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History of Chemeketa

Before it was a community college, the land on which the Chemeketa Salem Campus sits was a gathering place for native peoples to come together and exchange news, knowledge and goods.

Years of History at Chemeketa

We're approaching 50 and going strong. Our legacy inspires our work today. Open the sections below to walk down our memory lane.

  • 1960s

    Chemeketa in the 1960s

    Even before there was a Chemeketa, there was Salem Technical-Vocational School, operated by Salem Public Schools. Salem Tech's first full-time classes were held in an old elementary school. Practical Nursing and Electronics Engineering Technician programs were developed in 1957, 70 full-time students were enrolled, and staff included five full-time instructors.

    In the early '60s, a group of citizen leaders from throughout the mid-Willamette Valley spearheaded a movement to transform Salem Tech into a comprehensive community college which would serve the area. Chemeketa is the result of that effort.

    In 1964, Salem Tech moved to its present site on Lancaster Drive, where a one-story brick building, a machine and welding shop, and a number of temporary buildings soon made up the campus. In 1965, the school's name was changed to Salem Technical Vocational Community College.

    September 23, 1969 – Mid-Willamette area residents vote to establish a community college. This means that the former "Salem Tech" will become a community college serving Marion, Polk, most of Yamhill and part of Linn counties. The first Board of Education is elected.

    October 23, 1969 – Paul F. Wilmeth named first president of the college.

    December 3, 1969 – After a contest conducted among the students of Salem Tech and all of the district high schools, the Board of Education approves the name Chemeketa Community College. The contest winner was Susan Blum, a student in the Salem Tech dental assisting program.

  • 1970s

    Chemeketa in the 1970s

    December 1970 - "Golden Age Card" is established, allowing seniors to attend Chemeketa courses without paying tuition.

    July 1, 1970 – Chemeketa begins operation as a district-wide comprehensive community college.

    1970-71 – The college grows to more than 1,100 full-time students.

    December 1972 – Chemeketa receives accreditation by the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges (now Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities).

    September 1972 - Completion of Building 3.

    March 24, 1974 -  President Paul E. Wilmeth died in Tillamook, Oregon, while on a spring break camping trip. Albion (Al) Ringo named interim president next day.

    July 1, 1974 – Donald L. Newport appointed president.

    July 1, 1974 – The Chemeketa Cooperative Regional Library Service (CCRLS) officially begins.

    Fall 1974 – Athletic field and field house completed.

    December 1974 - Buildings 4 and 5 completed and dedicated to Paul Wilmeth.

    1974-79 – The Salem campus major buildings are constructed. Community locations are established in Dallas, McMinnville, Stayton and Woodburn. Because of enrollment growth, the college continues to use the "temporary buildings" in addition to the permanent facilities on campus.

    August 21, 1975 – Chemeketa's main telephone (503.399.5000) goes into service.

  • 1980s

    Chemeketa in the 1980s

    1980-82 – The Salem campus major buildings are constructed. Community locations are established in Dallas, McMinnville, Stayton and Woodburn. Because of enrollment growth, the college continues to use the "temporary buildings" in addition to the permanent facilities on campus.

    September 1981 – Building 7 physical education facility opens.

    April 1983 - Arthur Binnie resigns; William E. Segura named interim president.

    December 1983 - William E. Segura named president.

    March 1985 - Fire Protection burn tower completed.

    January 1986 – The Training and Economic Development (TED) Center—now known as the Chemeketa Center for Business and Industry—opens in downtown Salem, with a focus on business training.

  • 1990S

    Chemeketa in the 1990s

    July 23, 1991 – Wall of Flags in Building 2 is dedicated. The collection is a representation of our students (immigrant and non-immigrant) who were born outside of the U.S. prior to attending Chemeketa.  

    July 1993 – William E. Segura leaves Chemeketa to become president of Austin Community College in Texas and Gerard I. Berger is named interim president.

    August 1993 – Gerard Berger named president.

    September 1993 – Building 1 Bookstore opens.

    January 1994 – Building 1 and 38 faulty offices completed and opened.

    July 1994 - Chemeketa became the first community college to offer a two-year degree entirely by distance education.

    March 1996 – Voters approve a $35.2 million bond measure, allowing the college to build new classrooms, repair existing facilities and update training equipment for students in technical programs.

