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Dr. Robert C. Rockwell, hired as the first Superintendent-President of College of the Canyons in July 1968, died on his 87th birthday Friday.
Rockwell served as Superientendent-President until his retirement in June 1979. During his tenure, COC grew from 736 night students on the Hart High campus to the current site located on 154 acres just off Interstate 5 at Valencia Blvd.
"The College of the Canyons community is saddened to learn of Dr. Rockwell's death," said Dr. Dianne Van Hook, current superintendent-president of COC. "He and the founding members of College of the Canyons opened the doors of higher education for thousands of people in the Santa Clarita Valley. The reputation College of the Canyons enjoys today, as a quality, forward-thinking, and results-oriented place is in part due to the tone, the expectations, and the actions begun so long ago by Dr. Rockwell."
Rockwell came to COC from Santa Barbara City College and coordinated the first Facilities Master Plan. Bruce Fortine, a member of the college Board of Trustees both then and now said Rockwell came to COC because he was excited about building a college from the ground up.
Rockwell played a hand in hiring the first instructors, developing new curriculums, planning for and overseeing the construction of the first permanent buildings on campus and fighting for voter approval of a bond issue for additional building in 1973.
From the Bonelli Instructional Resources Center to tri-level gymnasium to the Vocational-Technical building, Rockwell labored to complete his dream of a dynamic, responsive college campus.
Rockwell was a proponent of providing wide-ranging educational opportunities for students, encouraging sports programs, the arts and vocational opportunities as well as academic programs.
Born Oct. 6, 1913, Rockwell attended Carpenteria High School and graduated from Harvard in 1935 earning a Bachelor of Science degree in English. He served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. On the GI Bill, he earned a master's degree and a doctorate in education from USC while teaching English at Fullerton College.
Rockwell was an administrator at Cerritos College before moving to Santa Barbara City College as its superintendent-president.
After his retirement from COC, Rockwell continued to teach, this time to U.S. Army personnel in Japan. In 1980, he moved to San Diego County where he served 12 years on the governing board of MiraCosta Community College District.
Rockwell is survived by his wife, Betty; son Robert G. and daughter-in-law Addie Rockwell of Hemit; daughter Linda and son-in-law Bud Zeuschner of San Luis Obispo; daughter Ann Rockwell of Placerville; three grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.
Memorial services will be held at the United Methodist Church in Encinitas at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 15. The family requests that donations in his name be made to the COC Foundation in a scholarship fund to benefit graduates of Santa Clarita Valley high schools.
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