The History Of Los Angeles Southwest College
Los Angeles Southwest College is the product of decades of hard work, vision and perseverance dating back to 1947 to achieve the dream of its principal founder, Mrs. Odessa B. Cox.
The Cox family and a small group of community members fought to bring a comprehensive community college to South Los Angeles. Currently, LASC, part of the Los Angeles Community College District, houses state-of-the-art facilities, including its recently renovated Library and Little Theater as well as the brand new School of Career and Technical Education, where students receive top-notch instruction from a dedicated group of educators.
The path to today was not easy and was the result of the dedication of many, specifically Odessa Cox.
Cox and her husband, Raymond Cox, married in 1941 in Bessemer, Alabama, and moved to Los Angeles in 1943. The couple were staunch believers in education and continued to seek knowledge in formal and informal education settings.
Odessa Cox soon joined the Parent Teachers Association where she pushed for an improved educational experience for local students. Specifically, she worked diligently with her colleagues to change the image of African-Americans in state-adopted textbooks. This effort was the catalyst for a more than 25 year struggle to establish a college in South Central Los Angeles.
The first steps toward the realization of this dream were taken in 1950 when Cox and others formed a citizen's group -- The South Central Junior College Committee. The group became influential in getting the Los Angeles Unfied School District Board of Education later that year to purchase 54 acres of land from the Union Oil Company at the corner of Western Avenue and Imperial Highway -- the eventual site of LASC. Another 16 acres would be purchased in 1964.
Although a sign was placed onsite in 1950 announcing the college’s expected arrival, many years would pass before construction would begin.
That day would follow after the 1965 "Watts Rebellion," when the need for a college in the area was finally recognized by district officials. The board would allocate $2 million to build the campus.
After nearly two years of extensive planning, the long sought after goal was finally accomplished.
At 3:30 during the morning on July 11, 1967, Odessa Cox and her colleagues, including Adele Cannon, Dr. Agnes Moreland Jackson and Sue Acosta, met to watch as the first of 13 bungalows were transported from Los Angeles City College and arrived at LASC. Classes started at LASC on Sept. 11, 1967.
Ten years later, in 1977, new facilities were developed comprising of a building complex, including the Cox Building, Founder’s Library and Little Theatre. A Student Services Education Center was also developed. The buildings provided a sense of permanence and symbolism of a new era in higher education in the community.
On Feb. 20, 1987, the college's Building B was renamed the Odessa Cox Building as a result of campaign spearheaded by Los Angeles Community College Trustee Marguerite Archie Hudson.
LASC expanded in the 1990s with a Technical Education Center, the Thomas G. Lakin Physical Education Center and the Lecture Laboratory Building.
"It feels so good to see the things we have fought for for so many years finally coming to pass," Cox said at the groundbreaking ceremony for the $7 million Technical Education Center.
Her comments were met with a standing ovation, according to media reports.
Currently, the LASC campus is undergoing a major transformation with more than $400 million in funds from the Los Angeles Community College District Bond Construction Program. The college’s modernization efforts include updating existing buildings with new technology and building new “green” facilities.
Other completed projects include the Thomas G. Lakin Physical Education Center, Student Services Building, Child Development Center, athletic stadium and field house, Maintenance and Operations facility, central plant, Cox Annex and a multi-level parking structure.
The campus is also the site of Middle College High School, part of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Students take college courses at LASC to obtain their associate’s degree while meeting the requirements for a high school diploma.
Since its opening, LASC has established itself as a key force in the educational, recreational and cultural development for the region. Several academic and occupational programs have distinguished themselves in the past 46 years, including the nursing and child development departments.
The student body has increased from an opening enrollment of 600 to a current population of more than 8,000. The original faculty, staff and administration has grown from 22 to more than 300.
More and more students each year are also taking part in online Distance Education courses, providing a new avenue in which students are receiving an LASC education.
Cox passed away in October 27, 2001, but not before she was honored by the LASC community for her many years of dedicated work for the college. Even in her later years, she campaigned for the passage of the bond initiative so the campus could be completed.
On April 2, 2015, the college is set to celebrate the new School of Career and Technical Education building as well as the renovated, modernized and upgraded Cox Building, which includes the refurbished Little Theater and Library.
The vision of Odessa Cox is getting closer to being realized.