In December, 1963, some members of the Boards of Education for both Champaign and Urbana began to discuss the development of a technical institute. As word about the project spread, more and more school districts expressed interest and joined the effort. This group of educators and community leaders soon became known as the East Central Illinois Steering Committee (ECISC). The goal of the initial project, a technical institute, changed when the committee heard in 1964 of the proposed Master Plan for Higher Education in Illinois. The Master Plan persuaded the ECISC to think in terms of a comprehensive junior college.
By April of 1966, the first Board of Trustees for the college had been elected. Temporary offices for the college were established and the Board began a national search for a college president. William M. Staerkel was selected for the post in October, 1966, and assumed his duties in January, 1967.
By the following month, major decisions were made about the education program, temporary campus location, and selection of college staff. The architectural firm of Ernest J. Kump & Associates, of Palo Alto, California, was selected to design the permanent campus. Mr. Kump referred to the design for the Parkland campus as an "Educational Village." Buildings for use as a temporary campus were leased in downtown Champaign in spring, 1967. The McMillan-Ehler farm and adjoining tracts, totaling 233 acres, were soon purchased for the permanent site of the campus.
The College opened in September, 1967. On the first day of registration, 1,338 students enrolled. A photo taken at the time shows a long line of students extending out the front door of the Student Center at 134 W. Church Street in downtown Champaign. Tuition at the time was a modest $4.50 per credit hour.
Each year thereafter, enrollment continued to grow. Fall of 1973 marked the opening of the permanent campus, whose first two phases of construction included the four main "wings," in Phase I; and the College Center, in Phase II. Construction on Phase III, which included the Physical Education facility, followed shortly thereafter. More recent years have seen the addition of an administrative wing, the theatre and Staerkel Planetarium, the Child Development Center, and the Agriculture Technology Center.
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