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Rock Creek’s 40th birthday was a 10-month party for campus community

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The end of the 2016-17 year didn’t just mean the end to the academic season, but also meant an end to the 10-month celebration of Rock Creek Campus’ 40th birthday. Don’t worry, there is no mid-life crisis there.

“Thanks to all the students, faculty and staff who helped Rock Creek celebrate its 40th birthday: for showing up, for volunteering, for your generosity and for your support of PCC Rock Creek,” said Rock Creek President Sandra Fowler-Hill. “We look forward to celebrating our 50th in 2026.”

It’s an impressive four-decade run for the 265-acre campus. Starting as an idea by founding president Dr. Amo DeBernardis in 1969, college planners had to leap many hurdles to finally open Rock Creek in the middle of 1976, an effort labeled “The Battle for Rock Creek.” Since then, PCC’s rural campus has been transformed by voter-approved bond construction that has turned it into one of the cornerstone locations of the college district.

This year’s celebration started with fall In-Service when “Zippy the Drone” captured a 40th birthday photo of Rock Creek faculty and staff on the lawn outside Building 7. Campus organizers announced a 10-month long competition to secure donations for the Food Pantry that benefits students, and welcomed the first Oregon Promise students to campus.

The annual Harvest Festival in October brought more than 1,000 visitors to campus, who in turn gave 400 pumpkins new homes just in time for Halloween.

“It was a great collaboration involving ASPCC and the Learning Garden,” added Fowler-Hill.

In November, the Women’s Resource Center and ASPCC created 42 Thanksgiving baskets for Rock Creek students. With the goal of 40 baskets in honor of the 40th birthday, more than 250 campus faculty and staff donated food items for the annual event.

Fun and generosity carried the day at the annual Rock Creek WinterFest. The event raised $527 in cash and 357 pounds of food for the Oregon Food Bank. December also brought holiday shoppers to the 10th Annual 25 Dollar Show and to the Rock Creek Potters Guild Ceramic Holiday Sale. Matthew Altman was selected as the new Science and Technology dean, and Dorina Cornea-Hasegan, a microelectronics technology instructor at Rock Creek, received an $879,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for STEM scholarships. Now that’s a great 40th birthday present.

In January, the annual Preview Day and the MLK Day of Service were both cancelled due to snow.

“What we did celebrate was the over-the-top efforts by our grounds staff to keep the campus walkways clear and safe,” said Fowler-hIll.

February welcomed an impressive Rock Creek 40-Year History Exhibit at the Washington County Museum, located on campus. The exhibit, which will remain until December, features approximately 300 photographs and the school’s 40-year history captured in newspaper headlines. Visitors and the PCC community enjoyed discovering the rich history of the campus and the vision of DeBernardis had in the early 1970’s for expanding the district.

ASPCC created a large Valentine display in Building 5 and encouraged students to post sticky notes expressing their appreciation for Rock Creek. The biggest heart-felt gift was the dedication of the aviation hangar at Rock Creek named in honor of Michael D. Reece for his contributions to aviation and for his family who established a $270,000 endowed scholarship fund for aviation students at Rock Creek.

The MLK Day of Service was eventually held in February when 30 volunteers collected more than 2,500 pounds of food for the Food Pantry. The grand opening of the new STEAM Lab (MakerSpace) in Building 2 also happened then.

Pumpkins at the Rock Creek Harvest Festival.

Pumpkins at the Rock Creek Harvest Festival.

Semana de la Raza, now in its 11th year, shared part of its program noting the 40th birthday of the campus. The highlight of the annual event, coordinated by the Rock Creek Multicultural Center and ASPCC, was the Second annual DREAMers gala. The April event raised more than $44,000 in financial assistance for undocumented students. The Landscape Technology Program also joined the 40 birthday fun with a Geocache Treasure Hunt on campus that continues until Sept. 1.

The success of the May faculty/staff art competition in Helzer Gallery was so stunning that President Fowler-Hill declared it a Rock Creek annual event. The exhibit featured 40 pieces of art. Ammon Knight, a custodian at Willow Creek, took first place and Walter Morales, Computer Science, won second place. Shannon Baird and Hilary Campbell, both with the Building Construction Technology program, shared third place. The competition will be held again during winter term 2018.

Also in May was a Brazilian music concert featuring Celso Machado; the 5th annual Hermanas Conference; the 4th annual Auto Collision Car Show and Open House; Groundswell, the first Rock Creek student writing completion, and the first-ever PCC TEDx Talk.

With nothing left to do but to blow out the candles, the 40th birthday year concluded with the annual Rock Creek end-of-the-year barbecue. Remember that September In-Service challenge to increase donations to the Food Pantry? For donating the most food, the prize was awarded to Matthew Levy, Rock Creek instructor of Composition and Literature.

Cheryl Scott, dean of Instruction at Rock Creek, serves up some birthday cake with staff.

Cheryl Scott, dean of Instruction at Rock Creek, serves up some birthday cake with staff.