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Doug Ernst

Napa Valley Register columnist Doug Ernst.

Not many 75-year-olds have birthday parties that last a whole year, but Napa Valley College will celebrate for 365 days between the Independence Day parade in downtown Napa next week and the July 4 parade next year.

The college will send public invitations to the many thousands of students, parents, families, teachers, staff members, administrators and public officials who have supported the institution of higher learning since 1941.

Alumni date back to World War II, when families flocked to the West Coast in search of jobs in the defense industry.

Thanks to Mare Island Naval Shipyard and Basalt quarry, Napa was the third-fastest-growing city on the West Coast in October, 1942, trailing Los Angeles and Oakland.

Dr. Harry McPherson, the Napa High School principal and future first president of the college, made job training available by gaining public support for a school bond that would create a junior college as part of Napa High School.

A $650,000 bond issue received more than 90 percent of the vote in June, 1941.

The college expanded to its current location in 1965 and later became Napa Valley Community College.

Many changes have taken place at the college, which prepares students for four-year universities and also remains a job training center with industrial technology programs that have employers waiting outside the doors to grab newly certified welders and machinists.

The same is true for a host of other NVC programs that – year after year – prepare students for job-ready psychiatric technicians, nurses, police officers, winemakers, vineyard workers, child development professionals, hospitality workers and managers, respiratory therapists, paramedics, engineers, graphic designers and draftsman.

Over the years, the college opened a second campus that features the Napa Valley Cooking School, whose graduates snap up jobs with top chefs in top restaurants.

The college and its graduates contribute about $300 million to the local economy every year.

The Honorary Chairman for NVC’s 75th Anniversary is Mike Thompson, who attended NVC on the GI Bill after serving in Vietnam, and went on to become a United States Congressman representing our local district.

Other famous graduates will join the college celebration, including, well, you.

This is the first public shout-out inviting folks to tell what the college has meant to the Napa Valley, its families and its economy.

Please take this opportunity to publicly share stories about the impact of the college on individuals, families and communities in the Napa Valley and beyond.

Celebrating a birthday is more than an excuse to have fun and enjoy cake. It is also an appropriate way to say something about how the guest of honor has enriched our lives and continues to help the people we love.

NVC is inviting residents to tell their stories so that the next generation might realize they could attend and someday tell their own stories of enrichment, employment and success.

If you have a story to tell, please let me know at doug.ernst@napavalley.edu or 256-7112. Thank you.

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Doug Ernst is the Napa Valley College public information officer. Reach him at DErnst@napavalley.edu or (707) 256-7112.

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