55th Anniversary and Dr Allan

Looking Back on 55 Years

A New College, a New Campus and a Lot to Learn

Dr. Melvin “Pat” Allan was interviewed in January 2002 as part of the college’s 40th anniversary celebration. As Highline’s first permanent president, he played a pivotal role during the college’s early years. Allan joined Highline in July 1962 and served until 1971. (The college had a temporary president during its first school year, 1961–62.) Below is part of that interview.
 

Q: Was it difficult to get instructors to join the new college?

Highline College Moving Day 1964

Dr. Melvin “Pat” Allan, the first permanent president of Highline College, carries a table from a moving truck during the 1964 move from the college’s temporary home at Glacier High School to the college’s permanent campus on South 240th Street in Des Moines.

A: Everyone wanted to teach at community colleges. There were a lot of people applying for jobs. One of the compliments I received in my life, of the two [Allan laughs], was at a function not too many years ago where they invited all of the retired presidents, and one of the fellows said, “I don’t know what Pat Allan did, but he sure had a good bunch of people working for him.” And I did have some wonderful, competent people in counseling, teaching, and everything else.

Q: What was it like being temporarily housed at Glacier High School until the permanent campus was built?

A: The situation at Glacier was interesting because we had portable classrooms and used the high school’s facilities [such as the gymnasium, cafeteria and auditorium] after the classes were over and the high school students had gone home. We had lab classes, like chemistry, physics. Very limited program at that time. During the day time there were probably about 400 students; the evening classes were smaller, probably 250 or so. That first year there were about 15 to 20 faculty and staff.

Highline College Registration Line Evening Classes New Campus 1964

Students line up to register for evening classes on the new campus, October 1, 1964.

Q: You oversaw the college’s move from Glacier High School to its present location. Can you describe that day?

A: We had a big parade right down the middle of Des Moines. At a certain time of the day, someone blew a whistle and everyone got packed into cars and we had trucks and everything. And we went through town with horns blowing, a celebration. Of course, most of the furniture and stuff had been moved already.

Q: Not all of the 16 original campus buildings were completed by the time you moved to the new campus in fall 1964, is that correct?

A: I remember the first bookstore on campus. There were two semi-tractor trailers backed up together with a platform in between in the parking lot. Students lined up outside to take turns to buy their books. There wasn’t room to turn around in those days.

Highline College Overnight Registration Lines 1965

Students camp out before Highline’s quarterly class registration in 1965. Long lines and overnight waits were common before students were able to register in later years by phone, and today online.

Q: What is one of your earliest memories of Highline?

A: Very vivid in my mind were the first few registrations we had on the new campus because there was so much publicity and so many people and it was a brand new community college, the first one in 20 years or so. I remember going up there one evening with the Dean of Students and standing in the hall of the Student Center and the place was full of students at 2:00 in the morning. They were there with sleeping bags, dinner, thermos bottles. They came there the day before to get in line to register.

Q: Why do you believe there were so many students willing to wait overnight to register?

A: I have one word to describe it: eager. They were eager to get their education. That was probably the only problem we had on the campus the first couple of years, the fact that we simply didn’t have the faculty or the staff or the equipment or the programs to satisfy the enormous need that was there.

Highline College 1963 Commencement

Highline College opened its doors in 1961 as the first community college in King County and celebrated its first graduating class in 1963 of students earning their two-year degrees. At that time, Highline College was part of the Highline School District. Dignitaries attending the 1963 ceremony included Dr. Allan, Highline College President; Louis Bruno, State Superintendent; James Rice, Highline School District Board; and Carl Jensen, Highline School District Superintendent.

Dr. Melvin “Pat” Allan

Dr. Melvin “Pat” Allan

At the age of 88, Allan died June 27, 2002, just five months after this interview was conducted and two weeks after Highline’s June 2002 Commencement ceremony, which was held June 13 and capped off the college’s 40th anniversary celebration.