The Clarence Goodrich Building Honors Supporter
The Clarence Goodrich Building at Kenai Peninsula College honors a tenacious supporter of the college. This story is excerpted from "The Kenai Peninsula College History: The First Thirty Years." By Lance W. Petersen
The second building (Phase II) on the campus was a vocational-technical building, devoted to specialized class- rooms simulating instrument panels and controls such are used in refineries, water-treatment plants, and later pump stations on the Alaska Pipeline.
The building was dedicated and named the Goodrich Building during graduation ceremonies in May, 1975. Six associate degrees, two secretarial certificates and six petrochemical vocational certificates were awarded.
The plaque commemorating the dedication says "Clarence E. Goodrich, a progressive pioneer who helped shape the future of the Kenai Peninsula through his commitment to education and community affairs."
Progressive and tenacious. Clarence Goodrich used to boast about his instrumental role in acquiring land for the college campus. "No other campus in the State of Alaska has been able to get that much campus without buying it," he said.
Clayton Brockel remembers that Clarence ruffled a lot of feathers throughout the state. "One time, the Board of Regents was having a meeting in Fairbanks in the summer. Since the college wasn't on the agenda, there wasn't any reason for me to go. But I got a call, at home, from Fairbanks. There was such a lot of sputtering, I couldn't tell who it was, at first. Turns out, Clarence took it on himself to find out when and where they were meeting. He just walked in on the Board of Regents meeting, sat down at their table, and asked them when they were going to give him some help in getting this new college going. Said he wasn't going to leave until they gave him some promises!"
Clarence and his wife Anna came to Alaska in 1956, to visit. Clarence had recently retired as a California contractor. Two of their sons were in Alaska. Knight Goodrich was living in Anchorage, while David was enrolled at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.
Clarence and Anna spent some time looking around Alaska. "Then, just out of the blue," said Anna, "Clarence filed on a homestead on the Kenai Peninsula." It was early 1957, the year oil was discovered on the Swanson River. The Goodrich homestead was in Slikok Valley (now near the Echo Lake and Gaswell Roads) well outside of Soldotna.
There weren't many roads on the Kenai then, but Clarence thought there should be. "You can't develop a place unless you can get to it," he said. "So I got on every development committee that came along and pushed for roads."
Former State Senator Don Gilman remembered Clarence's tactics with the Alaska State Legislature. "Clarence used to come to Juneau at least twice during every legislative session. And seemed like he never left without getting a new piece of road funded."
Clarence was happiest, however, actually building the roads. He'd heard the probably apocryphal story about the building of the Alaska Highway in which the surveyor unrolled toilet paper from a low flying, slow plane to mark the way. Clarence liked nothing better than squatting beside the catskinner, pointing out which direction the road should take. It was better if there weren't any surveyor's stakes to follow.
Jean Brockel remembers going out to the work site for the first building. Clayton had been out of town, and he wanted to walk in and look at the site again when he got back. "When we got to the end of Poppy Lane, Clay stopped Ol' Blue, got out, and started swearing. 'It was Clarence! I just know it!' There was a winding, freshly carved road leading off into the woods."
Clayton and Clarence met at the site. "I figured," Clarence said, "a nice winding driveway was what we needed. That way you won't see the buildings until you come around the last curve."
Clayton Brockel knew better, but he asked, anyway. "What did the university Planning Department in Fairbanks have to say?"
"Don't know." Clarence smiled and winked. "Don't think they've seen it yet." Then he spotted a piece of splintered tree root sticking out of his new road, so he walked over, grabbed it, and threw it off the roadway.
Clarence claimed, "Nobody pays my expenses because I want to be independent." And independent he was. He thought kids in Soldotna should have a place to play softball, so he almost single-handedly nailed down the property, cleared, graded, and laid out the ball park. He frequently wandered in to watch the kids play. Clarence had many interests besides ball parks and roads. In addition to studying architecture and engineering, he attended the College of Music of the University of Southern California. While he was in a student, he sang in the Los Angeles Oratorio; much later, when the Kenai Community Chorus was formed under College sponsorship, he attended and sang in it whenever he could.
In July, 1983, Clarence Goodrich was among the first Alaskans to be selected by the Governor of Alaska to receive the State's Volunteer Award.
Clarence and Anna Goodrich also established the Damon Foundation, donating their daughter Frances' estate, consisting of a 160-acre homestead adjacent to the college campus. A rock monument with a plaque installed in 1985 marks this permanent gift: "This 160-acre parcel was donated to the University of Alaska by Clarence and Anna Goodrich in memory of their daughter, Frances Helen Damon, and grandson, Lawrence E. Damon, who were killed in the 1964 tidal wave, resulting from the Good Friday earthquake, at Whittier, Alaska."
The Damon Foundation, managed by a board of trustees, provides scholarships to students on the Kenai Peninsula and humanities grants-in-aid to the college.
Clarence Goodrich died on September 1, 1985 in Anchorage.