Local college marks 45th year of service

San Joaquin Valley College celebrates their accomplishments for decades of service as a private college serving communities in the Central Valley

VISALIA – A local family-owned college is celebrating almost 50 years of service offering high-quality training in medicine, business and technical fields across the valley.

San Joaquin Valley College (SJVC) has announced a private celebration for their 45th anniversary as a college. The anniversary celebration will be held on Friday, Oct. 7 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the SJVC Visalia campus located at 8344 W. Mineral King Ave. The event will serve food and refreshments and is free for invited employers and community members.

“This historic milestone marks nearly half a century of providing students with a pathway for success, and we are excited to celebrate with the greater community as we continue to find new ways to enrich the lives of all those we serve,” Nick Gomez, president of SJVC, said. 

The event will include several guest speakers like Congressman Jim Costa, Congresswoman Connie Conway and Visalia’s mayor Steven Nelsen. According to a college spokesperson, the three speakers plan on sharing some words of support while acknowledging the positive impact SJVC has had on local communities since it was founded in 1977. Mayor Nelsen will also be presenting a certificate to Mike Perry, who is the son of college founders Shirley and Bob Perry.

Additional speakers include Gomez, Perry, 2020 college graduate Adrienne Burnett and 1977 graduate Terri Martinez, who graduated with Shirley Perry as her medical assisting instructor.

An award ceremony will be held on the campus at approximately 10:15 a.m. where Martinez and Burnett will be presented with Alumni awards. There will also be campus tours towards the end of the event and additional activities for guests to celebrate the local college’s 45 years of serving local communities in the valley.

San Joaquin Valley College is an accredited private college that provides career-focused curriculum and instruction to its students. Since it opened, SJVC now has 17 campuses located throughout California, as well as an online division. The college offers more than 20 accelerated certificate and associate of science degree programs in the medical, business and technical fields. 

“While we reflect upon our history and look toward the future, I am confident we will continue to grow, adapt, and excel at helping our students reach their fullest potential,” Gomez said. 

According to the college’s impact report for this year, as of 2021, SJVC has granted more than 72,000 certificates and degrees since it began operation 45 years ago. Between 2018-2020, the college helped educate over 3,500 graduates per year and provided thousands of qualified job candidates to local employers across the state.

In 2019, SJCV was the largest educator of licensed respiratory therapists in the state of California, with an estimated one in four of respiratory therapy graduates coming from SJVC according to the report.

History of San Joaquin Valley College

According to a San Joaquin Valley College press release, founders Shirley and Bob Perry started the college to meet the need for local, high-quality career training, as they had both experienced the need first hand. Growing up Shirley wanted to attend college and become a nurse, but her father insisted she get married and start a family. She married Bob and had two sons, Mark and Mike. Bob worked in a tire factory and the young family struggled to make ends meet and Shirley knew she could help by getting her own job. 

Shirley began working as a medical assistant to fulfill her dream of a medical career. However, it became apparent that she needed to become certified to be most effective at her job. Without access to a formal education, she studied the material and taught herself every night after putting her sons to bed. When she took the certification exam, she was told she was the first person in the state to pass without classroom instruction. 

After her experience, Shirley wanted to ensure people in similar situations had a better option. Bob quit his job and the couple set to work making their vision of the college a reality. Soon after, San Joaquin Valley College opened its doors in Visalia, three students showed up to Shirley’s first medical assisting class. 

To get the word out about her class, Shirley printed 700 flyers. Every day after teaching, she tucked the flyers into the windshields of cars in nearby parking lots. Although she’d sometimes get chased off by store employees, she came right back the next day. She also spent time educating local doctors on how to more effectively employ medical assistants in their practices. This increased demand for medical assistants while freeing up registered nurses to fill more advanced roles.

Shirley’s work eventually paid off and SJVC began to grow. The college currently serves thousands of students on 17 campuses across California and online. SJVC honors Shirley and Bob’s original mission by offering hands-on instruction with accelerated, flexible programs that meet students where they are so they are better prepared to improve their lives, just as Shirley and her family did. 

“SJVC understands the unique challenges faced by students with families, jobs and other responsibilities because it was founded by trailblazers with the same challenges, and the same determination,” the SJVC press release states.

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