Changing Lives: McHenry County College at 50

The History of McHenry County College begins before we even opened our door. In the early 1960’s a group of citizens looked to bring an institution to the area.  The task was not as easy as you might think.  In April of 1967, the referendum did pass to establish the school. In June of that year the Board of Trustees met for the first time and in November, Forest D. Etheredge was appointed the founding President. At that point, the college did not have a name so a contest to name it was created. The prize? A one term scholarship with a value of $100.   And that was McHenry County College got its name.

1968 was an important year as the IIT Pure Oil Building in Crystal Lake was selected as MCC’s interim campus. In September of that year, the doors opened to over 300 full-time and 1,000 part-time students. At that time the first issue of our student newspaper The Tartan was printed.

Our first commencement happened in June of 1970, marking the first graduating class. As we moved through the seventies, land on Route 14 was purchased and the State of Illinois provided money for a permanent building. Buildings A and D were the first to be built.

The eighties saw expansion with major construction. Buildings B and C were added forming a connection between building A and D. Adjoining acres were purchased, and the Board approved the development of a training facility, which would later become an off-campus site known as the Shah Center.

The first and only strike by the MCC faculty happened in fall of 1980. It lasted six days before an agreement was reached. 

The 1990’s brought more construction with the expansion of the library and building A, plus the addition of building E. More importantly our programs and community offerings began to provide services to help more and more students. The opening of the Small Business Development Center, Adult Volunteer Literacy Tutoring program, the Fast Track, and operating of the Traffic Safety School all came to be. MCC also began our Kids on Campus program.

The turn of the millennia, McHenry County College continued to provide affordable college courses and community options. We saw some major remodeling, which added updated facilities for our students. A new culinary kitchen, a new robotics lab and the expansion of the manufacturing lab provided state-of-the-art equipment for students enrolled in those programs. A new Black Box Theater was built to continue the tradition of providing high quality performing arts to the surrounding communities.

And in 2014, MCC was named one of the top 150 community colleges in the USA by the Aspen Institute and CNN and College Measures ranked it one of the most affordable and successful community colleges in Illinois.

So how has McHenry County College fared after 50 years of service? MCC consists of hundreds of dedicated employees committed to a thriving culture of continuous improvement. At the heart of MCC, as always, are the students, whether they come here to start an educational journey, finish a dream that got sidetracked, or try something new. Today MCC provides training, adult education, and college level courses to over 7,000 credit and 30,000 non-credit students a year, plus community events, seminars, special programs, and more, that all told, benefit nearly 60,000 participants a year.

On the degree side, MCC offers different types of associate's degrees, covering science, arts, fine arts, engineering science, and general education. Degrees and certificates are also available through online courses. Students can now get a degree from home, without ever setting foot in a classroom.

On the non-credit side, MCC offers more than 500 classes, trips, and workshops for lifelong learners in topics ranging from music, art and dance, to finance and investing. Besides the main campus, MCC's award-winning Shah Center for Commerce and Economic Development in McHenry provides training, technical assistance, assessment, and small business development to over 500 local businesses and their employees annually.

For those who don't attend classes at MCC, there are a wealth of social, cultural, and community-focused resources and programming that have made MCC one of the best kept secrets in the county. From free concerts, health fairs, and lecture series, to exciting college level athletic events, a fitness center, and our collegiate library.

When it comes to instructional technology, MCC has always been on the cutting edge. For example, the recent additions of the nursing lab, the health professions simulation apartment, the robotics lab, the manufacturing lab, the hydroponics greenhouse and the state of the art culinary kitchen.

At MCC, there is no limit to what students can experience. The journey may begin in grade school with kids in college, in sport camp programs. It may begin during or after high school with college courses, student organizations, or athletics. Or it might start further down the road in our retired adult program. The possibilities are endless, and we're proud of the fact that learners of all ages, interests, and backgrounds feel at home here.

MCC is also proud of the fact that data from the last five years show that full-time MCC freshmen complete a degree or certificate, or transfer to a four-year college within three years at a rate higher than the statewide average. Plus, MCC students have proven over and over that they do just as well, if not better, than non-transfer students at four year schools. And MCC's graduation rate is better than 67% of colleges nationwide. Indeed, of the 60,000 people who pass through our doors every year, everyone gains access to the benefits of infinite possibilities…