Rock Valley College

History of RVC

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.

Spring Brook Farm

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!

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.

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!

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.

Rock Valley College Downtown Exterior Shot

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.

Health Sciences Center Exterior

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.

History of RVC Presidents

Dr. Clifford G. Erickson
Dr. Clifford G. Erickson (1966-1968)

Dr. Karl J. Jacobs
Dr. Karl J. Jacobs (1969-1997)

Dr. Roland J. Chapdelaine
Dr. Roland J. Chapdelaine (1997-2004)

Dr. John H. Anderson
Dr. John H. Anderson (2004)

Dr. Jack J. Becherer
Dr. Jack J. Becherer (2004-2013)

Mike Mastroianni
Michael D. Mastroianni (2014-2016)

Dr. Doug Jensen
Dr. Douglas J. Jensen (2016-2020)

Beth Young
Beth E. Young (2020)

Dr. Howard Spearman
Dr. Howard J. Spearman (2020-Present)