In September 1964, the citizens of Rutherford County voted nearly 18 to 1 for a bond issue to build the first buildings that would create the campus of Isothermal Community College. Fifty years later, the College has grown to include a campus in Polk County, offers 87 programs of study, provides customized training to area business and is home to Rutherford Early College High School.
“You have an opportunity today that in 1962 you would not have had,” said Isothermal President Walter Dalton recently during a presentation to students on the College’s history. The program was sponsored by the Cultural Events Committee.
“The Cultural Events Committee wanted to honor the history of the College, as it has touched so many people’s lives in its 50 years,” said Mike Gavin, director of marketing and community relations for the College. “It’s hard to imagine anyone in Rutherford or Polk counties who hasn’t had a connection here in the past 50 years.”
The student presentation was the final in a series of campus events to honor the 50th anniversary. In September, a public celebration was held during the College’s annual Grub Day event.
Isothermal is one of the oldest community college campuses in the North Carolina Community College System. It was the sixth to receive public financing.
“Isothermal is not in any city limits,” Dalton explained to the students in attendance. “The founders very intentionally didn’t place it in any town because the college was meant for use by the entire county. And the name Isothermal was one that everybody would embrace.”
Dalton also shared interesting facts about the College - such as a story of the donation of 43 of the original 102 acres.
“Mrs. S.L. Lawing, who was 71 at the time, agreed to sell the college 43 acres for $300 per acre if she was permitted to sign up for the first dance class,” Dalton said.
At one time, the College had the nickname UCLA.
“Before the first buildings on the Spindale campus were planned and completed, classes were held in the space of the Industrial Education Center in Avondale,” Dalton explained. “This lead to the tongue-in-cheek nickname of UCLA, which stood for Upper Caroleen Lower Avondale.”
The College will continue to grow in the future, Dalton told the students.
“As we go forward into the next 50 years, we do so with great anticipation and great hope. We will continue to adapt to the needs of our students and our community.”