Colegio César Chávez, located in Mt. Angel, Oregon formed from the existing Mount Angel College in 1973. Mt. Angel College was established by the Catholic Order of Benedictine Sisters in 1888. The school was originally chartered as a women's academy. In 1897 it was rechartered as normal school. In 1947 Mt. Angel Normal School became Mt. Angel Women's College and in 1957 Mt. Angel Women's College became coeducational due to mounting financial problems. As such, the college was subsequently renamed Mt. Angel College.
In 1973, Mt. Angel College lost its accreditation from Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges because of its lack of financial stability. Two faculty members, Sonny Montes, Director of Ethnic Affairs, and Ernesto Lopez, Dean of Admissions, proposed that the institution redirect the focus of the college to be a Chicano serving institution.
On December 12, 1973 Mt. Angel College officially became Colegio César Chávez. College founders and students considered a number of names but chose the farm labor activist César Chávez as their namesake.
As the first and only independent Chicano-oriented and managed four-year college to emerge in the nation, Colegio César Chávez occupies an unparalleled place in Chicano history. According to the Chicano scholar Carlos Maldonado, "Colegio César Chávez was a product of converging social and educational forces of the Chicano movement and innovation in higher education". The mission of the Colegio was to provide educational opportunities for people who were denied access to higher education, to create a "college without walls" that emphasized collaboration between students, staff, administrators, their families, and the greater community. The Colegio also sought to provide an educational setting that was completely bilingual and bicultural. Students were required to take 15 credits in each of the four core areas: social science; the humanities; natural sciences/mathematics; and oral/written bilingual communications. In addition, life experience was also recognized as learning and students received credits for this as well.
Colegio César Chávez also served as a source of Chicano culture and activism in Oregon; this was accomplished through performances, lectures and guest speakers at the college. Among the significant Chicano leaders that visited and supported the Colegio were César Chávez, Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales, José Ángel Gutiérrez, and Chicano poets Alurista and Abelardo "Lalo" Delgado.
Constantly plagued by financial difficulties, administrative instability, and lack of support from the external community, Colegio César Chávez lost it's accreditation in 1981. The last classes were held in 1982 and the Colegio officially closed their doors in June 1983. The campus was abandoned and their main creditor, HUD, foreclosed on the property. HUD was set to auction off the campus when an anonymous donor interceded. The ownership of the land and the buildings occupied by the college reverted back to the Benedictine Sisters of Mt. Angel in 1985.
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