In 1947, the state of Florida passed legislation promoting public junior colleges—Pensacola Junior College was the first institution to result. Upon inception, it was the only available higher education in Pensacola.
The school opened its doors on Sept. 8, 1948 in a stately old home on the corner of Cervantes and Palafox streets. The turn of the century residence was built by a ship captain and willed to his daughter, Elizabeth Aiken. Aiken rented the home to the school boards of both Santa Rosa and Escambia counties for use by the new college. A local businessman named James Allen paid the rent for the upstart school for the first few years. The liberal arts building was subsequently named after him.
The school successfully enrolled 128 students for the first term. The original staff consisted of six full-time and four part-time teachers. The enrollment doubled in 1949 with the addition of evening classes.
In 1953, the college outgrew its humble facilities and moved one block south into a building formerly occupied by Pensacola High School. One year later, Dr. Henry L. Ashmore was named the first president of the college. Following accreditation in 1956, the college moved once more to its current Pensacola Campus on the corner of Ninth Avenue and College Boulevard. The land was provided by the city of Pensacola and the Baars Estate.
On July 1, 1968, PJC was separated from the Escambia County Board of Public Instruction. The PJC District was created, which included both Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, and the PJC Advisory Committee was redesigned as the district’s Board of Trustees.
In the early 1970s, the school expanded with two additional campuses. First, the Milton Campus was created in 1971, followed by the Warrington Campus in 1975. The Warrington Campus came as a result of a U.S. Government donation of 165 acres of land off Highway 98.
With a little help from the community and the city, the college has grown to an institution that services over 30,000 people annually. Along with satellite campuses downtown and at NAS, PSC currently operates five college campuses in northwest Florida. Most recently, the school began offering four-year programs that prompted a name change. Pensacola Junior College became Pensacola State College with the extended curriculum.
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