Home  :  50years  :  50 Year Celebration Facts  

50 Year Celebration Facts

Special thanks to the Parkland College Archive collection and Cheri Cameron for compiling these 50 facts.

  1. Efforts to establish Parkland College began in the early 1960s with Lowell Fisher, president of the Urbana School Board; William W. Froom, president of the Champaign School Board; W.G. Mellon and Ray Braun, superintendents of Champaign and Urbana, respectively; and Ray Karnes, director of vocational programs at the University of Illinois. The five are considered the founders of Parkland College and are memorialized on the Founders Wall in the X wing, placed in 1996.

  2. The News-Gazette sponsored a contest to name Parkland College. The invitation was delivered to the Board of Trustees by a young reporter named Roger Ebert.

  3. Donald Swank, dean of students, ultimately suggested the name Parkland, which was in relation to the park space proposed by the Champaign Park District, now Dodds Park.

  4. Parkland courses originally followed a quarterly system. The move to semesters in 1974 was made to better accommodate the needs of transfer students into four-year colleges.

  5. The first few years of classes were held in buildings primarily in downtown Champaign, but also on the U of I campus and Springfield Avenue. Student Services was at 134 W. Church Street, and the Learning Resource Center and Library were at 2 Main. Science classes were held at 1615 W. Springfield Avenue. 

  6. Parkland’s campus was designed with the concept of “home away from home,” with the small lounge areas scattered throughout the campus intended to resemble living rooms.

  7. Trees are an integral part of Parkland’s image, directly inspired from ideas presented by Dr. Staerkel, Parkland’s first president. This fact was fundamental in the selection of architect Edwin J. Kump, who was known for integrating nature heavily into his designs.

  8. Rachel Schroeder was the first full-time employee of Parkland College. Hired in October 1966, she worked for three Parkland presidents before retiring in 2000.  

  9. Enrollment for the first quarter of Parkland College was 1,338 students.

  10. William J. Howard, who earned a certificate in data processing, was the first Parkland graduate employed by Parkland.

  11. The land on which Parkland was built, known as the Seeber-Mattis tract, included the McMillan/Ehler homestead and was purchased from Mrs. Lois Ehler.

  12. The red barn and corn crib near the Bradley Avenue entrance are the last remaining buildings of the McMillan/Ehler homestead existing here before Parkland. The barn was built in 1909 and the corncrib was added in 1950.

  13. Parkland was designed by a California architect named Ernest J. Kump, who was well known for designing innovative school buildings that reflected not only the culture of a community, but also the landscape. Kump studied topographical maps of the area before designing Parkland.

  14. At the main campus, opened in 1973, The C, M, B, and L wings were all built before the X wing, which was called the College Center.

  15. Unable to secure movers to relocate from downtown Champaign to the new campus on Bradley Avenue, staff and faculty packed and moved themselves into the new space.

  16. During the Blizzard of 1978, nine people, including Dean Donald Swank, two computer operators, three custodians, a security guard, a radio engineer, and a student, were stranded at Parkland for nearly 40 hours.

  17. Perimeter Road is also known as William W. Froom Way. Mr. Froom, having formed the original planning committee along with Lowell Fisher in 1963, served on the Board of Trustees as first chairman beginning in 1966 and was on the board of the Parkland College Foundation from 1975 until 1996.

  18. Parkland's first commencement exercises took place on June 15, 1968, and presented 21 students with certificates for one-year programs.

  19. The Parkland Planetarium was named for Dr. William Staerkel, Parkland’s first president (1966–1986). It was his final project before retiring. The cultural center, which included both the planetarium and the theatre, was included in the original campus plans, even though it took 20 years to be completed.

  20. There is a time capsule near the planetarium. It was buried in October 1987 as part of the festivities during the dedication of the cultural center (this includes the planetarium, theatre, and Second Stage). Among its contents are a telephone and a parking meter that accepts pennies. It is to be opened in 2061, with the next arrival of Halley’s Comet. 

  21.  Parkland had the first Pharmacy Tech program in Illinois.

  22. Mary Lee Sargent and Pauline Kayes, both former Parkland faculty, were participants in a sit-in to support the Equal Rights Amendment in June 1982, which took place in the Illinois State Building. The event made national news and appeared in both Time and Life magazines. The photo appearing in Life Magazine was taken by Annie Liebowitz.  

  23. In 1992, the Parkland community gathered supplies and sent two Parkland tractor trailers to Florida to aid victims of Hurricane Andrew. The following year, Parkland delivered 16,500 gallons of water to flood victims in the Des Moines, Iowa, area.

  24. Parkland Public Safety officers began wearing standard uniforms in 1995. Before the switch, they wore khaki slacks and green polo shirts.
  25. Parkland has hosted many authors, poets, and musicians throughout its history. Among them was Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Illinois poet laureate Gwendolyn Brooks, who shared her work on September 22, 1993, in the Parkland Theatre.

