Moraine Valley Community College celebrates 50 years

  • Written by Kelly White

(smoriane valley in 1967 photo 3-2moraine valley now photo 3-2

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Moraine Valley Community College, as it was at the beginning, and  now, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Enrollment at the Palos Hills college has grown from 1,200 students in 1967, to 34,000 currently.



The Moraine Valley Board of Trustees recognized the 50th anniversary of the college during a board meeting on Feb. 21

The college, 9000 College Parkway, Palos Hills, was founded by the Oak Lawn Rotary and opened its doors on Feb. 18, 1967. Members of the Oak Lawn Rotary were responsible for initiating efforts to bring a ballot item asking residents if they would support the establishment of a community college district. The ballot received overwhelming support from the local community.

Dr. Sylvia Jenkins, president of Moraine Valley Community College, presented a letter of recognition Monday to the Oak Lawn Rotary for establishing the college.

"A total of 290 acres of land were originally purchased in 1967 by the Oak Lawn Rotary," said Joseph Murphy, the board chair. "We would like to thank them for their constant support of the college. Because of them, Moraine Valley went from a sod farm to having 14 state-of-the-art buildings and continues to be rock solid since 1967. Moraine Valley focuses on job building and career building and still continues to promote student success in the southwest suburbs."

Since 1967, Moraine Valley Community College has been one of the nation’s leading community colleges. Offering nearly 150 associate degree and certificate programs, Moraine Valley has built a reputation for preparing the finest graduates and employees, board members said.

"Out of the different schools I've attended throughout my life, Moraine Valley has been the one that stood out the most for me,” said student Reem Motan, 20. “I've always admired how the school has been a place where diversity is not only accepted, but where it is celebrated. It's an environment that has offered me endless opportunities to thrive as a student and as a leader.”

When Moraine Valley began, the enrollment was 1,200 students. Most of those students came from Oak Lawn due in large part because of the Oak Lawn Rotary Club. Today it is the second largest community college in Illinois and enrolls about 34,000 students annually, according to Moraine Valley officials.

“The biggest difference is size of our student body,” said Jessica Crotty, director of marketing and communications at Moraine. “Early estimates were that the college would never exceed 6,000 students.”

In the college’s early days, the school subscribed to an open-learning concept, where classrooms didn’t have permanent walls. Students could walk through the hallways and stop to listen to any instructor that sounded interesting to them.

“It was a trend in higher education at that time, but wasn’t the most practical,” Crotty said.

Now the college has smart classrooms designed around the concepts being taught and hands-on learning approaches, including math labs, nursing simulation labs and a massage clinic.

The first college building in 1967 was a temporary office in Oak Lawn. Later, college officials leased two warehouses in Alsip, where the first classes were held. The college then acquired a sod farm in Palos Hills, which is where the main campus stands today. In its infancy, it had a number of temporary buildings that over time were replaced with the 14 buildings that exist at the college right now. The addition of the college’s off-campus sites in Blue Island and Tinley Park serve the students at the far ends of the district’s footprint.

With the size and student enrollment being the college’s main change since its beginning, college officials believe the thing that has remained a constant over the past 50 years is the school’s sense of community.

“The faculty and staff at Moraine Valley have always worked together for the benefit of the students. The people at Moraine Valley have created and sustained a family-feel on the campus for generations,” Crotty said. “Moraine Valley is one of the most well-respected community colleges in the nation because of its excellent programs, innovative spirit and engaged leadership. It’s a college that all our district residents can be proud of.”

Students feel the same way.

“I'm very blessed to attend a school that aims to make every student feel like they belong here and for accepting everyone for who they are,” Motan said.