This module will provide an overview of the history of El Camino College. The learning
outcome for this module is for new faculty to recognize the history, role and importance
of El Camino College. Click the sections below to learn more about both colleges.
El Camino is Spanish for "The Road." The road refers to California's first road: "El Camino Real," which means "The King's Road," or "The Royal Road."
Fray Junipero Serra (1713-1784), a Spanish Franciscan priest, explorer and colonizer of California, founded the missions of California along this dirt road. In his 15 years as padre president, he established nine of his 21 missions, each a one-day walk apart (about 30 miles), and all linked by the "El Camino Real." The road stretches from the Mexican border to north of San Francisco.
El Camino Real was distinguished by numerous markers of a single bell suspended on an upside down hook-shaped pole. All of them are tributes to California's first road.
In 1946, after strong recommendations by a consulting team to establish a two-year college in the Inglewood-South Bay area, the governing boards of the Centinela Valley, Redondo, Inglewood and El Segundo districts won 10-1 voter approval for the creation of a junior college.
Torrance soon joined the newly chartered group, and the El Camino Community College District was officially established on July 1, 1947.
Located centrally in the South Bay, the El Camino Community College District encompasses five unified and high school districts, 12 elementary school districts and nine cities - a population of nearly 533,000 residents.
Early classrooms were surplus World War II barracks which were trucked north from the old Santa Ana Army Air Base in Orange County.
The first permanent building for classroom instruction was the shop building, which opened in 1949. The women’s gym, field house, another shop building and the social science building followed. Major construction was the order of business nearly every year during the growth years of the college.
El Camino College’s buildings cover 1,129,112 square feet and were built at a cost of $28 million. That means 27 structures were completed without any bonded indebtedness to the District.
In November 2002, voters of the El Camino Community College District approved a $394 million facilities bond measure. The successful passage of this first-ever bond measure will allow the District to build several new buildings, engage in major remodeling and reconstruction of others, and take steps to improve the health and safety of students and employees.
History was made again in November 2012 when District voters approved Measure E, a $350 million facilities bond measure. Measure E will provide funds for safety, technology, and energy-saving improvements to classrooms, labs and other instructional facilities.
Bond money can be used only on facilities and equipment. None of it can be used for salaries or programs. A Citizens Bond Oversight Committee provides an annual report to the public regarding the use of the funds.
As the college mushroomed from an enrollment of fewer than 500 in 1946 to more than
27,000 students today, the curriculum expanded to include not only lower division
courses but an honors program and numerous vocational programs. Today, El Camino College
students enjoy a broad curriculum featuring nearly 2,500 different classes offered
in some 850 different programs. With more courses available during a variety of class
times, including online and telecourses, students have wide flexibility in individual
The college confers the associate degree each spring on some 1,200 students who have completed their 60 semester units and who have satisfied their major field of study obligations. Many students each year also qualify for certificates of completion, signifying course requirements have been met in major skill areas.
The college is a reflection of its five presidents. Forrest G. Murdock, the founding president, served until his retirement in 1958. He was succeeded by Dr. Stuart E. Marsee, whose tenure saw 24 years of building and growth. Retiring in 1982, he turned the campus over to Dr. Rafael Cortada. Dr. Cortada's legacy to the college was the establishment of the El Camino Community College Foundation which raises funds for programs not supported through the general budget. Dr. Sam Schauerman, who had served the college first as a dean of instruction, then as vice president of instruction, became El Camino College's fourth president in 1987. He retired in 1995.
The fifth president was Thomas M. Fallo, who took office July 1, 1995. He had been vice president of administrative services. He remained president until 2016.
Dr. Dena Maloney joined El Camino as the sixth president in 2016. During her tenure she worked with the CEO of Compton College to help Compton regain its accreditation. She also helped to modernize many aspects of the college during her five years, making major progress on many aspects at the college.
El Camino College's seventh and current president is Dr. Brenda Thames. Dr. Thames came to El Camino during the middle of the COVID-19 Pandemic from West Hills College Coalinga, where she also served as President.
This video was recorded by El Camino faculty on October 16, 2012.