From the Beginning
From the beginning night in January 1968, Celebrity Forum was a sell-out.
In 1967–68, Dick Henning was director of student activities at Foothill College, and he had a challenge when students coming back from Vietnam decided they didn't want the community college lumping the cost of student body cards into enrollment fees. His job was to convince the students that the card was worth well in excess of the $20 they were paying. When he was finishing formulating the perfect solution, the school was offering four new programs, two of which were a concert series and a speakers series.
The concert series included such greats as Big Brother & the Holding Company with Janis Joplin (four weeks before she died), The 5th Dimension, B. B. King, Taj Mahal, Joan Baez, The Doobie Brothers and The Grateful Dead, which drew capacity student crowds.
The first speakers series in 1968, which was held in the Foothill College gymnasium, featured Louis Leakey, Dick Gregory, Indira Gandhi, Pearl S. Buck and Alistair Cooke. It drew a capacity crowd of 1,500 but only about 50 students attended. Evidently, the students had better things to do on Friday nights. However, the highly-educated, inquisitive residents were happy to pay the $2 entrance fee. In those early days, each speaker's fee was a flat $600; so a nice profit was realized the very first year.