Once Upon a Time in El Cajon…

Explore the history behind Grossmont College.


Grossmont College is coming up on its 60th anniversary, and if you think nothing has changed since 1961, you might want to read this. 

Grossmont has changed a lot since the ’60s. However, it’s important to note how the college got started and became a success.

Grossmont, like other places in the area, got its name from the silent film actor and producer William J. Gross.

The campus was not always located in El Cajon, nor was it always located on a college campus. On Sept. 11, 1961, students attending the college were taking classes at Monte Valley High School in Spring Valley because the college campus had not been built yet. Classes began taking place on Sept. 14, 1964.

“They had a parade that went from Monte Vista to the High School,” said Grossmont Librarian Nadra Farina-Hess. “It was a huge celebration; it was the first community college in the area. I wish I could have been there.”

The college campus has expanded a lot over the years. It used to just be a one-story building.

“I had taught at three different colleges in Hawaii and San Diego and could tell Grossmont was the most focused on academics, so this is where I wanted to stay,” said Janice Bellinghiere, an English instructor. 

“We had several Latinx from families who had immigrated from different countries including Puerto Rico and Mexico,” Bellinghiere said. “Our instructors also included LGBT, Vietnam veterans and a Middle Easterner who spoke English, Arabic and Aramaic, not to mention our female dean and Mexican president.”

Grossmont always knew how to be creative and have fun. Normally, yearbooks stop after high school, however, the staff decided to continue with them, but with a twist. The school used to have yearbooks for the faculty only. While that did not continue, Hopefully, one day when the campus is fully open again the yearbook can be brought back along with the rest of the staff.

Another fun fact is that back then you could receive your grades in quite a few different ways, including over the phone. Yes, that is correct. Now we all just log in to Canvas and check them on there.

Grossmont College has had a successful run and is only going to continue being successful. Happy 60th, Grossmont. You have accomplished so much.