Serving the community since 1957, Gulf Coast State College was the first public two-year institution to open after the 1957 Florida Legislature established a statewide network of community colleges. Located in Panama City on Florida’s Emerald Coast, Gulf Coast is one of 28 public colleges in the state, all located within commuting distance of 96 percent of the population. Dr. Ted W. Booker was named the first president (1957-1960), followed by Dr. Richard E. Morley (1960-1976), Dr. Lawrence W. Tyree (1976-1988), Dr. Robert L. McSpadden (1988-2007), Dr. A. James Kerley (2007-2014), and Dr. John R. Holdnak (2014-present).
The College has gone through several name changes over the decades beginning with Gulf Coast Community College in 1957. In 1958, the name changed to Gulf Coast Junior College, prompted by a change in mission to restrict offerings to academic programs. In 1970, the College changed its name again back to Gulf Coast Community College as its mission expanded to include service to the community. In 2011, the name changed to Gulf Coast State College after receiving accreditation to award four-year degrees, better reflecting the expanding mission within the defined service district.
To serve the higher education needs of African-Americans in the community, Rosenwald Junior College opened in 1958 on the campus of Rosenwald High School, and Calvin Washington was named president. On May 18, 1966, Rosenwald Junior College merged into Gulf Coast Junior College.