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Fifty years of higher education Allison K. Sampite | Sat, Apr 02 2011 12:00 PM

Southwestern College celebrated its 50th anniversary Tuesday. It's come a long way from a bean field.

More than 80 years ago the land was a ranch where lima beans were raised and there was no one around for miles.

In 1960 Joe Rindone, who was head of the Sweetwater Union High School District, wanted to start a junior college in the South Bay and, after a majority vote in November, a $6 million bond was issued to build the college.

Initially called Sweetwater Junior College, Chet DeVore, Chula Vista High School's vice principal, arranged for college classes to begin on the high school campus.

Construction for the college broke ground in 1963 and DeVore predicted it would become the "cultural center of the South Bay."

Today, Southwestern College serves approximately 20,000 students every semester and offers more than 300 associate degree and certificate options.

At Tuesday's event, a display of artifacts marked the institution's history.

"We tried to kick off the anniversary celebration and look back at all the things that have brought the college to this point - how it's evolved and how it's connected by its past," college spokesman Chris Bender said. "There are lives and hopes and dreams invested in that place."

Memorabilia from past sports teams was displayed including uniforms and mascots throughout the years, as well as past college catalogs and student newspapers.

Southwestern College also has campuses in National City and San Ysidro.

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