By Hector M. Zermeno
Riverside Community College District celebrated Riverside City College’s 100th anniversary along with Moreno Valley College’s and Norco College’s 25th anniversary.
The three district colleges came together to celebrate 100 years of history at the district’s Centennial Plaza located at the corner of University Avenue and Market Street in Downtown Riverside at 5 p.m. on March 13.
“We’re on a marquee corner,” said Chancellor Michael Burke about the location of the plaza. “It will, I think, bring attention to this downtown area in a way that hasn’t really been thought of as an arts entertainment center.”
Representatives from each college and various college programs flooded the event to showcase what RCCD has to offer.
Exhibitions the college programs put together filled the board room in the lower level of the district offices building. The programs displayed artifacts and documents from the past and the present including typewriters, nursing mannequins and the original grade roster from 1916.
Attendees were welcomed to walk the premises to view the amenities in the Culinary Arts Academy and the Coil School for the Arts.
The celebration moved to the courtyard at 6 p.m. to dedicate a plaque for the plaza.
Chancellor Burke and Virginia Blumenthal, the president of the Board of Trustees, gave a short speech before the unveiling of the plaque.
“We truly appreciate the city’s assistance,” Blumenthal said about the help RCC received from Riverside City Hall.
“Glad you’re our neighbor,” Riverside Mayor William “Rusty” Bailey shouted in response to Blumenthal.
RCC President Wolde-Ab Isaac and the Board of Trustees unveiled the commemorative plaque.
Mayor Bailey said he is proud to have Centennial Plaza located across City Hall.
“It truly is a dream becoming reality here in Downtown Riverside to have the investment of RCCD and institutions of higher learning,” Mayor Bailey said. “There’s so much synergy with arts and innovation in Riverside.”
A ribbon cutting ceremony took place inside the concert hall to mark the grand opening of the Henry W. Coil, Sr. & Alice Edna Coil School for the Arts.
The Board of Trustees and RCC President took to the stage to welcome the Coil family and thank them for their contribution that helped build the School for the Arts.
The audience gave a standing ovation as the Coil family entered the stage.
Henry W. Coil, Jr., with the help of Blumenthal, took the ceremonial scissors and cut the ribbon to inaugurate the school.
The RCC Chamber Singers followed with a performance of “This Marriage” by Eric Whitacre and “Daniel, Servant of the Lord” arranged by Stacey V. Gibbs.
“I think with this facility now we’re going to be growing like crazy,” said John Byun, associate professor of RCC’s music program. “We have a strong program now but this will make it stronger.”
Byun praised the RCC Chamber Singers for taking first place in the Folk Division and second place in the Mixed Division in 2015 at an international competition in Spittal an der Drau, Austria and for being invited to an international music festival in Krasnoyarsk, Russia this June.
The attendees retired to the rooftop garden where refreshments were made available by the students at the Culinary Academy. The students prepared bite-sized pastries, hors d’oeuvres and a cake decorated for the centennial celebration.
The celebration concluded with a firework display as Chancellor Burke made a toast celebrating the centennial and silver anniversaries of the colleges.
“I thank each of you who remain committed to our colleges and our students,” Burke said. “So let’s toast to a new chapter in RCCD history as we dedicate Centennial Plaza.”
“Lives will be changed and our community will be enriched through the educational programs offered in these buildings,” he continued.
The crowd gasped and cheered as the splendor of fireworks illuminated the sky above the plaza.
Classes at the Coil School for the Arts are scheduled to begin in the fall semester while the Culinary Academy is expecting to move from the Spruce Street facility into the plaza in April.