History of Harper College
As early as 1950, discussion began about establishing a community college. An active committee was at work on the project in 1961, and a community survey was done in 1962. In 1964, an area community college committee studied the feasibility of establishing a community college. The study committee’s report concluded with the recommendation that “the citizens of the two high school districts…take appropriate steps to bring the voters of the four townships the proposal that a community college be established.”
Early in 1966, the present 200-acre campus site in Palatine was selected, and the College was named William Rainey Harper College, in honor of the first President of the University of Chicago and the originator of the community college concept. In the spring, district voters approved a bond referendum by a four-to-one margin.
In 1967, Harper’s first faculty members were hired, and classes for 1,725 students were begun in temporary facilities in September. In the same year, the College broke ground for the first six buildings on campus property.
The William Rainey Harper Educational Foundation was incorporated in 1973 to broaden and enrich the College program through support of such projects as scholarships and special project initiatives funded by private donations to the College.
In September 1975, a successful funding referendum was held that allowed the College to proceed with completion of the Palatine campus. Buildings G and H, housing vocational technology shops and laboratories, were completed in 1977. The Board of Trustees named an interim successor after the founding College President resigned. Harper’s second President assumed the position the following year.
In 1978, the College began a major effort to develop a new master plan in concert with a comprehensive self-study effort. A referendum to increase operating revenue failed to gain voter approval that year. This led to major budget cuts in an effort to match expenditures with income.
By 1980, the campus had increased to 15 buildings with the opening of the physical education, athletics, and recreation facility (Building M) and business, social science, and vocational education housed in Buildings I and J.
In 1982, the College established a CAD/CAM training center in cooperation with high technology firms in the area. The center was designed to provide instruction and resource materials relating to computer-aided design and manufacturing.
In February 1985, district residents approved a tax rate increase for operation of the College. This was the first increase in tax support for the educational programs, services, and operating expenses of Harper College since the College was established.
In 1988, the College hired its third President after the retirement of the second President. The College began an extensive study in 1990 which led to the vision statement “Our Preferred Future.” More than 1,000 College personnel and community residents worked together to develop this document to serve as a Harper College planning guide until the year 2000. In response to an emerging industry need, the Corporate Services department, now called Harper College for Businesses, was established in 1991 as the College’s office of first contact representing all programs of interest to businesses and industry, including credit classes, continuing education, and customized training.
In 1992, a new Information Systems Division was formed. Harper developed a new technology plan in 1994, following two years of extensive participation and input by administrators, faculty, and staff. In 1993, the College opened Building S to house the Publications and Communication Services department. In spring 1994, the Liberal Arts building was opened. Building L included the Liberal Arts Division office,classrooms, faculty offices, and the College Bookstore. A studio (Black Box) theater and three-dimensional art studios occupy the first floor of the facility. The two buildings were part of a building phase that also included renovations to Building F which houses the Learning Resources Center and the Academic Enrichment and Language Studies Division.
In 1994, the College purchased the Northeast Center (NEC). The Board of Trustees approved the first and second phases of the Technology Plan in 1995 and 1996. The campus computer network was completed in 1996, providing links between offices and classrooms and as a resource to position Harper for higher education in the current century.
In 1997, Harper College received a 10-year re-accreditation from the North Central Association’s Commission on Higher Education.
In 1998, the fourth President was hired. The College implemented a new shared governance structure and published its first comprehensive strategic long range plan (SLRP). Groundbreaking for the new Performing Arts Center (PAC) and the Wojcik Conference Center was held on May 18, 2000. The new buildings were partially funded by the Illinois Capital Development Board. In 2002, the conference center opened and was named the Wojcik Conference Center in recognition of a $1.1 million member initiative grant given to Harper by Illinois State Representative Kay Wojcik. At a special Board meeting on August
At a special Board meeting on August 16, 2000, the Trustees were presented with a comprehensive long-range Campus Master Plan. The plan was intended to guide the College into the future. On November 7, 2000, the Harper College district residents passed an $88.8 million referendum to build a new facility to house Harper’s growing science, technology, and health care programs. Construction of Avanté began in fall 2001.
On August 29, 2001, Harper College purchased a new facility in Schaumburg for the Technical Education and Consulting at Harper (TECH) program. The facility, now called the Harper Professional Center (HPC), is the site for the new Fast Track degree option.
In 2004, Harper College served a total of 37,338 credit and noncredit students during the summer, fall, and spring terms, making Harper one of the largest community colleges in the country. In 2004, Harper College opened Avanté, Center for Science, Health Careers, and Emerging Technologies. In 2005, Avanté was selected as a Merit Award finalist by the Chicago Building Congress (CBC). The CBC praised Avanté for its distinctive design and outstanding construction, and its positive impact on the surrounding community. In 2006, Harper College received the National Science Foundation Undergraduate Research grant.
In 2009, Dr. Kenneth Ender became Harper College’s fifth president.