Nearly 5,000 people turned out to celebrate KCC's 25th anniversary. The school has grown from a few temporary buildings to a sprawling 223,000-square-foot red-brick campus with more than 4,000 students. The celebration includes slime-making demonstrations, an aerobics marathon, performances by three high school choirs, a Karaoke contest, and a frozen yogurt served – of course – in the air-conditioning lab. The day was also a chance to showcase a newly-restored 1966 Ford Mustang convertible which was being raffled by the KCC Foundation to raise scholarship funds. Tickets were $100 each, and only 500 were available. Before the winner was drawn in July 1992, the car won a number of trophies in local auto shows.
Board of Trustee members during the 25th anniversary celebration were: Fey Orr, Betty Meents, Charles C. Huber, Donald L. Haley, Dr. Walter D. Maddox, Hugh E. Van Voorst and Dennis Smith. Fey Orr was the board chair at the time. Hugh Van Voorst would go on to be the board chair from 1995 to 2014. Another person on the board, Betty Meents, was the longest serving trustee at 39 years, from April 1976 to January 2015.
Two milestones were reached during commencement. Andrea Walton of Kankakee became the 5,000th graduate in the school's 25-year history; and KCC had the largest graduating class (424) since the school began conferring degrees in 1970. Walton earned an Associate in Arts degree, and in all, she completed 70 credit hours at KCC.
The Northern Illinois Anglers Association and KCC dedicated a new environmental and natural history library collection to honor Kankakee River advocate Gordon Graves. The collection was added at the KCC Learning Resource Center (now the Miner Memorial Library). The following December, a significant addition was made, thanks to Graves' friend, R. Ben Peyton and staff in the department of Fisheries and Wildlife of Michigan State University. The collection remains, and continues to have a very appropriate home, given the college's proximity to the Kankakee River.
KCC has won a grant to help as many as 150 high school youth become excited about college and inspired to pursue a college education. The federal Upward Bound grant is initially funded at $600,000, with the opportunity for as much as $1.06 million over a three-year period. The grant is part of a federally-funded program to benefit first generation college-bound students through academic and counselling services offered to supplement their college preparation. As of 2016, approximately 520 high school students have participated in the program.
KCC has earned repeated renewals of the grant, and now offers the other “TRIO” programs, Student Support Services and Talent Search.
TRIO Student Support Services began working with students in Spring 1998. It offers extra support to students who face barriers in earning a college degree. To qualify, neither of the student's parents may have earned a bachelor’s degree, or the student must meet federal income guidelines, or the student must have a documented disability.
TRIO Student Support Services assists 150 students per year. Every spring, since 1999, the program has given out “STAR Awards” – the Spectacular TRIO Award of Recognition. STAR recipients must each have a cumulative grade point average of 3.25 or higher and have completed at least 12 credit hours of course work during the current year. In Spring 2016, 32 TRIO students earned the STAR award. Each STAR student gets to honor a faculty or staff member who has contributed to their success.
The TRIO Talent Search program identifies and assists individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds who have the potential to succeed in higher education. The program provides academic, career, and financial counseling to participants. It encourages them to graduate from high school and continue on to and complete their postsecondary education. It includes a school year and summer component.
The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) of KCC promotes the development of small businesses in Kankakee and Iroquois counties. The SBDC provides one-on-one counseling at no cost in addition to presenting workshops that provide low cost business education fundamentals.
When the college’s new North Extension Center opened in May 2014, the Small Business Development Center moved there. The center works with more than 180 clients as well as an average of 10-16 new business start-ups each year. Seminars and a variety of other tools to help businesses are offered, too. Plus, the SBDC is active in the community to promote businesses, including acting as host of the new Accelerate Small Business Conference.
The Cavaliers volleyball team finished in second place at the NJCAA National Tournament after winning the regional IV title. All-Americans Kelly Gardner and Jenny Wobrock assisted in setting a team record of 38 wins in a row. Despite 12 region titles, it is the closest the volleyball team has come to a national title.
The KCC men’s basketball team has also been the national runner-up twice, in 1985 and 1988. The baseball team has been close, too, with a third place finish in the NJCAA World Series in 2009.
