In the 125 years since the College began, Arizona became a state, two world wars have been fought, men have walked on the moon and explored the deepest reaches of space. Eastern Arizona College is the oldest community college west of the Mississippi River.
The College has had 21 Presidents; and ten names from 1888 to 2013.
A Distinguished History
Eastern Arizona College is Arizona's oldest community college. Chartered in 1888 as the St. Joseph Stake Academy and founded long before statehood, the College was established and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for 45 years before being turned over to Graham County on July 1, 1933. The school first met at the Central Ward LDS Church.
Although EAC is a public College with no religious affiliation, early school history is intertwined with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
1890-1891 - Joy Dunyon, Principal
Principal Dunyon developed the first curriculum. Everyone acknowledged Joy Dunyon was the right man in the right place.
The school first opened its doors on Monday morning, December 8, 1890 in Central, Arizona in the humble Central Ward LDS Church building.
1891-1895 - George Cluff, Principal
With Principal Cluff's leadership and the willingness of the local church membership to dig deep into their pockets or work in money-raising projects, St. Joseph Stake Academy had four successful years during a very trying time.
In order to accommodate higher enrollment, the school moved to a new two-story building in 1891. It was located on the southwest corner of Thatcher's Main Street (Highway 70) and the present-day College Avenue.
The curriculum expanded when George Cluff, Principal, introduced speech and amateur dramatics. His Arizona Dramatic Club, composed of Academy teachers, pupils and lay citizens was one of the outstanding organizations of its kind in southeastern Arizona.
The school experienced financial difficulties and had to close its doors from 1896 to 1898.
1897-1903 - Emil Maeser, Principal
Principal Maeser told the local church members that if they "would help him they could make this school the center and fountain head of education."
Name changed to Latter-day Saint Academy
In the spring of 1898, the board decided to construct a $1,500 addition to the Academy building and reopen the school in September 1898.
Telegraphy was a popular class since Morse code messages could be sent over newly strung telegraph lines. Engineering, shorthand, typing, and practical business classes drew students from throughout the Arizona territory.
The school offered military training during the Spanish-American War and offered classes to high school students only.
First athletic club was formed.
Alumni Association organized with five graduates.
First Alumni Ball - 50 cents per couple.
1903-1904 - John F. Nash, Principal
Since moral principles and values were considered very important in character development, classes in ethics taught by Principal Nash, the fifth Academy Principal, became part of the curriculum.
Tuition was $10 per semester.
Appropriations were paid three-fourths in cash and one-fourth in produce. These lean years could have been relieved, at least to some extent if not for the student waivers given to students who could not afford to pay the $10 per semester tuition.
May 1903, the Academy choir took an 11-day tour. They required 12 buggies to carry 44 performers and chaperones. The group consisted of the choir, fivepiece orchestra, Principal Nash and local church leader Andrew Kimball.
1905-1920 - Andrew C. Peterson, Principal
There were now eleven members of the faculty.
The spring music tour was established.
By 1903, it was clear that a larger building was required to accommodate rising enrollment. The cornerstone of the new facility was laid on September 18, 1908. This facility became known as Old Main.
Some of the favorite outings among the students were picnics at Cluff's Ranch, excursions to the flume, a water-filled trough for transporting logs from Mt. Graham to the sawmill, circuses held in Bowie, Arizona and the annual College Hike.
Gila dramatics is first referenced in 1908 when Principal Peterson and Dudley D. Jones traveled to Clifton to make arrangements for the presentation of an operetta by Academy students.
Handshake Dance begins - an annual tradition for 75 years.
First play presented was Niobe, an operetta based on a Greek tragedy.
School's name is changed to Gila Academy.
Baseball team formed.
Basketball coach Dudley Jones' team defeats the University of Arizona. Two of his teams were undefeated.
North Central Association accreditation is granted for high school courses.
Student government begins.
Dramatics club is organized.
1920-1923 - Leland Creer, President
School's name is changed to Gila Normal College.
President Creer initiated a series of changes in the instructional program that equaled other junior colleges. By 1921, Creer recommended that tuition be raised to $15 per semester. The College's budget was $14,160, the highest ever approved.
In 1920, enrollment hits a new high of 124.
First Annual is published in 1920.
In 1922, the first tennis courts were cemented and donated by the Associated Students.
1923-1924 - Ross S. Bean, Acting President
The College's name is changed in the spring of 1924 to Gila Junior College and then again in the fall to Gila College.
The College runs in the black with a cash-on-hand balance of $1,720.78.
College credits began to be accepted at the University of Arizona.
The most elaborate social event was the Gila Prom, which was a beautiful spring event.
1925-1927 - Eugene Hilton, President
With an increased budget of $26,350, President Hilton could begin hiring teachers with Master's Degrees, thus adding prestige to the College faculty. When the 1926-1927 school year began, 5 of 14 faculty members had Master's Degrees. President Hilton was doing the job of making Gila a true junior college.
