FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 3, 2007
University Center to be Named for Van Hook
The Santa Clarita Community College District Board of Trustees voted unanimously Wednesday night to name the University Center building to be constructed on the College of the Canyons campus, the Dianne G. Van Hook University Center. In naming the Center after Van Hook, the trustees cited her "tireless commitment to enhancing access to education, her belief in the power of dreaming big and never giving up, and her premise that we, as individuals and institutions, become what we give ourselves the power to be."
The action came during a joint meeting of the District Board of Trustees and the College of the Canyons Foundation Board held in the lobby of the college's Performing
Arts Center, before an overflow crowd of well wishers and supporters.
"I am deeply honored and humbled by this gesture of the Board and am very grateful to have this building named after me," said Van Hook. "It hasn't been easy, but no project of this magnitude and complexity could be accomplished without a steadfast resolve to see it through," stressed Van Hook. "I am particularly thrilled that we can all celebrate the fruits of what this Center will provide the Santa Clarita Valley for many
years to come. From fundraisers Congressman Buck McKeon, to Tom Lee and Lou Garasi; to corporate and individual donors; to the enlightened folks at the state level; to the college staff, to those who contributed whatever they could to this noble and worthwhile cause," said Van Hook, "we can all be proud and pleased about the access to education the University Center will provide our community. I am just delighted to have my efforts recognized and my name associated with it."
Both Lee and Garasi addressed the boards and praised Van Hook for her leadership and vision. "The naming of this University Center," said Garasi, "is the way that our childrens' children, and maybe even their children will understand what Dianne Van Hook has done for this community.
The idea is such a powerful one that the U. S. Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings will visit the college on Friday, May 4, to learn about its implementation and take away some "best practices" ideas that have the potential of being replicated across the country. Board of Trustees president, Michele Jenkins, pointed out that the role of the community college has always been about providing access to higher education for those who want and need it. She praised Van Hook, the college's foundation and several programs at the college - particularly the financial aid office - for their efforts in doing everything they can to provide that access. She noted that Secretary Spelling's visit to the college is a testament to the University Center concept as a "cost-effective way of delivering higher education at the local level."
The University Center concept was Van Hook's brainchild, an idea that she nurtured for several years. She became convinced of the need for a way to provide advanced degrees to residents of the Santa Clarita Valley after hearing story after story from frustrated students who, for a variety of reasons, couldn't gain access to 4-year universities because of freeway issues, child care issues, unavailability of needed programs, work schedules and other roadblocks.
She also heard from business owners who expressed frustrations about the Santa Clarita Valley not having enough appropriately trained employees to hire. Three separate surveys of the community revealed that businesses wanted and needed skilled graduates. Van Hook listened carefully, and the University Center concept was born.
To prove a point, Van Hook arranged for an Interim University Center to operate on the College of the Canyons campus in 2000. First to sign on to the idea was California State University, Bakersfield which brought degree programs in communications and liberal studies as well as a credential program in school administration and a multi-subject teaching credential. These programs were wildly popular and, over the years, hundreds of graduates attest to the value of being able to earn advanced degrees locally.
The University of LaVerne followed suit and brought programs in business administration as well as a master's degree program in school counseling. These programs also took off and, over the last seven years, those universities have been joined by CSU Fresno, Chapman University, CSU Northridge, ELS Language Centers, and National University. Now, more than two dozen degree and certificate programs operate out of a temporary facility on campus. Since 2002, more than 13,000 students have enrolled in classes at the temporary facility and nearly 750 have received degrees. Additional universities are awaiting the construction of the permanent Center to bring their programs.
After nearly seven years of focused effort by Van Hook that included an aggressive fundraising campaign, a successful strategy at the state level for funding and the development of some innovative partnerships locally, the idea is moving from concept to reality thanks to the help of fundraising co-chairs Tom Lee, Lou Garasi, Congressman McKeon and the many people who have helped at the college as well as in the community. "It takes a team to build a University Center," said Van Hook, "and we had a great one."
On March 16, ground was broken on a permanent building that will provide 110,000 square feet of space on a portion of the College of the Canyons campus overlooking the I-5 freeway and sweeping views of the Santa Clarita Valley. The building will not only house the programs of university partners, but will also include at a minimum the William S. Hart District's Academy of the Canyons, the Technology Business Incubator initiative, customized training programs for local business and industry, a professional development institute on teaching, contract education and extension programs.