The University of Hawaii has been running television ads in an effort to get support for its community colleges. One of the ads notes that the community college system is 50 years old. University of Hawaii Maui College is the descendant of a school established by the county 83 years ago.
In 1931, Maui was a sleepy agricultural community. Most of its 56,000 residents depended - one way or another - on the plantations to put food on the table. The County of Maui Board of Supervisors saw the need for training high school graduates into a skilled workforce. They established Maui Vocational School.
Students were trained in carpentry, masonry, metal working, auto mechanics and other manual arts. Women weren't completely ignored. There were homemaker and dressmaking classes. A major achievement of the woodworking students was the construction of a 65-foot boat.
Harry Baldwin commissioned the boat to carry horses and cattle between Maui and his Kaho'olawe Ranch. Ernest Hood was in charge of the two-year project. Decades later, Hiroshi Arisumi, one the students who worked on the boat, quoted Hood as saying, "You can build anything after you build a boat." The boat was christened the Maizie C, launched on March 25, 1937, and confiscated by the U.S. Army during World War II.
In 1949, Maui Vocational School moved to a site on Kaahumanu Avenue. That same year, Dream City, the residential heart of Kahului, was started, guaranteeing plenty of construction jobs. Six years later, the school went through one of its many name changes. It became Maui Technical School.
Maui's need for liberal arts education began in 1950 with the establishment of Maunaolu (junior) College on Baldwin Avenue where the Job Corps is located today. Fifteen years later, Maunaolu was taken over by the United States International University and closed in the 1970s.
The effort to turn Maui Vocational School into a community college began in 1962. An editorial in The Maui News opposed the effort on grounds the island already had a community college, Maunaolu, which had no objections. A poll of Maui residents showed support for a second community college. The University of Hawaii Board of Regents gave priority to establishing a community college on Maui. And so it was, in 1966, two years after Hawaii's community college system was established.
Vocational training didn't end. The state Department of Education designated the school as a DOE agency for vocational training. Classes for old and young students mostly interested in learning marketable skills continue today.
The first order of business for MCC was to begin turning the Maui Vocational School site into a college campus. In a deal with Alexander & Baldwin, 70 acres was acquired. Ground was broken in 1966. Since then, MCC has grown building by building into the parklike campus it is today. As a sign of the times, a small constellation of the lights was added for the safety of female instructors and students.
One of the features of the campus was created by Raymond "Red" Texeira - a stainless steel sculpture. Red taught classes in hands-on welding at the school. Although he considered himself a "practical welder," he was encouraged by MCC instructor Marian Blanton to use his skills to create art.
At one point, MCC was seen as a theater-arts center. Plans were drawn up in 1969 for an 850-seat theater. It was never to be. Today, MCC's and Maui's theater needs have been satisfied by the nearby Maui Arts & Cultural Center, distastefully - personal opinion - referred to by one and all as the "Mack."
While MCC awarded thousands of associate degrees, the school occasionally dipped into controversy with student demonstrations and protests. One notable example came in 1970 when a student group invited nationally known Yippie leader Jerry Rubin.
Maui County Council Member Joe Bulgo took offense at the radical anti-establishment spokesman being allowed on the campus. Bulgo donned his best cowboy attire and showed up at the meeting with a lariat in hand, ready to lasso Rubin and drag him off. Cooler heads prevailed.
Through the years, Maui County has augmented what the state was willing to spend. One example was helping MCC's highly successful nursing program at the suggestion of the Maui Community Hospitals Board in 1970.
University of Hawaii Maui College has traveled a long road, led by enthusiastic instructors and the island's 83-year-old desire to give its children every advantage . . . without leaving home.
* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is email@example.com.