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History of Gulf Coast State College

Serving the community since 1957, Gulf Coast State College was the first public two-year institution to open after the 1957 Florida Legislature established a statewide network of community colleges.  Located in Panama City on Florida’s Emerald Coast, Gulf Coast is one of 28 public colleges in the state, all located within commuting distance of 96 percent of the population.
From September 1957 through the spring of 1960, the College operated in temporary facilities at the Wainwright Shipyard (located across the street from the present location at 5230 West Highway 98).  The City of Panama City provided 40 acres for the permanent campus overlooking St. Andrew Bay; the College purchased the remaining 40 acres. Construction of new buildings on the campus began in 1959, with the actual move to the new campus completed the next year.Buildings comprising the current campus and other college sites and their dates of first occupancy are the Natural Sciences Building, including the Ken Sherman Science Center (1960; renovated 1978, 1993, 2003, and 2006), Administration Building (1960; renovated 1978 and 1989), Enrollment Services Building (originally the Admissions and Records Building; 1960; renovated 1970 and 1995; renovated and renamed in 2010), James R. Asbell Business Building (1960; renovated in 1978 and named for Mr. Asbell in 1979), Russell C. Holley and Herbert P. Holley Language and Literature Building (1962; former Library; renovated and renamed Language Arts Building in 1977, renovated and renamed in 2004, renamed in 2006), Billy Harrison Health Building (1965; demolished in 2003), Professional Development Center (1965; former Maintenance Building; renovated and renamed Wellness Center in 1995; renovated and renamed in 2003), Rosenwald Junior College Classroom Building (1965; originally the Student Center; renovated in 1978 and 1992 and renamed in 1994), Amelia G. Tapper Center for the Arts (1967; renovated and renamed for Mrs. Tapper in 1994), Social Sciences Building (1967; renovated in 2001), Technology Building (1969; renovated in 1985; demolished in 2013), Library (1976; originally named the Learning Resource Center), WKGC-AM/FM Studios (1981; renovated in 2005), George G. Tapper Health Sciences Building (1983; renovated 2009), North Bay Center (1990; originally the Criminal Justice Training Academy; renamed the Charles H. Abbott Criminal Justice Training Academy and expanded to include the Abbott Classroom Building in 2000), Student Union, East and West Wings (1991; west wing expanded to included two additional floors in 2004), Natatorium (1991), Facilities Management Building (1995), Gulf/Franklin Center (1998), Wellness Complex (2003; includes new gym named Billy Harrison Field House), Workforce Development Building (2004; formerly the Florida Highway Patrol Building), Public Safety Complex/Emergency Operations Center (2010), Military Park (2012), and the Advanced Technology Center (2013).

For its first nine years, the College served primarily the residents of Bay County.  In the summer of 1966, Gulf County became part of the College’s service district, and Franklin County was added in 1984. GCSC has an enrollment of more than 22,000 credit, noncredit, workforce, and continuing education students. 

Throughout its history, the College has been committed to providing a first-class education. This commitment is evidenced by the excellent performance of GCSC graduates who transfer to a state university as well as by the high job placement rates of students in occupational programs.

Explore photos and publications from the College's history in the library archives: