Rock Valley College was created by district-wide referendum on October 10, 1964, after a two-year study established the need for a community college. The college district is comprised of Boone and Winnebago counties and portions of Stephenson, Ogle, McHenry, and DeKalb counties. The district's first Board of Trustees, elected in 1964, chose former executive dean of Chicago City Junior College Clifford G. Erickson as the first president in April, 1965.
A 217-acre tract of land at Mulford and Spring Brook Roads in northeast Rockford was selected as the site of the new campus.
An aerial view of Spring Brook Farm in 1965, now the home of the RVC main campus!
Construction began on the main buildings in the fall of 1967, after voters approved a bond referendum which provided one-fourth of the construction funds, with the state providing the remainder of the funding. The first three buildings were completed in August, 1969, and were ready for classes a month later. The Educational Resource Center, Student Center, and the Physical Education Center opened during the fall semester, 1971. The Technology Center opened for classes in January, 1988 as the region was in the midst of a recession. The primary goal of this center and its progressive programs was to retrain residents and educate students for a new economy.
Dr. Karl Jacobs, who assumed the college presidency in January 1969, was instrumental in the conception and implementation of the Technology Center and its programs. Jacobs joined the college following President Erickson's departure the previous year.
Under the leadership of President Roland J. Chapdelaine, installed as the third president of Rock Valley College in 1997, a facilities master plan was developed to guide the future growth of the campus. Approved by the Board of Trustees in 1999, the plan looked 25 years into the future. Among the projects completed were impressive enhancements to the Bengt Sjostrom Theatre, a new Support Services Building, and remodeling of the Student Center. The projects enhanced a campus already recognized as one of the most beautiful in the state.
The remodeled Bengt Sjostrom Theatre opened in 2003 and is a one-of-a-kind architectural marvel!
In January 2004, the Rock Valley College Board of Trustees hired Dr. John Anderson as College President. During his tenure, Anderson oversaw the visit by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association leading to Rock Valley College receiving a 10 year accreditation.
As the fifth president of Rock Valley College, Dr. Jack Becherer continued the vision of teaching, learning, and leading. A student success model was developed and an ambitious enrollment management plans sought to encourage high school seniors to consider Rock Valley College as a viable start to a rewarding college experience.
On the career side, Dr. Becherer and Rock Valley College established and continued to seek opportunities to partner with local business and the community to offer students the training that leads to good jobs and provides the region a stronger workforce.
In 2009 the college completed a 16-month renovation of the Physical Education Center to better accommodate growing classes and students with disabilities. Through careful planning of materials and a Green Build philosophy, the college was awarded gold level LEED status (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) – the first project of its kind in the Rockford area.
In fall 2011 the college opened a new classroom building, The Karl J. Jacobs Center for Science and Math, in honor of RVC's longest serving president. The first educational building constructed on campus since 1986, this new state-of-the-art facility includes multiple science labs, resource labs and fourteen classrooms and was also recently certified LEED gold.
A nighttime view of the Karl J. Jacobs Center for Science and Math. The JCSM opened for classes in 2011.
In April, 2014, Mike Mastroianni was named the sixth president of Rock Valley College, following the retirement of Dr. Becherer after a decade of service. Under Mastroianni’s leadership, the college established new facilities and partnerships that set the college up to grow and thrive for years to come.
In the fall of 2015, the college’s Aviation Career Education Center opened at the Chicago-Rockford International Airport. The 40,000 square-foot building is four times larger than the college’s previous facility at the airport and resulted in tripling enrollments in the aviation program. The new facility has also opened the door to an exciting partnership with AAR, one of the world’s largest maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) companies.
RVC's Aviation Career Education Center at the Chicago/Rockford International Airport opened for classes on August 24, 2015!
In the fall of 2016, the college also opened its new RVC Downtown location in Rockford. RVC Downtown is located on the second floor of the Rockford Register Star news tower and has twice the classroom space of the college’s former downtown sites. Students who choose to attend RVC Downtown can take many of the same college level credit courses offered at the main campus and RVC Downtown is also the new home for the college’s Adult Education programs, which offers residents opportunities to prepare to complete the High School Equivalency (GED) exam, advance basic skills to prepare for a career, or improve English-language skills.
Two exciting new partnerships began to form under Mastroianni that allow students to earn bachelor’s degrees on the RVC campus. The first was a partnership with Northern Illinois University that allows students to earn their associate degree in engineering from RVC and go on to earn a bachelor’s in engineering from NIU all on the RVC campus. The college’s Woodward Technology Center underwent a major renovation and reopened in the fall of 2016 with a modern new look and more classroom and lab space to accommodate the RVC/NIU engineering program. The second was a partnership with OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center and the construction of a new Health Sciences Center (HSC) for the main campus.
In October of 2016, Dr. Douglas J. Jensen was named the seventh president of Rock Valley College. In addition to being a community college graduate himself, Dr. Jensen has over 35 years of community college experience.
Under Dr. Jensen’s leadership, the partnerships with NIU, OSF, and AAR truly began to take shape. The NIU Engineering at RVC program has grown from three graduates last spring to 16 students on track to graduate in May 2019, while 143 students were enrolled in engineering coursework at RVC and 74 students were taking NIU engineering classes at RVC for the fall 2018 semester. Forty students from the program were placed in engineering internships with 25 area businesses as of the spring 2019 semester.
The Health Sciences Center officially opened for classes in the fall of 2017. The top floor of the building houses the OSF Saint Anthony College of Nursing, providing seamless transfer for RVC nursing students to continue their education and pursue bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees in nursing.
The most recent partnership the college has engaged in is a new agreement with AAR that will grow the highly-skilled talent needed to meet the future demands for aviation maintenance technicians in our region. RVC is just the second higher education institution in the country selected by AAR to be a part of the AAR EAGLE Career Pathway Program. Students who qualify for and complete the program will find employment as a Level III Technician at AAR, where they can earn total compensation (base salary, overtime, benefits, and tuition assistance) totaling over $50,000. AAR will then provide these employees with opportunities to continue their education and advance to Level II and Level I technicians if they desire. The program can also lead to supervisory and quality control jobs within AAR that pay up to $80,000 a year. EAGLE Pathways includes job shadowing and mentoring components to successfully guide students through the program.
Due to Dr. Jensen’s commitment to economic, workforce, and community development, the college is implementing exciting new initiatives that will meet the needs of the community, while continuing to strengthen partnerships with four-year colleges and universities to increase and promote articulation and transfer opportunities.
A new Pathways model has been designed and implemented with the local school districts to align regional educational investment with economic opportunity and provide high school students with a clear track to education, training, and credentials in a number of high-priority career pathways.
In addition to Pathways, Dr. Jensen’s vision for “Linking Talent with Opportunity” in the region includes a commitment to workforce development and the creation of an Advanced Technology Center (ATC) that will enact purposeful change in the community. The purpose of the proposed ATC is to be the catalyst to propel the region further into the forefront of modern, global technologies through innovative workforce development initiatives and to create a community culture that values and promotes advanced technologies and manufacturing as a critical element to its future. The ATC will address the needs of business and industry by educating a marketable workforce for the Rockford region that will lead residents to well-paying jobs with long-term career opportunities, thereby fulfilling the college’s mission to empower students and the community through lifelong learning.
Dr. Clifford G. Erickson (1966--1968)
Dr. Karl J. Jacobs (1969-1997)
Dr. Roland J. Chapdelaine (1997-2004)
Dr. John H. Anderson (2004)
Dr. Jack J. Becherer (2004-2013)
Michael D. Mastroianni (2014-2016)
Dr. Douglas J. Jensen (2016-present)