A group of young men enrolled in then Hawaiʻi Technical School’s electric shop class

Hawaiʻi Community College is celebrating its 75th anniversary during academic year 2015–2016.

The Territorial Legislature established the college in 1941 as the Hawaiʻi Vocational School. The college began with five trades programs—automotive mechanics, carpentry, apparel trades, machine shop and sheet metal and welding. There were 183 students enrolled the first year.

Currently, there are more than 3,000 students enrolled in 26 programs, and the college opened a new branch campus in Kona this fall called Hawaiʻi Community College–Pālamanui.

Hawaiʻi Community College is proud to have been a part of the Hawaiʻi Island community for the past 75 years,” said Hawaiʻi CC Chancellor Noreen Yamane. “During this time the college has continually evolved to meet the needs of Hawaiʻi Island residents and employers. What has remained constant during these 75 years is our commitment to providing accessible, high-quality education that gives Hawaiʻi Island residents the opportunity to improve their lives and pursue their dreams.”

Alumni and friends celebration

Hawaiʻi CC will celebrate their 75th anniversary during annual campus events throughout this academic year, including the Hawaiʻi Community College Alumni and Friends Scholarship Fundraiser and 75th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday, November 7. The event will be held at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Sodexo Dining Room from 6 to 9 p.m. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

The event will include a silent auction, door prizes and entertainment, including a vintage fashion show by Hana Hou.

Net proceeds from the event will help Hawaiʻi CC Alumni and Friends establish an endowment that will provide student scholarships.

You can purchase your tickets online or contact Anne Chung via email or at (808) 934-2547.

The school offered a wide variety of courses including practical nursing

Hawaiʻi CC history

When it was founded, the Hawaiʻi Vocational School offered programs at the campuses of Hilo Union, Hilo Intermediate and Hilo High Schools. It was relocated to a single campus near Reeds Bay in Hilo in 1943. In 1953 and in 1956 seismic wave action heavily damaged many of the shops and classrooms.

The growing needs of the community and the requirement for a safer location prompted the construction of the present campus at Kāwili and Manono streets. Construction began in 1952, and the campus was completed in 1956. It was renamed the Hawaiʻi Technical School the same year, reflecting the expansion into broader fields of technical training.

The changes in the facilities were paralleled by the growth of new programs during the period following World War II that were designed to meet the expanding needs of business and industry.

The beginning of several programs

  • 1947: Diesel mechanics
  • 1951: Architectural drafting
  • 1952: Food service
  • 1955: Electricity
  • 1958: Business education
  • 1966: Auto body repair and painting, electronics and practical nursing
  • 1972: Agriculture
  • 1974: Associate degree nursing

The number of programs has steadily expanded throughout the years, and now Hawaiʻi CC offers 26 degree and certificate programs.

The 1969 State Legislature transferred the administration of the school from the Department of Education to the University of Hawaiʻi. The school became part of the University of Hawaiʻi Community College System, and as of May 1, 1970 was renamed Hawaiʻi Community College.

To meet the needs of West Hawaiʻi, Hawaiʻi Community College began offering programs in West Hawaiʻi in 1982.

In fall 2015, a new branch campus called Hawaiʻi Community College–Pālamanui opened in Kona to serve West Hawaiʻi. The state-of-the-art, sustainably designed campus offers certificates and associate degrees, and also delivers bachelor’s and graduate degrees from campuses across the University of Hawaiʻi system.

First day of classes at Hawaiʻi Community College–Pālamanui

—By Thatcher Moats