If she were alive today, Grace Van Dyke Bird would approve of the innovative library that bears her name. An educational innovator herself, Bird would applaud the use of technology, the emphasis on teaching and learning, and the community focus of the facility.
Bird came to teach at what was then called Bakersfield Junior College in 1917, after her graduation from the University of California, Berkeley. She quickly emerged as a leader, and in 1921 she was named dean of the college, the title then assigned to college chief executives. (Her successors would all be called President, so in 1976 the Kern Community College District Board of Trustees conferred upon her the title President Emeritus.)
Bird was one of the first to suggest use of the term community college instead of junior college, arguing that community was more descriptive of the institution’s role. A woman of vision, she encouraged instruction in job skills as well as quality education for students transferring to four-year colleges.
The first woman to head a public community college in California, Bird was popular and widely respected as an educator and administrator. Her peers elected her president of the California Junior College Federation, forerunner of the California Association of Community Colleges. She is widely credited with building community college articulation relationships with high schools and the state colleges, particularly the University of California.
In 1950, Bird was tapped for a position in the UC Office of Relations with Schools, with responsibility for community college affairs. She remained there until her retirement in 1960. In 1976, she was named Berkeley Fellow of the University for the lifetime of service she had rendered to education in the state. She died in 1986 at the age of 94.
Bakersfield College’s library has borne Bird’s name since the Panorama Drive campus was built in 1956. As plans for the 1996 building unfolded, one thing was clear from the start: the facility would continue to bear the name of Grace Van Dyke Bird.