History of RVC

Timeline of Events

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.  Dr. Jensen, a community college graduate himself, brought over 35 years of community college experience to his role as president at RVC. Under his leadership, the college overcame significant budget challenges and managed to keep the college fiscally sound and on a balanced budget without a reliance on state funding. Due to Dr. Jensen's commitment to economic, workforce, and community development, the college implemented exciting new initiatives like Linking Talent with Opportunity and Pathways to 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.
  • In July of 2020, Dr. Howard J. Spearman was named the eighth president of Rock Valley College, and its first African-American president in the college's history. Dr. Spearman returns to RVC where he previously worked in several leadership roles from 2011-2019. Prior to returning to RVC, he served as the Vice President of Student Affairs and Chief Student Services Officer for Madison College. He has also held roles in higher education at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. In all of his roles, Dr. Spearman has over two decades of higher education experience and a proven track-record of leading and implementing successful strategic enrollment, innovative programming, and diversity and inclusion initiatives.
  • The College opened the Advanced Technology Center in Belvidere, Illinois in January, 2022. 

History of RVC Presidents

  • 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 (2016-2020)
  • Beth E. Young (2020)
  • Dr. Howard J. Spearman (2020-Present)
white college logomark on dark blue background

About the Cornerstone

The cornerstone placed outside the Educational Resource Center (ERC) at Rock Valley College houses a time capsule originally placed in 1970 that was intended to be opened in 2020. At a special ceremony in 2020, a new capsule took its place to be opened 50 years from now in the year 2070.

On November 23, 1970 at 2 p.m., a dedication event was held at the cornerstone of the Educational Resource Center (ERC) on the Rock Valley College main campus. The ceremony symbolized completion of Phase I of the Rock Valley College building program, which included six buildings: Classroom Building One, Classroom Building Two, the Boiler House, the Educational Resource Center, the Student Center, and the Physical Education Center.

Sealed into a copper vault behind the cornerstone was a time capsule containing various documents and artifacts pertinent to the history of Rock Valley College. Most of the documents were preserved on microfiche format, while audio and video files were recorded to 16 millimeter reels, to conserve space.

By resolution of the Rock Valley College Board of Trustees in 1970, the vault was to be reopened in the year 2020 so that future scholars, including many who may just be beginning their studies at Rock Valley College, may have an undistorted view of the life and times in 1970.

To honor those wishes, the College held a special ceremony exactly 50 years later on November 23, 2020 at 2 p.m. to open the capsule and acknowledge RVC staff and student leaders from 1970. To also honor the tradition of the cornerstone, a new time capsule with items from our life and times in 2020, including a resolution from our current Board of Trustees that the vault be reopened again in fifty years, in the year 2070, was put back in place behind the cornerstone.

Below you will find a recap of the items removed from the 1970 time capsule and the items placed in the 2020 time capsule.

Most of the documents for the 1970 time capsule were placed in microfiche to conserve space. Those documents have been converted to .pdf files and can be viewed in their entirety below. Local radio and television stations in the RVC district submitted audio or video files that were recorded to 16 millimeter reels. Those have been converted to modern audio and video files for your listening pleasure.

Included in the vault to be opened in 2070 are documents, photos, and videos, as well as some tangible items that summarize life at RVC in 2020. All of the documents, photos, and videos have been saved to a flash drive.