On December 7, 1965 Fremont and Newark voters approved the creation of the Fremont Newark Junior College District and elected a seven-member Board of Trustees. Ohlone College was established to serve the cities of Fremont and Newark
The first official meeting of the newly elected Board of Trustees was conducted on January 3, 1966 in the Library of John F. Kennedy High School in Fremont. The Trustees were sworn in by Mr. Rock La Fleche, Superintendent of Schools of Alameda County. Representing Newark were Mr. Wesley Sears and Rev. Travis Campbell; representing Fremont were Dr. Lyle Edmison, Mr. Charles B. Snow, Mr. John Costello, Dr. Marilyn Blawie, and Mr. Abraham Hochler.
Dr. Stephen E. Epler was hired as the first President/Superintendent of Ohlone College on June 21, 1966, and has the distinction of being the first employee hired for the new college. Dr. Epler was a former naval officer and had 33 years of prior experience in education. Before coming to Ohlone Dr. Epler served at several institutions, including the Reedley High School District and Reedley Junior College in Central California. Of interesting note is that one of the students at Reedley High School at the same time Dr. Epler was employed at the high school was a young man named Floyd Hogue. Floyd was in the first graduating class at Reedley Junior College. Thirty-five years later, in 1994, Dr. Floyd Hogue was named President/Superintendent of Ohlone College, the fourth in succession from Dr. Epler.
Among the substantial accomplishments during Dr. Epler’s tenure as President/Superintendent were the creation of the first fiscal year budget; hiring the first classified staff, faculty, and administrators; establishing a curriculum and schedule of classes; readying a temporary campus; recruiting and enrolling the students; and choosing a name for the college. Dr. Epler also led the planning and construction of the permanent Fremont campus. The Epler Gymnasium is named in his honor.
The name “Ohlone” was suggested by Mr. Felipe Galvan to the founders of the College in 1967 as a fitting and appropriate name, thus giving the College a proud heritage and tradition which has endured among faculty, staff, students, and administration since the opening of the College more than 50 years ago. Mr. Felipe Galvan was a descendant and an Elder of the Ohlone People, who once inhabited not only the area where Ohlone College is now located but also lived and thrived throughout the San Francisco Bay Area for thousands of years. Mr. Galvan was a man respected and admired for his work in preserving the memory, the heritage, and the dignity of the ancestral Ohlone people through his efforts in the community, his life, and his daily example.
Officially named Ohlone College on June 18, 1967, the College honors the early Ohlone People of the Costanoan tribe. Long before they were named Costanoan by the Spanish priests, they were known by a neighboring Miwuk tribe as the Ohlones or “people of the West.” Distinguished by peaceful pursuits, especially in agriculture, they held profound reverence for the earth, believing it was theirs for living and not for the taking. They aided the Franciscan Fathers in building the Mission San Jose de Guadalupe in the late 18th century and prospered until 1806-1833 when a series of epidemics virtually destroyed the tribe. Some descendants, however, still reside in the Fremont-Newark area.
After 18 months of planning, Ohlone College opened for classes on September 25, 1967 at a temporary site in the former Junipero Serra, St. Mary of the Palms School for Girls at 650 Washington Boulevard in Fremont. The College elected to operate on the quarter system. The first year curriculum on the Serra Campus was primarily a set of freshman level classes with the sophomore level classes to be added the second year. Classes were also held at Kennedy High School and at the Fremont Boys Club. Enrollment during the first quarter was 1,706 students, surpassing the 1,100 predicted.
A second attempt to fund the construction of a permanent campus was passed on June 4, 1968. The $1.1 million Measure F received a 70% approval by the voters. The first attempt to pass a bond measure had failed on November 8, 1966, but having an identified site for the new campus and a successful first year were determined to be crucial to the passage of Measure F.
On June 19, 1968, after the conclusion of the first academic year, the first commencement exercise was held in the Palm Circle Garden on the Serra Campus. Sixteen students were ready for graduation. These students had come with units from other colleges so they were able to graduate after just one year. At the second commencement ceremony in June 1969 there was 159 graduates.
