Illinois Valley Community College History

Illinois Valley Community College has served the educational needs of its north-central Illinois district for 99 years.

The second oldest public community college in the state, IVCC predecessor La Salle-Peru-Oglesby Junior College was established April 24, 1924, by action of the LaSalle-Peru Board of Education, District 120 and originally located on the third floor of LaSalle-Peru Township High School in LaSalle.

The college’s first day of classes was Sept. 15, 1924, when it welcomed 32 freshmen, seven faculty and two administrators.

LPO’s mission was to “…lay the foundations for successful careers in vocational, social, and political fields.” Tuition and fees totaled $16 per semester for the first ten years of its existence to enable students to bypass four costly semesters at a university.

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 1932 and later served as Presidents.

In 1950, the community raised enough money to send LPO’s football team to the Gold Dust Bowl in Vallejo, Cal. Though the team lost to California’s Santa Rosa Junior College, the invitation was the athletic highlight of LPO’s first 25 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 across the river to Oglesby. On Oct. 21, 1967, 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 Sept. 9, 1968, the first college classes convened in 12 temporary buildings on a scenic bluff overlooking La Salle-Peru and the Illinois River. While students attended the temporary buildings, a new $20 million permanent campus was being built nearby. It was officially dedicated in October 1972.

In May 1974, Dr. Alfred E. Wisgoski, an LPO alumnus, was named IVCC’s seventh President, a position he held for 21 years. Dr. Wisgoski was committed to a comprehensive community college with an open-door policy.

Under Dr. Wisgoski’s leadership, new partnerships were built to better serve district business and industry. These partnerships and new technical programs prompted IBM to identify IVCC as a business partner in preparing manufacturing industries to convert to computer integrated assembly systems.

IVCC signed a contract with IBM in 1988 that led to the corporate giant donating $1.2 million in state-of-the-art equipment to IVCC. At the time, Dr. Wisgoski said, “This agreement guarantees IVCC will offer the very best in high technology training on equipment better than that found in all but a handful of the nation’s community colleges.”

Dr. Jean Goodnow was named IVCC’s eighth President in 1996 and within a year a master plan for facility renovations, new construction and infrastructure upgrades was developed. In 1998, $4.2 million in Technology Funding Bonds were sold for computer network and telecommunications infrastructure improvements.

During her tenure, the college received in excess of $15 million in grants and nine new career programs were developed. 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. Dr. Novak, as the former Director of Continuing Education at IVCC in the 1970s and past president of two other Illinois community colleges, came out of retirement to assist the board in its search for IVCC’s next president.

After a nationwide search, Dr. Larry Huffman, former longtime President at Kankakee Community College, was chosen as IVCC’s ninth President beginning in July 2006. Dr. Huffman had served as IVCC’s Dean of Student Development from 1974 to 1977.

Upon returning to IVCC, Dr. Huffman implemented strategic planning, strengthened the college’s outreach to businesses and industries, built upon IVCC’s strong pre-baccalaureate reputation, enhanced career/occupational program offerings and initiated creation of the Foundation’s IVCC-LPO Hall of Fame and 21st Century Scholars Society.

Following Dr. Huffman’s resignation in June 2007, Dr. Dave Louis was appointed Interim President. Dr. Louis, retired President of Kishwaukee Community College, served IVCC until the board announced the appointment of Dr. Jerome Corcoran as President on March 18, 2008.

Dr. Corcoran, promoted from Vice-President for Business Services and Finance/Treasurer, was selected as IVCC’s tenth President and served the College in this role for 15 years, retiring on June 30, 2023.

Highlights of his tenure include:

  • Construction of the 80,000-square-foot Peter Miller Community Technology Center. The CTC project received 75 percent of its $30.5 million in funding from the state.
  • Building the Truck Driver Training facility and Skill Path.
  • Opening the Ottawa Center satellite campus in 2010.
  • Raising more than $4 million in private funding plus an estate bequest valued at $10 million.
  • $1 million renovations of both the chemistry and biology labs.
  • Expanding partnerships with district high schools leading to more opportunities for students to earn college credit including Marquette Academy’s Running Start Program.
  • Construction of a Student Center and Cyber Café.
  • The successful revival of IVCC’s agriculture program while launching new programs in dental hygiene, cybersecurity, medical assistant and paramedic.

In December 2022, the Board of Trustees named Dr. Tracy Morris as the 11th President of the College. She took office as the eleventh president of the college on July 1, 2023. Dr. Morris is the first Illinois Valley Community College graduate to be named president of the college. Dr. Morris was part of the staff and leadership team at Illinois Valley Community College for 13 years, serving as Associate Vice President for Student Services, Director of Admissions and Records, and Counselor/Orientation Coordinator. In addition, she served as the Vice President for Student Services at Illinois Central College and Compliance Officer at Joliet Junior College. 

IVCC’s 2,000-square-mile district encompasses 15 high schools completely in-district and five partially in-district. In-district schools include DePue, Earlville, Hall, LaMoille, La Salle-Peru, Marquette Academy, Mendota, Ottawa, Princeton, Putnam County, St. Bede Academy, Serena, Streator, Woodland and La Salle Peru Christian. Schools partially in-district are Bureau Valley, Fieldcrest, Henry-Senachwine, Midland and Seneca.

The district is primarily made up of La Salle, Bureau and Putnam counties as well as small parts of DeKalb, Grundy, Lee, Livingston and Marshall counties.

District 513 serves approximately 145,000 residents and 6,000 students annually. In 2022, the college had 343 employees.

For a more detailed history of the college through 1994, see:

IVCC: The First 70 Years by Elizabeth Cummings and Bill Danley.