Before it took up residence in Saratoga, West Valley College called Campbell home. Always intended to be a temporary location while a permanent campus was constructed, the school held its first classes in the rooms of the Campbell Grammar School in 1964.
Over a period of years beginning in the late 1960s, the college transitioned to its current home and moved out of Campbell completely in 1975.
“We really feel that we had our roots, our beginnings, almost the seed of our germination, in Campbell,” Lori Gaskin, the president of the college, said. “It was the community that conceived of us, founded us and was home to us for many years.”
Today, those connections still run deep. Gaskin estimates that the majority of West Valley’s students are Campbell residents and that many faculty and staff live in the city, too.
“In a very big way, our tentacles run deep within Campbell,” she said. “We feel that the community is a strong supporter [of the school].”
Rusty Hall, who’s lived in Campbell for 46 years, attended classes at the original campus from 1968-1970. He earned an associates degree in liberal arts from the college and worked his way up to becoming the school’s facilities manager, a job he retired from in 2009. Hall said that the Vietnam War loomed over his West Valley student years.
“Most of the young people on the campus were affected by the war one way or another,” he said. The Black Panthers would speak on campus and students held anti-war meetings, Hall said.
Although the war held a heavy presence over campus life, Hall also recalled attending an appearance by Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone, and hearing Ravi Shankar play in the school's auditorium, among other fond memories.
“It was really a mellow place to go to school,” he said. “It was a smaller campus and you kind of knew everybody. People intermingled and hung out in Campbell."
The school reconnected with its hometown in 2011 when it set up the Campbell Educational Development Center at the (CCC). The program, run by Frank Kobayashi, dean for Career Education and Workforce Development, holds employment development classes and credit classes like psychology and health care technician courses.
“We eventually want to start more programs that speak to the needs of the community, such as English as a Second Language and certificate programs,” Kobayashi said. “We are reaching out to our student population and creating more opportunities for them to come [to West Valley].”
The CCC, he said, is centrally located and proved to be a better fit for the types of programs West Valley wanted to offer than a previous location on Bascom Avenue. The response from the Campbell community has been positive, he said, and the center is looking for more ways to partner with city government.
“We want to find synergy between the two organizations,” Kobayashi said. “We rent the space through the city which affords us opportunities to connect with the city in ways we wouldn’t otherwise have.”