On September 28, 1968, after their ranch property had been shown to be safe for campus construction, Ed and Irene Huddleson agreed to a $1.9 million purchase price by the Fremont Newark Junior College District. The Huddlesons were very proud that the land for which they had so lovingly cared would be used as a college campus for years to come.
Three and a half years after the bond measure passed to build a permanent campus on Mission Boulevard at the former Huddleson Ranch site, construction on Phase 1 got underway. Groundbreaking for construction occurred on January 7, 1972. Phase 1 included all the major classroom buildings on the upper campus.
In 1972, the College reached out and welcomed Deaf persons to participate in College activities as students and members of the College faculty. This decision made Ohlone College a pioneer among the community colleges that now serve Deaf students. The Ohlone College Deaf Studies Division was established when the College opened its doors to 30 Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing students. The population changes each semester and the Deaf Studies Division has grown and has served up to 200 Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing students in a single year.
With construction underway in July 1973 on the upper campus, a ground breaking was held on July 25, 1973 to celebrate the beginning of construction of the lower campus facilities, including the gymnasium, pool, athletic fields, and warehouse.
On September 25, 1974, after two and a half years of construction, the permanent campus on Mission Boulevard opened for classes. After seven years in the tight quarters of the temporary Serra Campus and other sites, the new facilities were most welcomed by the growing college. In September 1975 the final facilities of the permanent Mission Boulevard campus--the gymnasium, pool, and athletic fields--were completed and opened for classes. These facilities allowed for expansion of the athletic programs at Ohlone.
Evening classes had been held at Newark Memorial High School starting in 1974. The evening program grew and it was decided to lease space at the MacGregor site from the Newark Unified School District, which would allow the evening program to grow and allow daytime classes to be scheduled there. This new site became known as the Newark Ohlone Center, or NOC. In 1995 there was a concerted effort to increase class offerings and enrollment at the NOC, and in three years both classes and enrollment at NOC had tripled. This growth led Ohlone to decide to build a campus in Newark, which was funded by the passage of the $150 million Measure A bond in 2001.
Dr. Stephen Epler retired from Ohlone in 1975, and Dr. William Richter was chosen as the college’s second President/Superintendent. Dr. Richter had been at Ohlone since 1968 when he was hired as Director of Community Services and later became the Dean of Instruction. Dr. Richter provided exceptional educational leadership and was instrumental in obtaining support for all of Ohlone’s educational programs. He was successful in establishing a community service program that provided the community with cultural opportunities. Dr. Richter retired in 1979 after 11 years of service at Ohlone.
In 1979 Dr. Peter Blomerly joined Ohlone as its third President/Superintendent. Dr. Blomerly served Ohlone as President/Superintendent for 15 years until his retirement in 1994, making him the longest serving President/Superintendent to date. He is remembered for his steady, dignified, and resolute leadership style. Dr. Blomerly led Ohlone through many important issues and navigated the college through turbulent budget years after the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978. The college emerged fiscally strong under his leadership.
After Dr. Blomerly’s retirement in 1994, Dr. Floyd Hogue was chosen as Ohlone’s fourth president. Dr. Hogue came to Ohlone from Mission College in Santa Clara, where he had been President/Superintendent. Dr. Hogue provided leadership and direction on obtaining significant state funding for state projects, which included the Site Safety Project, the Hyman Hall Building on the Fremont campus, and the Child Development Center, also on the Fremont campus. A hallmark of Dr. Hogue’s time at Ohlone was the development of partnerships with the community. A significant partnership involved a contract with Washington Hospital to establish and operate a Student Health Center. That collaboration continues to this day, more than 20 years later. Dr. Hogue also worked to increase program and course offerings at the Newark Ohlone Center, and provided leadership in the passage of the 2001 Measure A bond issue. $100 million of Measure A would fund the new campus in Newark and $50 million would fund a new Student Services Center and other improvements on the Fremont campus.
