Cabrillo College

Founded in 1959

We’ve come a long way since our first classes were held in temporary quarters within the partially abandoned old Watsonville High School. The year was 1959; freshman enrollment was about 400 students; and what was then known as Cabrillo Junior College was born.

The name “Cabrillo” held special significance. Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo was a Portuguese ship pilot who, in 1542, led the first European expedition to explore the uncharted coast of California. While his sense of exploration and discovery applied to the New World, the Cabrillo founders hoped that students would undertake a similar searching for their own new world of personal achievement and leadership.

Over the years, Cabrillo College has become known and admired as an open-door institution that seeks to fill the educational needs of every segment of the community. Founding President Robert Swenson was most proud of Cabrillo earning a reputation as a college that cares about people. Upon his retirement, in 1977, he said, “I'm often told by students that they decided to come here because they know the faculty really cares what happens.” That sense of caring was modeled by Dr. Swenson throughout his long association with Cabrillo, which lasted until his passing in 2007. His presence is still felt around campus, and his passion for helping students be successful has become embedded within the Cabrillo culture.

Cabrillo College continues to evolve to meet the needs of the community, and the community has generously supported our expansions. We now offer associate degrees and certificates in more than 70 fields of study and have reached record enrollment of more than 17,000 students.

Cabrillo College through the ages