College of Marin celebrates its 90th in 2016

by Laurie Thompson

Harlan Hall, Marin Junior College (College of Marin). Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

arin Junior College opened its doors on August 30th, 1926. The first president of the college was A. C. Olney, recruited from the State Capital where he had been the Commissioner of Secondary Schools for seven years.

George Harlan, founding board member of Marin Junior College, c.1938 © Sausalito News

The College’s campus was developed on the 13-acre Kentfield estate of George E. Butler (above) who had died in 1924. In his book, In the Heart of Marin: The History of Kentfield and Greenbrae, California, author Dewey Livingston tells us:

Eighty-seven students showed up for the first day of class in August 1926, taught by seven teachers. They met in the former Butler mansion and soon the classes spread across the estate. The barn was used as the gymnasium and later the art and engineering schools. The first permanent building to be constructed was the $37,500 Science Hall in 1927, which was followed by the central and iconic structure of the college for many years, Harlan Hall. The handsome and much-photographed Spanish-style stucco building featured a central courtyard, extensive colonnades and a tower that looked out on Kentfield and Mt. Tamalpais.

Butler Mansion, 1890. Acquired for the Marin Junior College Campus in 1924. Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

Within five years the faculty would grow to 17 and the student body to 652 including part-time students.

Harlan Hall, College of Marin, 1939. © Marin Journal.

An August 24, 1939 Marin Journal article tells us that in its fourteenth year, Marin Junior College opened with increased staff and an expanded curriculum which emphasized vocational and cultural courses, including: weaving; highway engineering; salesmanship; business machines; modern fiction; diesel engines; paleontology and radio speech.

Originally published at



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Anne T. Kent California Room

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