Bates Celebrates 80 Years of Changing Lives

Eighty years ago, technical education in Tacoma began in the basement of Hawthorne Elementary School. Today, Bates Technical College serves some 3,000 students on three campuses and it’s still growing.

“Our premier staff and faculty, coupled with our diverse and motivated student body, will allow us to enter into this anniversary year and beyond with renewed purpose and optimism,” said Dr. Lin Zhou, president. The college shows no sign of slowing down.

A new building at the downtown campus will open in 2021. The Center for Allied Health Education will provide in-demand health programs in high-tech facilities to train skilled employees for expanding health care needs.

Also planned is a fire service training center. It will allow the college to continue to offer comprehensive, quality, fire service training in a larger, updated facility.

Bates offers Associate in Applied Science degrees (AAS), certificates of competency and certificates of training in hundreds of career areas, Dr. Zhou explained as she reflected on the college’s role.

On September 4, 1940, the vocational education program opened in the Hawthorne basement on Tacoma’s east side in an area now known as the Dome District. The historic school was demolished in 1981, but the vocational institute established itself in central Tacoma.

In 1947, Tacoma School District hired L. H. Bates as the school’s director. Bates retired in 1969, and the institute was renamed to honor him: L. H. Bates Vocational Technical Institute. Vocational institutes were removed from local school district supervision in 1991.

Today Bates serves some 3,000 career training students and 10,000 more community members in programs such as continuing education, child studies, high school, and allied health. “Bates has provided members of the Tacoma community with a place to further their careers for 80 years,” Dr. Zhou said, “and we will continue to do so for many more.”

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