Writing SBCC’s Century
Leslie Andrea Westbrook Pens History of City College in A Century of Success, A Future of Possibilities
Schools that pass their own century marks come up with all kinds of ways to mark the occasion, but Santa Barbara City College has put together a form of celebration that any proud student can purchase for enjoyment in their own home. With 128 pages inside a hardcover production destined to be called “handsome,” A Century of Success, A Future of Possibilities presents all the information you’d possibly like to know about SBCC, from the story of its founding to the expansion of its academic offerings to the changes in campus life to the challenges encountered along the way.
It began with a call from Steve Boehm, of the book’s eventual publisher, the Boehm Group. “When he told me SBCC was commissioning a writer for this book, I immediately became very excited,” explained the author, Leslie Andrea Westbrook. “I had taken classes at SBCC on the main campus and through Continuing Education, and in fact even had a poem published in Student Voices. I am a huge fan of the college.” Working under a short deadline, she would need all the enthusiasm for the college she could summon. “I thought my eyeballs were going to fall out!” she exclaimed.
But quickly assembling and conveying a century of history allowed her a wider perspective on SBCC than that of even the school’s longtime students and employees. “History repeats itself,” she said. “The college’s main challenges have always been two-fold: money and parking. I was also interested in portraying the students and faculty and administration as it changed over the years. Of course, there were bonds, buildings, expansion, and the roots of the school, which were a tangled web to unweave since SBCC is somewhat intertwined with UCSB and the earlier State Teachers College.“ Knowing that any college’s story takes some work to convert into a page-turner, Westbrook asked a friend to give the manuscript a test read. “When she rolled her eyes, I knew I was stretching the bounds of friendship,” she said. “After she read it, she told me she couldn’t believe how interesting and lively the writing was, since it’s a college history book and not exactly a thriller.”
Being the lively, picturesque campus that it is, SBCC has attracted its fair share of exciting figures, including rocker David Crosby, World Series slugger Jesse Orosco, and, Westbrook’s personal favorite, opera singer Eduardo Villa. SBCC’s archives also yielded a cache of photographic treasures of a variety of visiting luminaries, including, she explained, “not only presidents, presidential candidates, and a first lady, but antiwar activist Jane Fonda and jazz greats Stan Kenton and Count Basie!” Writing about these aspects of SBCC history surely compensated for some of the more frustrating challenges involved, like pinning down the school’s exact founding date. (“There’s a historical note about that in the back of the book,” she added.)
Now that the book is available for purchase at the SBCC Bookstore, Westbrook finds it an even lusher item than she’d imagined. “I was just happy to hold the book in my hands,” she said. “I was thrilled with the production values, the look and the feel inside the book, the vibrancy of the full-color photo spreads.” Though she’s currently hard at work on a hybrid memoir and biography with jazz composer Johnny Mandel, Westbrook hasn’t stopped thinking about the book. “It was great to have one big long project to work on,” she said. “Of course, seeing my name on the cover pleased me, as well.”
Leslie Andrea Westbrook and others will discuss and sign copies of A Century of Success, A Future of Possibilities on Saturday, February 12, 3 p.m., at Montecito’s Tecolote Book Store (1470 East Valley Rd.); on Sunday, March 13, 3 p.m. at Chaucer’s Bookstore (3321 State St.); and on Monday, March 14 at the SBCC Bookstore (721 Cliff Dr.).