By just raising his hand, Louis Creveling enrolled in a college that didn't even exist, and 62 years later he's still glad he did.
That's how the first class at Pasadena Junior College, now called Pasadena City College, was recruited in 1924: with a show of hands among interested seniors at Pasadena High School.
And that was the inauspicious beginning of Creveling's devotion to his alma mater, a devotion that peaked in May when friends and alumni honored him at a banquet and named the student lounge and an endowment fund for him.
"I can't account for my fascination with PCC," said the man who has befriended every PCC president for more than 20 years, headed its Alumni Assn. and donated to many of its funds.
He said that he has no idea how much money he has given to the college, "but it's one of my favorite charities, if you could call it a charity."
Creveling remembers that in 1924, Pasadena voters passed a bond issue to create Pasadena Junior College with a two-year curriculum. When the high school principal asked students to raise their hands if they wanted to enroll, Creveling did and that fall found himself in a class of 100 students who later elected him the first student body president.
Little realizing the pioneering aspects of the college's first two years, Creveling said that he rode a 1920s version of a skateboard to classes that were held in Pasadena High School until the new campus could be built.
He played football ("Anyone who could run qualified for the team.") and was on the swimming, track and debate teams. There were 75 in his graduating class in 1926.
Creveling went on to graduate from Stanford and become a manufacturer of men's clothing in Los Angeles.
He married Mary Patten of Alhambra, and they had two children--Louis Jr., who is a physicist working for the CIA in Washington, and Cordelia, the wife of a farmer in Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile, Pasadena Junior College split from Pasadena Unified School District and in the 1950s became a community college that has maintained a steady enrollment of 18,300 and a reputation for excellence.
Creveling, who has many other civic ties, served for several years as president of the PCC Alumni Assn. after its founding in 1974.
"He's just one of those catalyzers who get things done," said Joseph Abe, president of the PCC Foundation, which since its founding in 1980 has raised $1.4 million for the college.
"He just seems to love the college, and every time he shows up on campus, the man's working," Abe said. "He has so many ties to the community that he broadens our network."
Among the 300 who gathered to honor Creveling at a special recognition dinner given by the PCC Foundation in the student lounge were the mayors of three cities; representatives of Friends of the Old Mill, a historic building in San Marino; Friends of the Caltech Libraries; students; faculty; retired teachers and PCC officials.
"The only way Lou would agree to being honored was if it was an event in the school, benefiting the school, and something everyone could afford," a PCC spokesman said. Students chose the occasion to announce that they had decided to name their lounge for him.
"It was a complete surprise," Creveling said. "I still wonder: Why me?"
"I doubt if anybody's done more than Lou has," Abe said.
Creveling, a widower living in San Marino, is planning another major event to commemorate that day when he raised his hand and began his lifelong fascination.
On Sept. 14 he will host the 60th reunion of the class of 1926 in his home.