During the spring months of 1925, construction began on a new gymnasium that was completed in 1927. Over the basement of the gymnasium, there was a spacious stage where dramas entertained students and community residents.
1925, 1926, 1927 - Gila College won the state championship in basketball under the tutelage of Coach Ernest H. Shumway. Team members who played at one time or another during the three years were Jesse Mortensen, Milo Lines, J. Ruel Bingham, Lloyd Walser, Karl Mangum, Rue Marshall, Udell Pollock, Glen Kempton, John Mickelson, Ed Tenney, George Talley, Meshach Tenney, Neil Goodman and Thornton Coleman.
1926 - Gila College football team beat the University of Arizona Wildcats.
1927 - The basketball team had 33 wins and 0 losses - State Title 1927.
October 19, 1929 - The most memorable football game was with Brophy Preparatory of Phoenix on the Gila field (located where the Wesley Taylor Dorm now stands). It is memorable because it was the "longest football game in history," -- three and one-half hours.
1927-1933 - Harvey L. Taylor, President
President Taylor's top priority for the school in 1927 was the improvement of the facilities and grounds.
Over a nine year period from 1927 to 1935, the drama program put on an annual play, called the Red Knolls Pageant. It was a theatrical production presented in a natural amphitheater with outstanding acoustics in the nearby rock formation, Red Knolls.
First hardback yearbook was published.
The athletic teams became known as Monsters. They later became the Gila Monsters.
The College's name was changed back to Gila Junior College.
1933-1939 - E. Edgar Fuller, President
The College's name was changed to Gila Junior College of Graham County.
President Fuller was a friend and counselor to students. In 1935, financial security came to Gila through a law passed by the legislature stating that the state would pay half the maintenance cost of the school. There were more changes at Gila during his six years than had come during any other administration.
The first annual Homecoming celebration was October 30,1936.
The Pace Homemaking Building was dedicated on December 16, 1938 and in 1940 a dormitory was built. The new dorm was extremely helpful due to the outbreak of World War II. The Civil Aeronautics Navy War Training Service used the dormitory to house men attending the College preparing for the war. The dorm was later named after a faculty member who taught at the College for 33 years, Wesley Taylor.
1940-1944 - Monroe H. Clark, President
President Clark's experiences could fill a book. He survived a train wreck in Switzerland. In France he was wounded twice in action with the 6th US Infantry. He received a Purple Heart and a Silver Star. It was during Clark's presidency that Florence Talley joined the faculty for a long and distinguished career as teacher and librarian.
Jun-Aug, 1944 - William C. Kauffman, Acting President
In addition to his duties as Acting President, William C. Kauffman was the dramatics teacher. On nights of performances he always wore an old, rather dilapidated hat, and when asked why he did so, he said the hat brought good performances. He was Acting President until President Harless could finish his PhD in summer school and arrive at Gila Junior College.
Aug, 1944 - Dec, 1946 - William H. Harless, President
President Harless went to work to get a new state aid bill for junior colleges. This action increased state aid from $15,000 to $30,000 per year. Gila made a notable war effort during WWII. During the sixth war drive, Gila students bought $17,214.50 in war bonds and stamps. The school's name was placed on a US Bomber, probably a B17 Flying Fortress, which was a great honor to the school.
Jan-Sep, 1947 - Delbert R. Jerome, Acting President
Delbert Jerome was Acting President of the College while President Harless went to Palo Alto, California to complete his Ph.D. at Stanford.
Sep, 1947 - Jun, 1951 - William H. Harless, President
The Gila Monster became the mascot of the school. On July 1, 1950, the institution became Eastern Arizona Junior College. As enrollment began to grow in 1950, state support increased from $15,000 to $75,000 annually.
1951-1965 - Paul Guitteau, President
President Guitteau made EAJC prevail. He felt it wasn't the salary but the challenge that lay in building up the College. The Music Cottage was renovated; the new Science and Agriculture buildings were dedicated in 1955. On July 1, 1962, EAJC became the first such College in the state to become a member of Arizona's Junior College System.
A new women's dormitory was completed and was named after Nellie Lee who served as the secretary for several presidents as well as the Registrar and Dean of Women.
After World War II concluded, growth at the College skyrocketed. Many new facilities were needed to accommodate the enrollment boom. Two new buildings were dedicated on October 23, 1955, the new science and agricultural buildings. The Music Cottage was completely renovated that same fall and was opened to the public on November 1, 1955.
A new library was sorely needed as Paul E. Guitteau took over the presidency in 1951. Miss Ettie Lee, an alumnus made a donation of $15,000 to get the project started. Dedication of the Alumni Library occurred on March 13, 1958. Two years later, in 1960, the library received an additional wing for needed expansion and has since been remodeled.
New building plans were developed for the south campus. Just southwest of the new gymnasium (later named after the president who oversaw the project, Paul E. Guitteau), a new football field and stadium (later named after alumnus John Mickelson, who was instrumental in forming the Arizona Community College System) were built along with new baseball and softball fields. South Campus was dedicated on September 21, 1963.