After a nine year tenure as President/Superintendent, Dr. Hogue retired from Ohlone and Dr. Doug Treadway became the college’s fifth president. Dr. Treadway had been President/Superintendent of Shasta College. Dr. Treadway’s vision, values, and inspirational leadership consistently represented the mission of Ohlone College and the spirit of the Ohlone Indians. Enrollment at Ohlone increased by 10 percent during Dr. Treadway’s tenure. The Ohlone College Newark Center for Health Science and Technology was planned and constructed on Cherry Street in Newark, and Dr. Treadway led Ohlone to adopt an environmental sustainability policy that resulted in LEED platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for the new Newark Center. Dr. Treadway was a strong advocate for international education, and under his leadership several partnership development trips to China were taken which resulted in the creation of the International Educational Exchange and Training Center in Suzhou, China. Ohlone’s International Programs and Services Office was created during this time, which significantly increased the number of international students at Ohlone. Dr. Treadway’s most important legacy was putting learning, multicultural awareness, and environmental stewardship at the center of all decision making at Ohlone. Under his leadership Ohlone truly became a “World of Cultures United in Learning.”
Dr. Gari Browning became the sixth and first female President/Superintendent of Ohlone College in July 2008 after Dr. Treadway’s retirement. During her tenure at Ohlone, Dr. Browning’s leadership resulted in resolution of issues threatening the college’s accreditation that she encountered on the first day she began her tenure as president; sound fiscal management in the midst of two major financial challenges caused by external sources; and successful passage of Measure G for $349 million. After passage of Measure G, Dr. Browning led the entire college community and numerous teams of contractors and professionals through the complex process of planning and constructing the Academic Core Complex, which resulted in the grand opening of the Frank DiMino Academic Core Complex on the Fremont campus in January 2020, as well as completion of other Measure G projects. Through the President’s Advisory Committee, where the community is regularly invited to offer their insights on college programs and activities, she has connected Ohlone to the Tri-Cities. Dr. Browning was a strong advocate for and active leader of the college’s excellent relationships with local K-12 school districts, including the support and expansion of Ohlone’s College Connection program for high school seniors. Additionally, Dr. Browning initiated the Ohlone College Promise scholarship, which offers tuition, fees, and books to local high school graduates for two years at Ohlone. Dr. Browning established and supported the Classified Staff Leadership Academy, and out of gratitude the Leadership Academy now bears her name. She led College Council in the development of dynamic systems of institutional and educational planning, which link program and department improvement objectives with college goals and accreditation standards in a cycle of on-going and regular assessment and planning. The courtyard outside Building 3, Fourth Level on the Fremont campus is named in her honor. After twelve dedicated years of service to Ohlone College—the second longest tenure of the college’s six presidents—and a career serving the community college system, Dr. Browning announced her retirement effective June 30, 2020.
Dr. Eric Bishop was chosen as Ohlone’s seventh president in April 2020. Dr. Bishop comes to Ohlone from Chaffey College, where he served as the Associate Superintendent of Student Services and Legislative Engagement. One of his most impactful achievements was establishing a partnership with Chaffey College and the surrounding Kindergarten-12th grade school districts to create an institutionalized college going culture among their feeder schools. This partnership created a pathway that encourages the youngest residents to consider college as part of their future.
In 2017 Ohlone celebrated the 50th anniversary of the college, with the May 19, 2017 graduation ceremony marking Ohlone’s 50th graduating class. To cap off the 50th anniversary year and look ahead to the next 50 years, the college decided to refresh its logo and tagline. The process to determine both the logo and tagline was comprehensive and collaborative, including input from faculty and staff, and most especially students. A final vote took place during Fall Learning College Week in August 2017.
The top-voted logo features a contemporary design while honoring Ohlone’s heritage through familiar graphic elements. The feather serves as both a link to the indigenous Ohlone people and as a reference to the hillside home of the college. The sunrise represents the dawn of a new day, as well as the potential and hope that comes with renewal. The new tagline Connect • Engage • Succeed represents Ohlone’s promise to their students, their communities, and themselves.
See also The Ohlone Campuses.
- Dr. Eric Bishop 2020 - Present
- Dr. Gari Browning 2008 - 2020
- Dr. Doug Treadway 2003 - 2008
- Dr. Floyd Hogue 1994 - 2003
- Dr. Peter Blomerley 1979 - 1994
- Dr. William Richter 1975 - 1979
- Dr. Stephen Epler 1966 - 1975