KCC held its first-ever job fair at the college with representatives of 25 local businesses to accept resumes, give out applications or give short interviews. More than 300 current and past students attended. It gave employers and students a chance to receive more information about each other.
There has been at least one job fair per year since. Currently, the college has two, a spring job fair in early April, and a fall fair in early October. Typically, at least 40 employers and hundreds of community members attend each event.
KCC won its first-ever national championship in athletics on a Saturday night in Hagerstown, Md. In the triple-overtime thriller, KCC needed to come from behind to prevail. With 15 seconds left in the second half, KCC was behind by 3, 66-69. In the end, after three overtimes had passed, KCC triumphed with a 94-89 victory over St. Clair (Mich.) Community College. KCC’s first-ever national championship in athletics was won on a Saturday night in Hagerstown, Md.
The Cavs' team leader was Amy Kieckbusch, who was named tournament MVP, and who also was an NJCAA First-Team All-American. The KCC women's basketball team won the NJCAA national tournament under the direction of Coach Paul O'Connor. The team ended the season with 34 wins and 2 losses. On the 20th anniversary of the championship, all 12 players returned to KCC for a reunion.
It is a little-known fact that O'Connor was the first coach of a women's team at KCC. It wasn't basketball, though, it was softball. One more tidbit: With 20 visits, KCC's women's basketball team has more appearances at the Division II NJCAA tournament than any other team.
The Dislocated Workers Program at KCC was named one of the best government-funded employment and training organizations in the nation. The program provides counseling, academic and occupational training, on-the-job-training and job placement services to people who have lost their jobs. The program was named a charter member of the Enterprise Council, a national network of certified employment and training organizations.
Like many other successful programs, the Dislocated Workers Program has continued. The program offers career training assistance up to $12,000. A number of nurses, other health workers, welders, service technicians, and machinists have gotten their start in the dislocated workers program.
KCC offered a new summer program, "Honors Credit in Escrow," designed for area high school students to begin attending KCC between their junior and senior years. They can complete a full semester of college classes before others even begin college the fall semester after high school graduation. Perks of the program include saving money compared to the cost of a university. Requirements were an ACT score of 22 or above, a grade point average of 2.5 or better and rank in the top 20 percent of his or her class.
Today, area high school students have a number of options to earn college credit before graduating.
KCC instructor Art Suprenant returned again to weld at the Indianapolis 500's Gasoline Alley, the race's only welding location. By working at the race, Suprenant makes contacts that become learning and growth opportunities for KCC welding students and the college. Plans are underway for KCC to become the official training center for the National Automotive Radiator Services Association. Suprenant uses the most advanced welding materials and equipment available while working at the Indy 500. He returns that knowledge to KCC to keep its program in tune with current trends.
Suprenant continues to work at the Indy 500 each year. For the race’s 100th running on May 29, 2016, Suprenant worked for Ed Carpenter Racing's drivers, Josef Newgarden, J R Hildebrand, and Ed Carpenter. Over the years, he has worked both in the welding garage and on pit crews whose drivers included Claude Bourbonnais, Sarah Fisher, Al Unser Jr., Buddy Lazier, and Robbie Buhl. Additionally, for many years, he was a team member and worked race weekends in California, Texas, Alabama, Iowa, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Florida. From as far away as Japan, to neighboring Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, on race day, his duties included donning a fire suit and helping to refuel the car during pit stops.
Suprenant taught and was a program coordinator at KCC from 1970 to 2002, and he received the KCC Alumni Association Recognition Award in 1997.
John Fulton, a 1981 KCC graduate, was nominated for the Illinois Community College Trustees Association Distinguished Alumnus Award. Fulton has two degrees from KCC, one in business and another in general studies. A Vietnam War veteran, Fulton was severely wounded during the war, and is a leader in the area's farming community, works with veterans, and is director of the homeless program for the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs in Manteno. He also has served as president and vice-president of the KCC Alumni Association.
In 2009, KCC renamed the college’s annual Alumni Award as the John M. Fulton Distinguished Alumni Award. The recipients must meet the following criteria: Outstanding success and distinction in chosen field, humanitarian service that has proven greatly beneficial to society, continued interest in/support of education and community colleges, overcoming life's obstacles, and completion of a recognized program of instruction at KCC.