Smith Center History - Gary Soren Smith Center for the Fine and Performing Arts

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History of the Smith Center at Ohlone College

In the late 1980s, Dr. Charles Mangrum, head of allocation of funds in the Chancellor's office, informed Dr. Gary Soren Smith (learn more about Dr. Smith) of the change of allocation of funds at the state level. There were now three categories A, B, and C. A was for classrooms, B was for labs and C was for auditoriums or gymnasiums.

Dr. Mangrum was also aware that an auditorium was a part of the Master Plan of the campus when it opened in 1974. And so the conversations began. Dr. Mangrum worked at Ohlone College doing his Administrative internship in earlier years.

In 1990, a Bond issue was to be on the ballot and if passed, Ohlone was in line to receive funds for the building of a Performing Arts Center.

When Ohlone moved from The Serra Center (just down Washington Boulevard) to the new permanent campus on Mission Boulevard in Fremont, California, discussions began and a wish list started dreaming of the day when it would become a reality. Discussions were held in monthly department meetings. So the desires were always in the forefront of every one.

Drawing of the Smith Center complex.

After BOORA was contracted to design the center, each department in the Division of Fine and Performing Arts, met at least twice a month to discuss the needs and design of the new facility. Many of these meetings included Business Office personnel as well. Minutes of all these meetings were maintained in the Business Office. It was necessary to co-mingle departments because of budget items and cost of equipment.

Between the years 1988 and 1993 Dr. Peter Blomerley, Ohlone President, and Dr. Smith made numerous trips to Sacramento to meet with the State Budget Finance Committee regarding the C category funding. Delaine Easton and Bill Lockyer were members of the state assembly representing the Fremont area and added support in the many meetings that took place.


  • 1974 Opening of Fremont Campus, performing arts center part of Campus Master Plan
  • July 23, 1991 - Contract signed with BOORA of Portland Oregon
  • April 14, 1993 - Amorosa Construction awarded the contract to build the facility
  • May 17, 1993 - Ground breaking ceremony
  • May 6, 1994 - New building 22 named Gary Soren Smith Center for the Fine and Performing Arts
  • May 11, 1994 - Board of Trustees approved naming of Performing Arts Center
  • May 25, 1994 - Board of Trustees approved naming of Theatre - G. Craig Jackson Theatre
  • June 16, 1994 - Hanging of the last steel girder known as the topping off party; same day Faye invited Tom Hanks to attend the Gala Faye Smith was Tom Hanks high school counselor at Skyline High School in Oakland for three years, 1971-1974
  • July, 1995 - Called Tom Hanks office to see if he could attend the GALA and got a positive response
  • September 19, 1995 - Announcement made that Tom Hanks would appear
  • October 21, 1995 - Gala Opening
  • 1995 Grand Opening of Premiere Season, hosted by Tom Hanks