SAM and Simonsen

BC Archive

Cassandra McGowan, Reporter

As construction brings new life to the Speech, Arts, and Music building, the naming committee for the Kern Community College District also granted the building a new name in honor of Edward Simonsen.
In April 2006, Bakersfield College’s Archives Association held a dinner and celebration to commemorate the 50-year anniversary since the move from the Bakersfield High School campus to BC’s current location. At this ceremony, Simonsen was recognized for his numerous and important contributions to BC by having a building named after him.
Simonsen was a Marine who served in World War II.
The construction of the building, though, didn’t start until last year, and thus it has mostly been referred to as the SAM building during that time. Construction is expected to be completed late next year, and the Simonsen name will be on it.
Simonsen, who passed away at the age of 92 in 2007, had a long and distinguished history at BC. Upon retirement from the military, Simonsen came to BC and was appointed director of Veteran’s Affairs before heading the 1956 move of BC’s campus from the present day Bakersfield High School to its current location. Simonsen oversaw the whole project from planning the move to the actual move itself.
Simonsen was very involved in the performing arts and was an oboe player. He was part of the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra, where he played the first oboe. The orchestra’s operations manager and clarinet player, Mary Moore, remembers him as part of her team and appreciated that although he was busy with things at BC, he still managed to come to rehearsals. “In those days we practiced every Monday,” she said.
Simonsen became BC’s president in 1958 and continued his reign until 1968, and during his tenure the campus saw many changes. BC’s Archive Association Director Jerry Ludeke, who was hired at BC by Simonsen in 1959, said, “The nursing program got a big boost during his time.”
In 1961 the marching band played at the Seattle World’s Fair and in 1965 the choir toured Europe, sang for the Pope twice, and also performed at the White House for President Lyndon B. Johnson.
“Music was a high thing on campus, and it was just the atmosphere and I’m sure Si stimulated it, but it wasn’t favoritism,” said Ludeke.
Simonsen moved on from president of BC and became the first person ever to be named chancellor of the KCCD when the college and high school districts split into two entities in 1968.
Of Simenson’s character, Ludeke said, “He was a much beloved person, he was fun, he [had] no errors about him, he was just a perfectly natural, talented, interesting person. It was a very positive atmosphere on campus. He was a friend to everybody.”