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Highline History

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Highline History 2021-08-31T15:18:45+00:00

Highline History

highline-college-first-graduation-historyFounded 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 over 15,000 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.

New Stories of Old

Highline is celebrating its 60th anniversary with new stories highlighting its rich history. Check back for more in the coming weeks and months.

  • Immigrants and refugees in South King County have long turned to Highline College to learn English, sharpen job skills and earn college degrees. Learn how Highline’s commitment to its global population became campus-wide and deeply woven into the institutional culture. Read “Providing Equitable Education as a Daily Call to Action.” (added 8/5/21).
  • See the Learn More section for stories added during Highline’s 55th anniversary.
It is also the most diverse higher education institution in the state, with over 70 percent students of color and people representing more than 120 cultures attending classes at the college.

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.

highline-college-computer-historyThe 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.

Seattle-Mayor-Norm-Rice-and-Highline-President-Shirley-Gordon-1990Highline 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:

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.

Learn More

The inherent nature of education is growth. Sharing our history helps us trace the growth of Highline as a community institution, shaped by the region’s people and events. See where we started through these stories:

Highline College Past Presidents


Dr. Priscilla J. Bell


Dr. Edward M. Command
President Emeritus


Dr. Shirley B. Gordon
President Emeritus

Highline College President Orville Carnahan

Dr. Orville Carnahan