Sixty Years of Broward College – The Evolution of a College Dedicated to Community

When Broward College opened its doors in 1960, its goal was to serve a growing community in South Florida.

Broward County, established in 1915, had seen a slow but steady economic and population growth during its first few decades. But after World War II, between 1950 and 1970, the county experienced a population boom, which would see an average growth of 26,000 people per year. With a population of 620,000 people, the necessity for a college closer to home was evident, and, in 1959, Broward College was established as part of Florida’s plan to expand its two-year institutions.

The Junior College of Broward County

 reunion picture of alumni carrying symbolFirst known as the Junior College of Broward County under the leadership of founding President Joe B. Rushing, the College received its first class of 701 students at the former Naval Air Station Junior High near the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on September 6, 1960. A group of 28 faculty and 19 staff served the inaugural class.

In August 1963, the first campus opened in Davie, currently known as the A. Hugh Adams Central Campus. In 1968, the College changed its name to Broward Junior College, and in 1970, it changed again to Broward Community College.

By the late 1970s, two more campuses opened – the North Campus in Coconut Creek on February 27, 1972, and the Judson A. Samuels South Campus on January 17, 1978. Two centers soon joined the growing list of locations – the Willis Holcombe Center in Downtown Fort Lauderdale on October 1, 1973, and the Tigertail Lake Center in 1974.

Broward College was expanding throughout the county, and by the 1980s, it was serving well over 15,000 students and offering weekend classes.

The Leadership that Changed Broward College

 first broward college presidentSeven presidents have served Broward College since it opened. Dr. Joe B. Rushing, from 1960 to 1965, succeeded by Dr. Myron Blee for the next two years. In 1968, Dr. A. Hugh Adams assumed leadership of the institution and was one of the most influential presidents of the young College over the next 19 years. Dr. Adams was responsible for most of the expansion of the College, which included the North and South campuses and Downtown Center. His legacy was such that the District Board of Trustees named the Central Campus in his honor when he retired in 1986.

Dr. Willis Holcombe succeeded him from 1986 to 2003. He is remembered fondly by the staff who worked under his leadership. “Holcombe was such a sweetheart,” says wellness professor Nancy Estes, who has been at the College for 56 years. “You would see him on campus a lot. He would come over to the building and actually take an interest in talking to everybody, the students, the faculty, and the staff.”

Dr. Larry Calderon, who followed, was a pivotal leader in his two years as president. He was the pioneer behind the first strategic Master Plan, which resulted in the College obtaining a $14.5 million Title V grant, among many others. The Broward College Foundation created the American Dream Scholarship to honor his contributions to the College.

In 2006, J. David Armstrong Jr. assumed the presidency of the College, and under his leadership, the first baccalaureate programs began, and, in the summer of 2008, the institution’s name was changed to Broward College. Under his leadership, the College received numerous accolades, including being ranked as one of the top ten community colleges of the nation by the prestigious Aspen Institute. His legacy also includes the continued international expansion of the College to include international centers and affiliates across the globe.

On July 1, 2018, Gregory Adam Haile, J.D. former General Counsel to the College, was selected by the Board of Trustees after a nationwide search to lead the institution. Since 2018, President Haile has focused on supporting initiatives that increase student success and building stronger relationships across the community. He established Broward UP, the UP meaning “unlimited potential,” which is aimed at improving the lives of residents in Broward County zip codes with the highest unemployment and lowest education levels.

Broward College in 2020

Today, Broward College has the second largest enrollment in Florida more than 5,000 full-time and part-time employees, serves 63,000 students across ten locations, and offers 67 programs of study in some of the fastest-growing industries in the region – healthcare, aviation, business and information technology including certificates, associate and bachelor’s degree programs. The prestigious Aspen Institute recognizes the College as one of the top ten colleges in the nation, and some 1,000 institutions are evaluated for eligibility for this prize. It’s ranked first in the state for the number of industry certifications awarded to students and is ranked as a top regional college in the South by U.S. News & World Report for 2019 and 2020.

Broward College has a history of service and has met the need of Broward County Residents for 60 years. Whatever your academic or career goals, the College has a program for you. Find out more at broward.edu/academics/programs.