  26. On May 3, 1988, the Parkland College Foundation presented “An Intimate Evening with Marvin Hamlisch.”  The late composer and conductor was one of 12 people to win the EGOT, that is, an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. 

  27. Musical duo Matt & Kim performed a concert at Parkland on September 3, 2009, sponsored by WPCD. That commitment kept them from attending the MTV Video Music Awards at which they won in Breakout Video category. 

  28. Leonard Pitts, Jr., author of a syndicated column and three books, and best known for his column published after September 11, was commencement speaker for 2013. 

  29. Charles Osgood, host of CBS Sunday Morning, delivered the address at the 1978 commencement.

  30. Responding to Hurricane Katrina, 12 Parkland students traveled to New Orleans as part of an Alternative Spring Break service learning project in 2006. Additionally, Dental Hygienist students traveled to Ward 9 to provide dental care for students in that district.

  31. Parkland College was the first community college in the country to manage and use Nature Conservancy land by overseeing the spot known as Patton Woods.

  32. On October 15, 1969, classes at Parkland were cancelled and replaced with at Teach-in to discuss the Vietnam War.

  33. Coby the Cobra made his first appearance in The Prospectus on Wednesday, March 1, 2006. Later, he was the featured Parkland celebrity in Parkland Libraries READ poster series. 

  34. Parkland owns over 350 works of art created by students in Fine and Applied Arts.

  35. Dr. Zelema Harris, Parkland’s third president, is well known for her successful efforts to promote, grow, and diversify Parkland College. Perhaps her most unusual contribution was as a groundskeeper in August 1993, when the Quality of Life Committee sponsored a job-switch day!

  36. On October 25, 1993, a dislodged grounding clamp on electric arc welder caused a fire in Parkland's library, causing around $250,000 in damage. Firefighters saved books shelved in the area before extinguishing the fire and, while the damage was still extensive, their efforts led to minimal damage in the library’s book collection, which was estimated to be valued at $2 million.

  37. The PROF (Professors of the Future) Scholar Program was established in 1997 by the late Karen Keener, who was the Humanities department chair at the time. The program was among the first in the nation to increase minority faculty by supporting undergraduate students to become educators.

  38. Parkland’s first online classes were offered in spring 1997. They were English 101 and 102, Speech 101, and PEC 164: Introduction to Sports Psychology.

  39. “Family” is recurrent theme in Parkland’s history. It was important in the design of the building, and a significant motif in Dr. Staerkel’s tenure as president. However, it was not more apparent than during the days following September 11, 2001. The student body pulled together through blood drives and fundraising efforts, and a prayer vigil was organized and held. In an address to the community held at Memorial Stadium, Dr. Harris said, “We have discovered over the past four days that our unity is truly our strength.”

  40. Because trees are an integral part of Parkland’s identity, the ritual of planting a tree for Arbor Day has been an annual event for many years. Initially a class project created in 1980 by Professor Mary Lee Sargent, the project grew, and Parkland employees and community members donate trees each year in memory or honor of loved ones. The plot where the trees are planted is known as Memorial Grove. 

  41. In 2015, College for Kids celebrated its 35th year of offering summer enrichment programs to the children of District 505.

  42. Parkland Athletics teams have made 30 National Junior College Athletic Association title appearances since 2001 and won five titles.

  43. Student assessment as a prerequisite to attending Parkland began in 1993.

  44. Parkland had been an active participant in educational TV since 1978 when Champaign-Urbana first established a cable franchise. In 1995, Parkland received its own channel and programs began being transferred directly from Parkland to cable subscribers throughout District 505.
  45. The annually held Parkland Auto Show began in 1999.

  46. Spoon River Anthology was the first theatrical performance for Parkland. Since then, there have been more than 200 plays and musicals performed by Parkland students, the community, and touring companies.

  47. Parkland’s agreement with Case New Holland in 2009 build the Diesel Technology Addition to the Tony Noel Agriculture Technology Applications Center. All students completing this program receive job placement.

  48. Engaging students in real-world educational experiences is a cornerstone of learning at Parkland College.  One such program, Applied Media Promotions (AMP) is a student-staffed promotional company serving local nonprofit organizations, which began in 2014. Perimeter Road Records, a new student record label, joins AMP in 2016.

  49. With a goal of improving student retention, in 2011, the Center for Academic Success began implementing the First Year Experience, which incorporates SOAR (Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration); an annual Fall Convocation; student learning communities for Business and Health Professions students; and the first-year community, Together We Achieve. 

  50. Parkland has been offering students volunteer opportunities through the Service Learning Program since 2003.


© Parkland College
2400 West Bradley Ave | Champaign, IL 61821 | 217.351.2200 | 888.467.6065
The Mission of Parkland College is to engage the community in learning.