Founded in 1961, Highline College has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 14 portable classrooms housed on the campus of Glacier High School on South 142nd Street. Now located on a tree-filled 80-acre hilltop overlooking beautiful Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, Highline’s location is unrivaled.
The first community college in King County, Highline had 15 instructors greeting its first 385 students in 1961.
Now with close to 17,000 students and more than 350,000 alumni, Highline is one of the state’s largest institutions and one of 34 community and technical colleges in the state of Washington.
Dr. M. A. “Pat” Allan, Highline’s first president, oversaw the college’s move in 1964 from Glacier High School to its present location, a 100-block trip to the south. Allan joined Highline in July 1962 and served until 1971. The college had a temporary president during its first academic year, 1961–62.
Highline’s establishment resulted from the efforts of a Highline School District citizens’ committee that began studying the need for a local junior college in 1959. The committee and district set out to prove the area’s need for a junior college by establishing an extended secondary program — the first step toward a two-year college — by offering post-high school classes at Highline High School.
The program’s first three instructors were Dr. Shirley B. Gordon, Dr. Mary Hamilton and Dr. Kermit Workman. The first courses taught were English composition, general psychology, intermediate trigonometry and algebra.
The major hurdle confronting the effort was a law preventing a junior college from being established in a county in which a four-year college or university existed. After an extensive campaign, the law was changed and Highline was established in 1961. Highline remained part of the school district until the Community College Act of 1967 established Community College District 9, giving Highline the freedom to govern itself as well as expand and grow.
Allan was on the committee that advised the legislature about the law. He and the rest of the committee knew the Community College Act would be instrumental to the success of community colleges in Washington, as similar measures had been in other states.
Highline today is nationally and internationally recognized as a premiere community college, a reputation earned through the development of an institutional culture that values diversity, innovation, globalization of curriculum and community participation.
The college offers a wide range of academic transfer, professional-technical and pre-college programs, with day, evening, weekend and online classes. Along with its comprehensive community college programs, Highline has recently added applied bachelor’s degrees, giving its community members even more ways to meet their educational needs close to home.
Highline graduates include those who are widely recognized for achievement in their various fields:
- Norm Rice, former mayor of Seattle
- Ann Rule, author
- Alexis Denisof, actor
- Dr. Michael Hutchins, zoologist
- Brian Scalabrine, former NBA player and current NBA television analyst
- Joan Enticknap, banking executive
- Dr. T.M. Sell, author, award-winning journalist and Northwest playwright
- Joan DuBuque, retired King County Superior Court Judge
- Junki Yoshida, CEO of The Yoshida Group
- Sam Green, former Washington State Poet Laureate
Highline’s success — and the growth of the community college system in general — demonstrates community and technical colleges are a proven way of providing education and training to support states’ economies and enrich people’s lives.
Highline College Presidents
After more than a decade as president and 22 years at the college, Dr. Jack Bermingham announced his retirement in July 2017. The college has enjoyed remarkable leadership stability, with only six permanent presidents during its first 56 years. Dr. Jeff Wagnitz is serving as interim president while the college’s Board of Trustees recruits and selects Highline’s next leader.
Dr. Jack Bermingham
Dr. Priscilla J. Bell
Dr. Edward M. Command
Dr. Shirley B. Gordon
Dr. Orville Carnahan
Dr. M. A. “Pat” Allan