It took but a few seconds, but a world record was claimed Friday in Balboa Park.

At 4:05 p.m., the vice president of instructional services signaled nearly 320 graduates of San Diego Community College Continuing Education sites (and a few staff members) to toss their black mortarboards. (They kept their formal green ones.)

The result could be a Guinness Book of World Records mark, breaking a previous best of 295, according to Brian Ellison, San Diego Continuing Education vice president in charge of the event.

The first estimate of Friday’s toss?

North City Counselor Cat Prindle (with camera) and Brian Ellison, a San Diego Continuing Education vice president, applaud graduates after mortarboard toss. Photo by Ken Stone

“Right around 317,” Ellison said under cloudless skies at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

“We had been thinking of attempting a world record [at commencement], going back to January,” Ellison said afterward, saying several ideas had been considered. “This one finally surfaced as the best option for us.”

The effort — held an hour before commencement involving more than 800 students — coincides with the centennial of San Diego City College.

According to the Guinness site, the listed record dates to May 30, 2012, in London. “The record saw the students (from over 100 different nationalities) simultaneously toss their mortar boards to celebrate London universities,” the site says.

Continuing Education held a joint commencement with San Diego Unified’s Adult Education Program. Continuing Ed is awarding a total of 4,109 vocational certificates, 154 high school diplomas and 83 GEDs.

San Diego Continuing Education classes are held at seven campuses — Centre City, César E. Chávez, Educational Cultural Complex, Mid-City, North City, West City and Continuing Education at Mesa.

Friends and family members recorded world record attempt at Spreckels Organ Pavilion. Photo by Ken Stone

The largest institution of its kind in the nation, San Diego Continuing Education serves more than 70,000 students annually.

“A significant number of our graduates will transition to City, Mesa or Miramar College this fall,” said Anthony Beebe, president of San Diego Continuing Education (who himself will transition Aug. 1 to president of San Diego City College).

“SDCE and has been recognized as a state leader in providing adult education that helps students transition to college. The faculty and staff support and counsel students who are looking to further education after they graduate from SDCE.”

World record attempt at Spreckels Organ Pavilion for simultaneous mortarboard tossing. Photo by Ken Stone
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