A College Born of the Community's Needs
South Puget Sound Community College grew organically out of the educational needs of the community. In September 1962, the Olympia School District founded the current college as Olympia Vocational Technical Institute (OVTI) in the Montgomery Ward Building in downtown Olympia. OVTI was the formalization of the adult education offerings the school district began offering in 1957 out of Olympia High School.
OVTI thrived in its downtown home, adding programs and meeting the community’s adult vocational education needs. In 1967, the passage of the Community College Act presented a decision for OVTI: stay with the Olympia School District or join the state community college system. That choice led to the institute merging into District 12 with the long-established Centralia College.
Anticipating the coming growth in the area, the district purchased the land that is now the present day Olympia campus and OVTI set up shop on Mottman Road in 1971. For the first five years, the entire college was housed in 10 modular buildings. Programs continued to grow, with the addition of automotive, welding, horseshoeing, Licensed Practical Nursing and more.
The first permanent building, the College Center, was completed in spring 1976. That same year, OVTI became Olympia Technical Community College (OTCC) and had the unique distinction of being the only community college in the state devoted entirely to technical education.
With students were demanding more and OTCC wanted to provide it, in 1980, the Board of Trustees called for the addition of an academic transfer program. In 1982, the college awarded its first Associate of Arts degree. That same year, the college added 31 more acres of land to the campus. In 1984, in recognition of its growth and the broadening of its mission, the college name was changed one last time, to South Puget Sound Community College.
As the college matured, it also longed for independence. After several years, the college split from District 12, and in 1988, under House Bill 1361, formed its own autonomous district. The new district, number 24, encompassed all of Thurston County, except the Rochester and Tenino school districts and the Thurston County portion of the Centralia School District.
To better meet the needs of the growing north Thurston County, in fall 1995, the college opened a satellite center in Hawks Prairie Village Mall in Lacey as the Hawks Prairie Center. In, 2005 the college purchased 54.5 acres on Marvin Road in Lacey for a second permanent campus.
Today, more than 7,000 students each quarter seek education at South Puget Sound Community College. The college remains responsive to the changing educational needs the district’s residents and plays a most prominent role in a county that is fortunately rich in higher education opportunities.