Confidence and optimism were the prevailing moods at College of Eastern Utah as an almost 20-month-long celebration marking the school's first half century ended and thoughts turned to the future and the beginning of a new school year.

The long "Golden Anniversary" celebration concluded Saturday with a classic car parade at 10 a.m., the dedication at noon of a residence hall to the memory of the college's first president and an anniversary ball at 7 p.m.The observance of CEU's golden anniversary began Feb. 20, 1987, a half century after Gov. Henry Blood signed legislation establishing the college. The school opened its doors on Oct. 3, 1938.

Elaine Jones Jensen, now director of Carbon County's Senior Citizens, remembers the excitement of those first days when she, her sister, Vera Jones Zaremba, Orem, and their friends, enrolled in the first class at the new college.

"Dr. Pace, our history teacher, periodically stopped his lectures whenever the noise of jackhammers in the next room became too loud," she said.

Classes at the school, then called Carbon College, had begun in a new building while workmen were still installing the desks.

"We had a basketball team on which nobody could be sick because there were no replacements," she said, "but we did pretty well. People knew Carbon College was here to stay."

Fifty years later, CEU President Michael A. Petersen finds reason for optimism in the fact that his goal for the school to reach an enrollment of 2,000 students will be realized much sooner than anticipated.

"When I was inaugurated three years ago, I announced a goal of 2,000 students in 10 years," he said. We are already close to 1,450 full-time equivalent students and 1,800 head count."

Petersen, the first CEU alumnus to become president of the college, said he hopes the Utah State Board of Regents will approve a two-year nursing program offering a registered nurse associate degree.

Although the school successfully strives to maintain a balance between strong vocational and strong academic programs, which the president believes complement each other, the school opened in time to help supply manpower needs for World War II.

Bethea Sessions, widow of the first college president, Elden B. Sessions, in her memoirs, recalled that, "the war effort needed trained welders. It needed mechanics. It needed all sorts of people with skills of a technical nature."

"After Pearl Harbor in 1941, the shops ran 24 hours a day." Lloyd Shield, retired welding instructor, recalls teaching, going home for a little sleep and then going back to teach again. People trained at the college went to work in California shipyards and other installations throughout the West.

Since that time, the school's mining programs have turned out mine mechanics, electricians and people with associate degrees in mine technology providing personnel for the area's coal mining industry. Cosmetology, truck driving, machine shop, computer and secretarial courses are among other vocational offerings.

But the school's ongoing commitment to culture and the arts surfaced early. Mrs. Bess Jones, dean of women, and Elden Sessions formulated a plan for an Artist and Lecture Series and asked the help of the faculty wives.

In 1941, beginning with the Don Cossack Chorus and Dancers, well-known at the time, they followed with Robert Frost, Ruth Draper, Andor Foldes, Fulton Lewis Jr., Roger Aubert, Cornelia Otis Skinner, and Jessica Dragonette, all noted artists and lecturers.

A native of Idaho with strong Utah ties, Elden Sessions resigned as president of Carbon College after six years and returned to Ohio State College. Under its sponsorship, he helped found the Territorial College of Guam in 1952.

At ceremonies Saturday, a resident hall for honor students was named for him. His portrait will hang in the lobby.

A plaque honoring five men, educators and legislators, who helped get the college established will also be hung. The five include G.J. Reeves, G.G. Lindstrom, Frank Bonacci, D.A. Tidwell and Charles Ruggeri.