San Juan College will mark 60th anniversary

School will mark milestone with community open house and tours for local high school students

Joshua Kellogg
From left, Jack Echols, Edna Weinig and an unidentified representative from New Mexico State University pose in July 1967 at the groundbreaking for the first building at what is now San Juan College's main campus in Farmington. The college, which started as a branch of New Mexico State University, previously held classes at Farmington High School.

FARMINGTON — San Juan College will celebrate its 60th anniversary this week with an open house on Thursday and a tour for high school students on Friday.

The college was founded as the San Juan Branch of New Mexico State University in 1956. The first class of 25 students attended lectures at the old Farmington High School on East Apache Street.

The first building of the school’s permanent campus on College Boulevard was built in 1968, according to college spokeswoman Rhonda Schaefer. The college left the NMSU system and became an independent school in 1982.

Student success has been the No. 1 priority for the college, and staff and administrators still strive toward that objective, said college President Toni Pendergrass.

This 1968 photo shows the first building constructed at the San Juan branch of New Mexico State University, which is now San Juan College. The college will celebrate its 60th anniversary with a community open house on Thursday.

Among two- and four-year community colleges in New Mexico, San Juan College ranks fifth in enrollment, Schaefer said. More than 15,000 students enroll at the college each year.

The college was also second in the nation for the number of Native American graduates who earn associate degrees, according to Community College Week. In the 2012-2013 school year, 169 Native American students earned associate degrees from the school.

This is the second year the college will host a spring open house. About 250 people attended the event last year, said Nancy Shepherd, the college's presidential adviser for community relations.

“It was really good for our first try,” Shepherd said.

This year, a birthday celebration will take place at the start of the open house. Cake and refreshments will also be served.

Visitors can also visit the more than 40 informational booths in the Health and Human Performance Center that will highlight programs, events and activities at the college.

Tours will be conducted at the School of Health Sciences and the School of Trades and Technology buildings. Shepherd said students and professors will offer hands-on activities and demonstrations for tour participants.

An aerial photo shows construction of New Mexico State University's San Juan branch in 1973. The college became San Juan College in 1982.

On Friday morning, about 450 high school students from across San Juan County will tour the campus, Shepherd said. Students will visit each of the college’s six schools, including the School of Humanities and the School of Energy.

As for the future, Pendergrass said the college is focused on improving its student retention rate. The college’s student retention rate increased slightly from about 52 percent in the fall 2014 semester to about 60 percent in the fall 2015 semester.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.


What: San Juan College 60th birthday party and open house

When: 4:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: Health and Human Performance Center at San Juan College, 4601 College Blvd. in Farmington

More info: Call the San Juan College Community Learning Center at 505-566-3461 or visit