The first junior college in California was established in Fresno in 1910, stirring interest in the concept across the state including attempts in Stockton in 1917, which failed due to inadequate enrollment, and in 1920, when the Stockton Board of Education formally agreed upon an institution but provided no funds. It was at College of the Pacific, a private, Methodist College located in Stockton since 1924, that the origins of San Joaquin Delta College began to emerge. In 1934 and under the direction of Dr. Tully Knoles and Dr. Dwayne Orton, head of the Pacific Speech Department, the College of Pacific Coordinating Committee recommended the formation of a lower division program to admit high school students not fully qualified for regular Pacific admission and for Pacific students who failed to maintain satisfactory performance. The committee put the plan into motion in February of 1934, naming Dr. Orton as principal of the College of the Pacific Junior College. The program's courses were listed in the Pacific catalog of 1934-35, and 73 students were enrolled in the private junior college that fall. Thus began the formative years.
Pacific officials offered to turn the program over to the Stockton Board of Education, which was paying $30,000 annually for local students to attend distant public junior colleges, and just days before the start of the 1935 fall semester, the State Board of Education authorized the partnership between the two entities. Stockton Junior College was formed in the fall of 1935 with space and equipment rented from College of Pacific. Faculty from College of the Pacific taught classes but were employed and responsible to the Stockton Board of Education.
The success of the operation was so notable that Pacific abandoned freshmen and sophomore instruction in the spring of 1936, bequeathing all such instruction to the junior college. The two institutions shared facilities through World War II, when the junior college added another unique, although temporary, feature: running an aviation school in Nevada. Science instructor Dr. Arthur T. Bawden succeeded Dr. Orton in this period.
Successful leadership ensued with Dr. Bawden, followed by a triumvirate of three individuals — Lorraine Knoles, Burke W. Bradley, and Louis Windmiller in 1948.
Stockton Junior College became Stockton College in 1948, with Dr. Leon Minear as president and a total student body of just under 2,000. The physical change was even more evident, with classes being moved to a 43-acre site to the south of College of the Pacific's campus. The educational pattern changed as well, as the Stockton school system restructured into six years of elementary instruction, four years of junior high, and an additional four years combining the junior and senior years of high school with the freshman and sophomore years of college. The physical separation of Stockton College and College of the Pacific was followed in 1951 by the recommencement of lower division class offerings at Pacific.
In the decade of the 1950s, the educational needs of the area became greater than the geographical focus of Stockton College. In 1952, Dr. Julio Bortolazzo took charge of the campus as the College began a different approach. It expanded its vocational programs and implemented the 6-4-4 plan. Dr. Burke Bradley, Jr., followed Bortolazzo as president after which San Joaquin Delta College became the successor to Stockton College. Legally separated from Stockton Unified School District in 1963, the College encompassed virtually all of San Joaquin County and portions of three other counties. Dr. Bradley remained as Superintendent/President of the newly formed San Joaquin Delta Community College District.
The separation from Stockton Unified School District made Delta College a tenant on land owned by SUSD. In 1966, a bond election failed to develop a multi-campus college district. In 1968-69, Dr. Bortolazzo returned for one year to head a successful bond campaign that provided funding for a portion of construction of a new $50 million campus. The Rio Vista-Isleton area in Solano County was annexed during this time as well.
Dr. Joseph Blanchard was named Superintendent/President of Delta College in 1969. He combined $19.8 million in construction bonds with funds from six other sources, and over the next seven years directed the building of Delta's first permanent home.
With the addition of part of Calaveras County in the summer of 1976, the San Joaquin Delta Community College District grew to 2,300 square miles, larger than the states of Delaware or Rhode Island, and now serves approximately 23,000 students.
Dr. Blanchard's retirement in 1976 prompted college trustees to make a nation-wide search for a new leader that resulted in the selection of Dr. Dale Parnell, former Chancellor of the San Diego Community College District and Superintendent of Public Instruction in Oregon. Dr. Parnell, resigned on July 1, 1981, to assume a position as president and chief executive officer of the American Association of Community and Junior Colleges.
In June of 1981, the Board of Trustees chose Lawrence A. DeRicco as Superintendent/President. Dr. DeRicco, a graduate of the old Stockton College, had been an educator and businessman throughout the District before serving as Delta College's Business Manager and Vice President/Management Services for 18 years. Under Dr. DeRicco, the College entered a new era of limitations and consolidation with many foreseeable changes. During that time, DeRicco received an honorary Doctorate in Education from his alma mater, the University of the Pacific, for his contributions to the field of education. Dr. DeRicco retired in June of 1987 after 24 years of service to the District.
In 1987, Dr. L. H. Horton, Jr., was appointed Superintendent/President. During his tenure, he oversaw the construction of a new central plant and Child Development Center, and initiated the development of a new learning center in Tracy. Horton, the longest serving President to date, retired from the College in 1999 after 13 years of service.
The millennium brought a new Superintendent/President, Edward O. Gould, Ed.D, in February 2000 to guide the College into the 21st century. He had served as Vice Chancellor of Student Services at the California Community College Chancellor's Office where he developed and recommended policy for the state's 107 colleges and 71 districts in the areas of student services and services to special populations. He was also former Superintendent/President of Victor Valley College and Monterey Peninsula College.
Dr. Raúl Rodríguez joined Delta College in fall 2002 as the next Superintendent/President. Under Dr. Rodríguez, a $250 million bond initiative was passed by the voters in 2004. The bond is being used to upgrade and expand the Stockton campus, establish and extend education centers in the College's service area. In 2009, the College completed renovation of the outdoor athletic facilities and completed construction of the Lawrence and Alma DeRicco Student Services Building which consolidated all student services functions including the Offices of Admissions and Records, Financial Aid and Veterans Services, Guidance and Counseling, and Assessment Services under one roof. The building serves as the students' gateway to Delta College. In 2010, the College reopened the newly renovated Goleman Library, a state-of-the-art learning resources center. After eight years, Rodríguez left to assume a new position as Chancellor of the Rancho Santiago Community College District.
In the spring of 2011, after a national search, the Board of Trustees named Dr. Jeff Marsee as the College's ninth Superintendent/President. Dr. Marsee began serving the College on May 1, 2011. He served until February 2012 when Assistant Superintendent/Vice President of Instruction, Dr. Kathleen Hart was appointed Acting Superintendent/President. Eight months later, in October 2012, she was permanently appointed as the tenth Superintendent/President of the College.
The fall of 2014 saw the demolition of Cunningham Center and the dedication of a new state of the art Science and Mathematics facility. The new building includes a Math/Science Learning Center, science labs, classrooms, lecture halls, and faculty offices. The Shima expansion project was also completed to house the diesel/heavy equipment shops and classrooms. It was dedicated in the spring of 2015.
Originally opened in 1994, the Delta College Child Development Center was rededicated in the spring of 2016 in memory of longtime Dean and Career Technical Education advocate, Dr. Hazel Hill. Dr. Hill was instrumental in the development and construction of the center and for many years worked tirelessly in support of students pursuing their educational goals. She had served the College and community for over 35 years as faculty, Division Chairperson, and Dean of Career Technical Education.
Delta College is proud to serve an area that launched California into world prominence, for the Mother Lode era brought about the great western expansion.