    May 1998 – The newly remodeled Santiam centers, formerly the Stayton center, celebrates its opening. The new location provides the additional training opportunities for Marion and Linn County residents.

    August 1998 – Chemeketa Chiefs changed to “Chemeketa Storm” and the new logo was designed by Carolyn Guthrie.

    March 1999 - The 72,000-square-foot Learning Resource Center opens on the Salem Campus. The building offers twice the seating of the old library, and also houses nine high-tech classrooms.

  • 2000s

    Chemeketa in the 2000s

    January 2000 – The Technology Classroom Building is dedicated on the Salem Campus. The building has 14 computer labs and a 465-seat auditorium equipped for high-tech presentations and a variety of performances.

    March 2000 - Chemeketa’s Building 6 auditorium opened first theatrical production, “Our Town”.

    June 2000 – Chemeketa served more than 50,000 students during the 1999-00 academic year. Chemeketa is the second-largest community college in Oregon.

    July 16, 2001 - Gretchen Schuette started as new president.

    February 27, 2002 – The Student Life Center is dedicated. This attachment to Building 2 provides meeting space, multicultural center, a lounge and convenience store for students. It includes office space for Student Life and Student Support Services.

    September 11, 2002 – The Peace Garden is dedicated in a September 11 ceremony as a place for remembrance and reflection. At the same dedication ceremony, the college rededicated its name, "Chemeketa," which means "a place of peace."

    November 21, 2003 – Chemeketa’s Northwest Viticulture Center opened. The 12,600 sq.ft. project included a classroom and winemaking facility, along with 18 acres of wine grapes.  The project cost was $2.74 million.

    November 17, 2006 – Gretchen Schuette announced her retirement, effective June 30, 2007.

    June 17, 2006 – Chemeketa’s 50th commencement ceremony was held at the Salem Armory Auditorium.  The new alma mater, “We Are Chemeketa” was sung for the first time.  Lyrics written by Gretchen Schuette, music composed by Thomas Bishop.

    August 20, 2007 – Cheryl Roberts started as new president.

    March 4, 2008 – Chemeketa Scholars scholarships are available to all local high school graduates with a cumulative, unweighted 3.50 GPA or greater who come directly to Chemeketa following graduation.

    May 2008 – Voters approve a $92 million bond levy to create additional classroom space and pay for deferred maintenance projects.

    September 2008 – First Chemeketa Scholars begin attending; 230 enroll.

    September 2009 – Chemeketa initiates celebrating its 40th anniversary with the implementation of a new logo and brand identity system.

  • 2010 to present

    February 24, 2010 – Chemeketa celebrates the opening of its new Center for Business and Industry in downtown Salem.

    September 2011 – Chemeketa Yamhill Valley receives accreditation as a college campus and Chemeketa becomes the second multi-campus community college system in Oregon.

    September-October 2011 – Chemeketa opens three new buildings funded from the 2008 bond, the Yamhill Valley Campus, Brooks Center and Bldg. 8 Health Sciences Complex.

    November 2011 – Patrick Lanning, Ph.D. named president of the Yamhill Valley campus.

    February 2012 – Yamhill Valley campus formally dedicated.

    June 2014 – President Cheryl Roberts departs to become president of Shoreline Community College. Julie Huckestein becomes interim president.

    March 2015 – Jim Eustrom appointed president of the Yamhill Valley campus.

    February 2015 – Presidential search process concludes with board determining none of the 21 candidates were a complete fit. They appoint Julie Huckestein district president.

    October 8, 2015 – Major construction funded from the 2008 bond levy completed with the dedication of Building 20.

    Spring 2015 – Chemeketa Press is launched to provide students with low-cost textbooks.

    June 2016 – Board of Education approves renaming Chemeketa Dallas to Chemeketa Polk.

    October 2016 – Chemeketa welcomes the first cohort of 1,089 Oregon Promise grant recipients.

    July 9, 2018 – Julie Huckestein announced her retirement as the 10th president effective June 30, 2018.

    September 11, 2018 – Chemeketa Cellars Tasting Room Grand Opening Open House.

    September 19, 2018 – Storm Athletic Complex Dedication for new soccer and softball fields.

    March 11, 2019 – Jessica Howard, Ph.D. named as 11th President beginning July 8, 2019.