A Case for Cooledge

New Building Construction
Roofers and masons work on City College’s new building. Photo by Elizabeth Ramirez.

From Rodda to Lillard, to Lusk and Hughes there are more than a few named structures at City College.

Of the 24 significant landmarks listed on the City College campus map, eight are named after administrators, professors or coaches Of those eight, only the Fischbacher Fine Arts Building is named after a woman.

Amalia Fischbacher was a City College art instructor for 35 years, who was widely known for her love of color. Inside the Fischbacher building resides the Kondos gallery, named for Gregory Kondos, a renowned local painter.

But before all of these administrators, teachers and coaches rose to prominence, Belle Cooledge was the original professor administrator and advocate of City College.

Cooledge was the first de-facto president of Sacramento Junior College when it was founded in 1916. She served as the school’s only administrator until Jeremiah B. Lillard came on the scene in 1923. Lillard took up the title of president, and Cooledge was named vice-president and dean of women. After dedicating 31 years to the school, Cooledge retired in 1947 and went on to serve a term as mayor­—the first female to hold the position in Sacramento.

Yet there is no Cooledge building.

In the 1972, there was a movement to name one of the new buildings after Cooledge. Letters from the Los Rios School District Board, the American Association of University Women, and the Sacramento City Council arrived, all throwing their support behind the idea. Nothing came of this movement.

With the current construction of the “student services building” next to Rodda Hall, it is time to remedy this oversight.

This new building should be dedicated to Belle Cooledge to commemorate the great woman who devoted over three decades to the fledgling college, and without whom, we would not have the flourishing school we enjoy today.

Even more fitting, perhaps, is that the new building is to house “student services.” Cooledge was not only an administrator. She took a personal interest in the students and was known to offer advice not just on academics, but on real-life problems. Cooledge took the time to know the students on a personal level and helped them in any way she could.

One of the most-told and most-loved anecdotes of Cooledge was captured by former English teacher Lloyd Bruno writing for the now-defunct Suttertown News. “[Cooledge] dispensed student loans from a cigar box she kept in her desk, replenishing it with contributions from the PTA, the patrons’ association, and her own money.”

She often went above and beyond her official role for her students. Cooledge was never married, and she never had any children. City College is truly her legacy. It is time to name one of our halls after our college’s true alma mater.

Originally published in the Express – City College’s student-run newspaper on 3/26/2014.  Find the Express Story HERE.

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