History of the College

Illinois Valley Community College, currently nestled on a tree lined bluff overlooking the Illinois River in Oglesby, Illinois with a panoramic view of the twin cities LaSalle and Peru opened its door as LaSalle-Peru-Oglesby Junior College.

With local residents’ support, scholarly research and much discussion and planning, the LaSalle-Peru Board of Education, District 120, at its official meeting on April 24, 1924, approved a resolution giving birth to the College.  LaSalle-Peru-Oglesby (LPO) Junior College was originally located on the campus of LaSalle-Peru Township High School in LaSalle, Illinois.  On September 15, 1924, the College warmly received its first student body of 32 freshmen with a faculty of seven and two administrators. 

The mission of the College in 1924 was to “…lay the foundations for successful careers in vocational, social, and political fields.”  Tuition and fees totaled $16.00 per semester, enabling students to bypass four costly semesters at a university far from home.

LPO’s first Director, Dr. Thomas J. McCormack, a Princeton University graduate, was recognized as one of the nation’s outstanding educators.  The College continues to honor his memory by nominating top students as “McCormack Scholars.”  Francis Dolan and R. Earl Trobaugh joined the LPO teaching staff in the 1930s and later served as Presidents.

In 1950, the local community raised enough money to send LPO’s football team to the Gold Dust Bowl in Vallejo, California.  Though the team lost 41-6 to California’s Santa Rosa Junior College, the invitation was the athletic highlight of LPO’s first twenty-five years.

On July 1, 1966, the College name was officially changed to Illinois Valley Community College.  With the new name came a new location as the campus moved to its current pastoral setting in the heart of the College district.  On October 21, 1967, community members of District 513 voted 10-1 (20,527 “yes” to 2,189 “no”) in favor of an $8.25 million referendum to finance the beginning of IVCC.  On September 9, 1968, the first college classes convened in 12 temporary buildings across the river as the new $20 million permanent campus was constructed overlooking the bluff.  The permanent campus was dedicated in October 1972.

In May of 1974, Dr. Alfred E. Wisgoski, an LPO alumnus and graduate of Northern Illinois University, was named the College’s seventh President, a position in which he remained in for twenty-two years. Dr. Wisgoski was committed to a comprehensive community college with an open door policy.  He received enthusiastic endorsement from the faculty and staff, and pioneered the principle of “openness”.

Under Dr. Wisgoski’s leadership new partnerships were built to better serve business and industry in the area.  It was these partnerships and new technical programs which prompted IBM to identify IVCC as a business partner in preparing manufacturing industries to convert to computer integrated assembly systems.  Of the IBM agreement which was signed in 1988, Dr. Wisgoski stated, “this agreement will guarantee that IVCC will be able to offer the very best in high technology training to our students on equipment better than that found in all but a handful of the nation’s community colleges.” IBM donated over 1.2 million dollars in equipment to IVCC, and the college has remained a leader in technology ever since.

Dr. Jean Goodnow, a graduate of the University of Iowa, was named IVCC’s eighth President in April 1996. A Master Plan for facility renovations, new construction and infrastructure upgrades was developed in 1997.  In 1998, $4.2 million in Technology Funding Bonds were sold for computer network and telecommunications infrastructure improvements and the provision of hardware and software for a college-wide interactive information system. 

During Dr. Goodnow’s tenure, the college received in excess of $15 million in grants.   Nine new career programs were developed including a Forensics program, one of only five in the nation’s community colleges.  To further expand resources, a Development Office was established and the assets of the IVCC Foundation grew from $1.7 million in 1996 to $2.6 million in 2004.

In the fall of 2000, IVCC opened a new Ottawa Center located in Marquette High School to better serve the students on the east side of the district.  In 2003, IVCC won its third consecutive Arrowhead Conference All-Sports Award.

Dr. Goodnow departed IVCC in June of 2005 for Michigan, and Dr. Charles R. Novak was appointed Interim President by the Board of Trustees.  Dr. Novak, as the former Director of Continuing Education for the College in the 1970s and past president of two other Illinois Community Colleges, came out of retirement to assist the Board of Trustees in conducting a search for IVCC’s next President.

After a nationwide search, Dr. Larry Huffman, a graduate of the University of Illinois, signed a contract to serve as the ninth President of the college, effective July of 2006.  Dr. Huffman, the former Dean of Student Development at IVCC from 1974-1977, was a member of then President Dr. Wisgoski’s new administrative team and was responsible for all student services functions, including the athletic programs.  Upon returning to IVCC Dr. Huffman’s priorities were to develop and implement a strategic planning process for the college, strengthen the college’s outreach to businesses and industries, build upon IVCC’s strong pre-baccalaureate reputation, and enhance career/occupational program offerings.

At the end of June, 2007 Dr. Huffman resigned and Dr. Dave Louis was appointed Interim President by the Board of Trustees. Dr. Louis served as the President of Kishwaukee Community College in Malta, Illinois until his retirement in 2007.  Dr. Louis continued as the Interim President while the Board of Trustees conducted a search for the next President.

On March 18, 2008 the search for the next President of IVCC ended with the appointment of Dr. Jerome Corcoran. Dr. Corcoran, well respected by the residents of the district and current Vice-President for Business Services and Finance/Treasurer, was appointed by the Board of Trustees as Illinois Valley Community College’s tenth President.

IVCC continues to prepare students for a solid future and meet the ever-changing needs of area employers.  Structural and technological upgrades have been completed and planning is underway for a new Technology and Workforce Development Center to house programs currently located primarily in temporary facilities.  In addition, a Community Instructional Center that would include a large cafeteria, meeting rooms for community businesses, an art gallery, student center, enrollment management services and a bookstore is included in the Campus Master Plan.

The Illinois Valley Community College district now includes more than 146,000 residents, 21 high schools and 2,000 square miles.

For a more detailed history of IVCC see:

IVCC:  The First 70 Years – Elizabeth Cummings and Bill Danley

May, 2008