Drake State Technical College in Huntsville, Madison County, was established in 1961 as the Huntsville State Vocational Technical College. Initially having just four programs, today Drake State offers area students certificates and associate degrees in 16 fields.
Drake State was built on 32 acres of land that was deeded in 1961 by Alabama A&M University to the Alabama State Board of Education. Opening in September 1962, initial enrollment at the school consisted of 27 students in three programs, which were brick masonry, cosmetology, and auto mechanics; electronics was added in October, increasing the enrollment to 39 students. The college's first president was S. C. O'Neal, who served in that position until 1983.
In 1966, the school's name was changed to J. F. Drake State Technical Trade School by the State Board of Education in honor of the late Joseph Fanning Drake, president of Alabama A&M University for more than 35 years. Three brick buildings, now known as Buildings 300, 400, and 500, were completed. Two additional permanent brick buildings were added to the campus in 1969 and 1970. These buildings currently house the student services department, general education, heating and air conditioning, engineering graphics, and adult education programs.
In 1971, the school became an accredited charter member institution of the Commission on Occupational Education Institutions (COEI) of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and in August 1973, it was given technical college status by the State Board of Education. With the new status, the school was named J. F. Drake State Technical College and was authorized by the board to offer an associate degree in applied technology. In September 1973, electronics technology became the first program in that degree area.
Two additional permanent buildings were constructed on the campus in 1980 and 1981; they currently house the health sciences programs and class and laboratory space for industrial electronics, industrial systems, electricity, and machine tool technology. The last addition to the campus was the S. C. O'Neal Library and Technology Center in 2005. The new facility expanded the library offerings as well as student access to computers. Also incorporated into the library was a lecture hall, classrooms and office space. The library also serves as the campus landmark, towering above all other structures. In December 2010, the college received initial accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Universities.
The college now has two additional locations. The Workforce Development Facility, located in north Huntsville, was established in 2009 and provides specialized industry training for local businesses and industries seeking additional training for employees. A new instructional site, located in the historic Times Building downtown, was opened in January 2010.
Drake State now offers 16 certificate and degree programs, including technology degrees in engineering, business and information, manufacturing, health sciences, and salon management and hospitality services, as well as adult education courses. Additionally, Drake State provides students the opportunity to transfer credits to several four-year institutions. The college has an enrollment of approximately 1,200 students, 60 full-time employees, and approximately 74 part-time employees on an annual budget of $7.6 million.
Student organizations include the student government association, the National Technical Honor Society, the gospel choir, and the Amateur Radio Club. Drake State fields no athletic teams. Each year the college holds a Mr. and Ms. Drake State pageant to recognize two students who embody the spirit of the college and who represent the college in the community. "Spring Fling" is sponsored by the Student Government Association and provides students with an opportunity to socialize. The Automotive Program Car Show, sponsored each spring by the automotive program, gives members of the community as well as students the chance to present their cars for judging.