New buildings would rise on the corner of Thatcher's Main Street (Highway 70) and Stadium Avenue on the spot where Christopher Layton's house once stood. The large, beautiful red brick dormitory building was completed by the beginning of the 1964-65 school year. The dorm was named after the man who had been superintendent of buildings and grounds for 28 years, Mark Allen.
1965-1976 - Dean A. Curtis, President
President Curtis was born, raised and educated in Thatcher. Enrollment grew from less than 800 to 5,000. Budget was $46,210 - 11 years later it was 2.8 million dollars. His overall goals for EAJC were to "educate people, continuing to develop the College so that it will remain a strong educational institution."
On July 1, 1966, the school received its 11th name: Eastern Arizona College.
The Vocational Technical Building (now known as ITE - Industrial Technical Education) was constructed on South Campus to house equipment to train students in modern technology fields. Dedication services were held on October 15, 1967.
With its long history of excellent drama and music programs, the College began to make plans to construct a Fine Arts Auditorium on South Campus. Jumpstarted by a $50,000 donation from alumnus Walter Johnson, plans were made for the new performing arts center. The center has a full-size stage and a capacity of 1,000 people. Dedication of the Fine Arts Auditorium was held on August 28, 1972.
Also in 1972, the College was able to fulfill a long-term goal, the construction of a swimming pool on South Campus with the cooperation of the Thatcher Town Council.
1976-1983 - Wayne M. McGrath, President
Prior to the presidency, he won a basketball scholarship to Northern Arizona University. President McGrath was part of the team that won the Border Conference Championship in 1958. He was Eastern's basketball coach from 1960-1968. In 1976, he became president. In 1984 he stated, "EAC is the most important single institution in Graham County ... the College will be as good as the folks here want it to be."
Tragedy struck on the evening of August 1, 1979. Four students spotted Old Main on fire and contacted the fire department. Although the old administrative building survived that fire, a second fire broke out within the week and Old Main was destroyed. The ruins of the old building were razed and a new administration building constructed in its place. On February 26, 1980, ground was broken for the construction of the new building.
A beautiful one-story Administration Building was built to replace Old Main. It was dedicated on February 6, 1981.
Mrs. Rebecca Layton deeded her house to the College. The house was originally built by EAC basketball coach Daniel Dudley Jones in 1912 and was later purchased by Heber Layton. The house later became known as the Layton House - Ruby I. Stinson Alumni Center.
1984-2002 - Gherald L. Hoopes, Jr., President
President Hoopes was the youngest junior college president in the state system. He tackled the many problems facing EAC by setting four goals for himself and the institution: adequate funding, exemplary accreditation, enrollment growth, and quality in all endeavors. Bill Griffin, a member of the Graham County Community College District Governing Board at that time, said, "There is not a better president in the state. He has pulled the College together since becoming president and has it moving forward."
During the next several years, EAC experienced unprecedented growth under the leadership of President Hoopes
Because of the growth, it was necessary to expand many campus facilities as well as to build new ones. The Governing Board initiated the College's Master Facilities Plan, and in 1992, the Activities Center was built to replace the old gymnasium. The construction of the building added 50,000 square feet to the campus at a cost of $5.5 million. In February 2002, the building was renamed the Gherald L. Hoopes Jr. Activities Center in honor of then retired President Hoopes.
The Math-Science Building received a large addition in 1996 that added 15,000 square feet at a cost of $3.8 million. In 1996, the Residence Towers were completed at a cost of $5.2 million and added 41,000 square feet of living space for students.
The Middle Campus construction, the largest single construction project in the College's 113-year history, was completed in December 2002. It consists of a Student Services Building, an Academic Programs building, and a large bell tower that has become the focal point of the campus. The project added 93,000 square feet to the Thatcher Campus. The pillars of the Memorial Bell Tower represent the four pillars of education: Pioneers of every race, color and creed; veterans and families; and faculty, taxpayers and benefactors. President Mark Bryce had this to say about it, "The Bell tower stands as the focal point of Middle Campus. It acts as an icon."
Since 1992, the Thatcher Campus facilities space has grown by 86%, adding 217,000 square feet and its land holdings have increased by 59 acres, representing a 113% expansion. In addition, 64,000 square feet have been extensively renovated.
As our communities move into the next 125 years, EAC continues to position itself to provide excellent educational opportunities for residents of southeastern Arizona.
2002 - Present
Mark Bryce, President
President Bryce is known as the "Joy President." President Bryce has directed the fiscal operations of the College, which remain in sound financial condition even during a decade of budget shortfalls at the Arizona legislature. The College became a participant in the Higher Learning Commissions Open Pathway process to maintain accreditation. This continuous improvement model has been the tool used to keep Eastern's focus on quality education at an affordable price. President Bryce also expanded the nursing program's facilities with a new Nursing Education Center, and signed a landmark partnership with Arizona State University to offer select baccalaureate degrees on the Thatcher Campus. The College has continued to grow as people find out that Eastern is a school where instructors care and students have a great learning experience.