero Foundation was formed at CAC to help in the recruitment of student-athletes.

Registration for classes at Pinal County’s newest college, Arizona College of Technology at the Aravaipa Campus, was held in September of 1974. Classes started on Sept. 23 for the fall session.

In a unanimous action, the board approved a resolution naming the new fine arts center the Don P. Pence Center for Visual and Performing Arts. The resolution was sponsored by the Classified Personnel Association to honor Dr. Pence for his contributions as founding president. It was signed by Michael Feliz, president; Joe B. Felix, vice president; Betty Ostler, secretary; Betty Napier, treasurer; and William Kinnison and Irene Fernandez, members of the executive board.

The Pinal County Fair Committee announced in April of 1974 that Laurie Echeverria, a CAC coed, was named Miss Pinal County.

Ralph Haynie broke the NJCAA pole vault record by clearing a height of 17-¼.

The Central Arizona Regional Law Enforcement Officer’s Academy (CARLOTA) held its first graduation ceremony on March 4, 1974, following a seven-week session.

At the governing board meeting on Oct. 15, 1974, Dr. Mel Everingham was named as president-designate for CAC and would assume the full duties on July 1, 1976. He was to act as executive vice-president for the coming fiscal year. Dr. Pence’s contract was continued for an additional year, ending June 30, 1976.

The department of science at CAC acquired a new 10-inch reflection telescope after having tried for three years to obtain the instrument. With the telescope, a new astronomy course was offered by Harry Schmidt.

Linda Griffiths from Casa Grande was chosen as CAC’s first candidate to vie for Fiesta Bowl Queen.

George Young introduced his 1974 cross country team, which eventually placed third nationally and first in Arizona. Team members consisted of Steve Green, Mike McFadden, Ruben Reyes, Glen Hope, Tom Reynolds, Ken Ryan, Art Redhair and Albert Skiba.

Ruben Reyes and Arthur Redhair ran their way to All-American honors, leading CAC to a third-place finish at the NJCAA Cross Country National Championships.


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Central Arizona College - District Office 8470 N. Overfield Road, Coolidge, AZ 85128 Phone: 800-237-9814