ACC Opens Its Doors

Voter approval was only the first, and perhaps the easiest, step in creating Austin Community College. There had to be teachers and students and places for them to come together. ACC leased the former L. G. Anderson High School building from the Austin Independent School District, naming it Ridgeview for its hilltop location in the center of the city’s African-American community. Anderson had been closed in 1971 due to court-ordered school desegregation. Now it became ACC’s only full-time campus and its administrative headquarters. Evening classes were scheduled at four Austin high schools.

ridgeview campus
The main entrance of the Ridgeview Campus was here, from Thompson St.

Officials spent the spring and summer hiring faculty and staff, starting with Thomas Hatfield, ACC’s first president. A native Texan with a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in community college administration, he had recently helped found John Tyler Community College in Richmond, Virginia. Marvin Shwiff, an attorney who spearheaded the effort to establish ACC, became executive dean. Both leaders embraced the multi-campus, “community” aspect of community colleges, and they set out to make higher education, occupational-vocational training, and adult basic education (ABE) available to anyone at least eighteen years old irrespective of race, gender, or class.

The Austin Model Project
The Austin Model Project, an initiative of the Austin Chamber of Commerce to provide vocational and technical training, was administered by Central Texas College. Most instructors in the program joined the Austin Community College faculty.

The first faculty came over from Central Texas College in Killeen, which offered a number of occupational and technical courses in Austin. They were soon joined by scores of full-time and part time instructors. Some boasted academic credentials and others successful work experience, but they all embraced the innovative “open-door” concept.

Students were non-traditional too, on average ten years older than usual. Registrar Ramon Dovalina supervised their registration, and on Monday morning, September 17, the school’s doors opened with much excitement.

ACC Registrar, Ramon Dovalina, registers the college’s first four students, Emmitt E. Thompson, Larry Riddell, Lenora Ledesma, and Carol Hankerson. Thompson was a veteran, Riddell and Ledesma were recent high-school graduates, and Hankerson was a housewife.

ACC Building Trades Dept.
Like most programs, ACC’s Building Trades Department made do with limited space and equipment.