Thornton, James W. (1908-1996)

Thornton, James W. (1908-1996)

Date Updated



Higher Education

Academic Rank


Year Retired from SJSU

1969 or 1970?

Educational Background

Stanford University, 1930's BA, MA, Ph.D.

Teaching Experience

Honolulu Community College (President), 1970-1972?

San Jose State University (Prof. of Education), 1958-1970

Orange Coast College (Founding Vice‑President), 1947-1957

Administrative and Professional Experience

Founding Vice‑President, Orange Coast College.

Author and consultant on community colleges, accreditation teams, state and national committees.

Selected Publications

Many articles.

The Community Junior College, 3 editions, Wiley & Sons.

College Teaching, co‑authored with James Brown, McGraw‑Hill.

Secondary School Curriculum, co‑authored with J. Wright.

State Colleges and Universities, co‑authored with J. Wahlquist.

Personal Commentary

James Thornton died on August 8, 1996, before this book could be published. This Biographical Sketch was prepared by his wife, Mary Thornton; and she was uncertain about some of the dates. Therefore, question marks appear beside some of them.

Following are excerpts from the Obituary about James Thornton that appeared on August 13, 1996, in the Newport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot:

Founding Orange Coast College [OCC] Vice‑President and Dean of Faculty James Thornton died on August 8, following a lengthy illness. He was 88.

A native of Ackley, Iowa, Mr. Thornton earned his bachelors's degree in English and his master's degree and doctorate in education, all from Stanford University. He served as OCC's first vice‑president and dean of instruction from 1947 to 1957. He was the second college employee hired by founding 0CC president Basil H. Peterson.

Mr. Thornton left 0CC in 1957 to serve as professor of education at SJSU; he also helped reorganize the state of Hawaii's community college system.

Mr. Thornton married Mary after both of their spouses passed away. Mrs. Thornton was previously married to Dudley Boyce, a founding 0CC faculty member and first president of Golden West College in Huntington Beach.

Mr. Thornton and his wife visited 0CC last December and watched as the college dedicated a plaque in his honor outside the campus' administration building. Mr. Thornton donated $15,000 for a scholarship before his death.

Besides his wife, he is survived by his son, who serves as associate pastor of the University of Notre Dame's campus church. His wife also has three grown children.

A memorial scholarship in Mr. Thornton's name has been set up by the Orange Coast College Foundation. Donations may be sent to the foundation at 2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa, CA 92626.

Date Completed: 9/96

Adapted from: Biographies of Retired Faculty San Jose State University 1997: A Project of the Emeritus Faculty Association of San Jose State University. San Jose, CA: The University, 1997.


Thornton, James W. (1908-1996)