Saddleback College - A Brief History

On Valentine’s Day in 1967, residents of the rural southern half of Orange County approved the creation of a community college, dubbing it the “Sweetheart of South Orange County.” The local press noted that “Saddleback JC, already a reality, will open its doors next fall, another event that will shape the lives of many people in the years to come.”

Following a 54-day construction marathon, Saddleback College was ready to welcome 1,546 freshmen for the start of the fall 1968 quarter. Now, over 40 years later, thriving suburban communities dot the hillsides where cattle used to roam. Saddleback College has developed into one of California’s finest community colleges, with students ranging in age from teenagers to centenarians.

During the 1970s and ’80s, Saddleback College carried on a major construction
program, beginning with the James B. Utt Library, completed in 1973. The Math/Science building (1974) was next followed by the Physical Education/Athletics and Fine Arts complexes (1977), the Business/General Studies building (1986), the Technology/Applied Science building (1989) and the Student Services Center (1990). More recently the Health Sciences/District Offices building was opened in spring 2005.

Since the 1970s, the college has experienced a dramatic growth in enrollment – burgeoning from 3,025 to nearly 40,000 students. As Saddleback College grew, so did its reputation for excellence, attracting teachers and administrators from throughout the United States. Together they have created a dynamic, constantly evolving learning environment where students are challenged to fulfill their potential and encouraged to achieve their goals.

The excellence of Saddleback College’s programs and faculty can best be
measured by the success of the college’s alumni in their academic pursuits
at four-year universities and in the professional world. In addition to being a center of learning, Saddleback College has developed into one of south Orange County’s premier cultural and recreational sites. The campus hosts film festivals, music and dance concerts, lectures by renowned newsmakers and scholars, and is home to an award-winning theatre arts program. Its men’s and women’s intercollegiate athletic teams have achieved a solid reputation for success and hold more than 100 conference, state and national titles. On-campus sports facilities include a golf driving range and putting greens, aquatics complex, football stadium, baseball and softball fields, gymnasium and fitness facilities, tennis courts, and all-weather track

Saddleback College has become an integral part of the south Orange County landscape, linking education with community growth and vitality. After four decades, Saddleback College continues to strengthen its ties with the communities it serves and to help residents fulfill their dreams and aspirations.

Click here for a brief pictorial history about Saddleback College from the district.

The following video is a compilation of the interviews conducted for the book Making History: The First Years of Saddleback College.


Jack Swartzbaugh, Dona Anderson, Robert Olson, Jean Vincenzi, Bob Parsons, Bonnie Cogbill, Melvin Mitchell, Linda Rice, Grace Lang, Bill Williams, George Hartman, Bill Otta, Jim Thorpe, Rey Kero, Lee Rhodes.