It was the 1964 Illinois Board of Higher Education study,
“A Provisional Master Plan for Higher Education in Illinois”, that led to the formation of Illinois Central College. What is remarkable, however, is that in September, 1967, only three years after publication of the study, the college opened its doors with 2,486 students and a full and part-time faculty of 113.
From planning to opening was not as simple as it might seem. The process involved formation of a Tri-County Public Junior College Steering Committee, support of 19 unit or high school boards, formation of a Tri-County Public Junior College District, a referendum, plus selection of a college board, hiring administrators, staff and faculty, building a facility and selecting a curriculum.
From the beginning, it was determined the college would meet the needs of vocational, technical and transfer students. In November 1966, the Board selected and purchased 437.6 acres between East Peoria, Peoria and Washington for the Illinois Central College campus.
Dr. Kenneth Edwards, a member of the Bellevue Junior College faculty since 1947 and dean since 1953, was appointed Illinois Central College’s president in December, 1966. The Board and the President made the decision to build temporary facilities instead of delaying the opening. A $99,700 contract for building and leasing interim buildings was awarded to G. Raymond Becker in the spring of 1967. The buildings were ready for fall and several are still in use.
Thirty-eight programs were offered the first year of operation. That fall, the Board recommended $6.06 million be allocated for permanent building construction. In March, 1968, a referendum for a $9.7 million bond issue was approved. And Phase I, classrooms and labs, was ready for occupancy in 1972. Phase II, including the library and administration building and the physical education building, was finished in 1974 at a cost of $10 million. In 1977, the Agricultural and Industrial Technology Building and the 500-seat Performing Arts Center were completed at a cost of about $6 million.
In 1975, Dr. Kenneth Edwards resigned and the new library/administration building was named in his honor. The Board appointed Dr. Leon H. Perley as president.
The college continues to grow, not only in enrollment, faculty and staff, but in the area it serves. It now serves all of Peoria and Woodford Counties and portions of Tazewell, McLean, Mason, Livingston, Bureau, and Marshall Counties. The district encompasses more than 2,000 square miles and it is one of the largest community college districts in Illinois. Enrollment peaked at 15,000 for the 1981 fall semester and is currently approaching 13,000.