Thursday, November 11, 2004

Ground broken for $11.5 million Vallejo campus

By SARAH ROHRS, Times-Herald staff writer

"Pride" is the word Rosemary Thurston used to describe what her late husband, Bill Thurston of Vallejo, would feel had he lived long enough for Wednesday's groundbreaking of the new Solano Community College satellite campus in Vallejo.

"He worked so hard to accomplish this and to help get this accomplished," said Thurston's widow after a ceremony that drew at least 100 educational and civic leaders from all levels of government, including Congressman George Miller, D-Martinez.

Thurston died in July, just a few months before the project he worked on reached its first significant milestone. He served three consecutive terms on the college board and taught political science and history at the school from 1972 to 1992.

Construction should start on the 46,000-square-foot campus in the fall of 2005 after the school secures all the necessary approvals and permits. Students will likely begin attending classes there in late 2006 or early 2007.

"We are growing and we are very exciting about the partnerships we are forming," said college president Paulette Perfumo.

The new satellite campus will be 4.5 times bigger than the campus at JFK Library in downtown Vallejo. New courses will be offered, and a partnership with Sonoma State University will make it possible for students to earn bachelor's degrees.

"This is an incredible opportunity for the students in this part of the county to take advance of what the college has to offer," said student board member Lisa La Farga of Fairfield, who is majoring in English.

Built on a 10-acre site along Columbus Parkway, east of St. John Mine's Road, the $11.5 million Vallejo Center will consist of two main buildings.

Named after Thurston, the larger building will include classrooms, science laboratories, computer laboratories, learning laboratory, and offices. The other will house an art classroom, auditorium and multiuse room serving the physical education, dance and theater programs.

Recent heavy rain forced the college to move the ceremonial event to the nearby parking lot of the Hyde Park offices, a Mandarich Development that includes homes, and retail centers.

The setting seemed appropriate, however, since the new satellite campus will be part of an area of Vallejo that is growing with more retail and residential areas.

"The college will be such an important part of that," said Mayor Tony Intintoli. He thanked voters for passing Measure G, a $124.5 million bond that will finance the new campus.

Congressman Miller said the new facility is testament to the college's philosophy, which is that education should be accessible and responsive to the community. He said satellite campuses will be more critical as the Bay Area grows.

"The biggest investment is in educational resources. That's why families decide to locate here and why businesses move here," Miller said.

- Sarah Rohrs can be reached at 553-6832 or

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