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RCC Archival Collections

The Archives Collection includes manuscripts, records, publications, photographs, art, and memorabilia related to the history of the institution.

About This Timeline


This timeline was developed by Clark Adams and Members of the NCCCS 50th Anniversary Committee, Revised 6/2/2014

Roots of the System, 1917-1946


The Smith-Hughes Act (also known as the Vocational Education Act of 1917) was passed. This Act represented the first national approval of vocational education in public schools and provided federal funding for programs in agriculture, trades and industries, and home economics.  Between the years of 1917-1958, these programs grew rapidly and provided a basis for the vocational programs that were expanded with the Industrial Education Centers in the late 1950s.


Buncombe County Junior College, a 2-year college supported locally from public funds, opened in Asheville, North Carolina in Biltmore High School as the first public junior college in North Carolina. The college offered courses that transferred to the University’s three branches at Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and Greensboro, as well as terminal programs such as pre-nursing, industrial arts, secretarial science, home economics, pre-aviation, “primary teacher’s,” and “grammar-grade teachers.” This institution represents the earliest link to the state’s current community college system. The school’s name later changed to Asheville-Biltmore College (the state’s first community college) and is now the University of North Carolina at Asheville.  Prior to 1927, other junior colleges existed in North Carolina, but these were church affiliated or private and not supported through public funds. 


The College of the City of Asheville, a public junior college, opened at Asheville High School, but closed in 1930. 


North Carolina General Assembly established an act to create the North Carolina Vocational Textile School in Belmont, North Carolina for the purpose of “improving the training and enlarging the opportunities of those engaged in the textile industry.” 


First classes began on September 1, 1943 at the North Carolina Vocational Textile School.


In response to the number of returning “G.I.s”, the Veterans Administration, State Department of Public Instruction, and the North Carolina College Conference developed a plan to establish North Carolina College Centers to be administered by the Directorate of Extension of The University of North Carolina. Twelve centers were established and opened on September 23, 1946, providing freshman and sophomore level college courses. Classes were held at the local high schools in Albemarle, Burlington, Burnsville, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Gastonia, Goldsboro, Greensboro (at Women’s College), Hendersonville, Murphy, Rocky Mount, and Wilmington. Two centers were established for African-American students, one at Asheville under the management of the Agricultural and Technical College (NC A&T State University) and the other at Wilmington under the direction of the State Teacher’s College (Fayetteville State University). The centers ceased operation in 1949, as the enrollment declined and it was felt that they had served their purpose. The Charlotte Center and Wilmington Center became Charlotte College and Wilmington College. 

Community College Philosophy Adopted, 1947-1952


The Wilmington College Center was established as Wilmington College, a public junior college, on March 25, 1947 and initial classes were held in New Hanover High School. Williston College, a public junior college, opened for African-American students in Wilmington and held classes at Williston Industrial High School. These schools were operated locally by the New Hanover Board of Education.  Wilmington College became UNC-Wilmington in 1969.


North Carolina State College established the first college-conducted technical institute in North Carolina and the entire Southeast through its Extension Division of the School of Engineering. The Morehead City Technical Institute, known as the “The University By The Sea,” was located on Bogue Sound at Camp Glenn in Morehead City, and opened for classes in September 1947. The main purpose of the institute was to give technical training to young men who were interested in the maintenance, design, and operation of small craft for use in the waters of the Eastern Seaboard and to provide instruction in electrical, woodworking, radio, telephone, metalworking, building, automotive, diesel, heating, and other industries where technical training is essential.


U. S. President Harry Truman’s President’s Commission on Higher Education published its report Higher Education for American Democracy in December 1947. The term “community college” was first widely publicized and clearly defined in this report. The Commission recommended that the number of community colleges be increased and that their activities be multiplied. Asheville-Biltmore College, Charlotte College, Wilmington College, and Williston College expanded their terminal/vocational programs, adult education programs, and services to business and industry to adopt the community college philosophy and from this point forward become to be known as locally supported community colleges.


North Carolina Governor R. Gregg Cherry appointed a State Education Commission led by Dr. Clyde A. Erwin, State Superintendent of Public Instruction. In its December 1948 report, the Commission suggested the establishments of locally supported community colleges in North Carolina.


The Greensboro College Center was chartered as the Greensboro Evening College and offered an extensive adult education program on the two-year level. Guilford College assumed responsibility of the institution in 1953 and it became known as the Greensboro Division of Guilford College.


The General Assembly ratified a bill (Chapter 786 Session Laws of 1949) which created the Charlotte Community College System on April 4.. The system was a locally supported system under the Charlotte City School Board and included Charlotte College (classes held in Central High School) and George Washington Carver College, which was established for African-American students through the passage of the same bill.  Charlotte College became UNC-Charlotte in 1965.


The General Assembly authorized a community college study commission.


Clyde Erwin, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, appointed a commission to survey the need for State supported community colleges and to project a plan for the development of a state-wide network of these institutions. Dr. Allan S. Hurlburt, head of the Department of Education at East Carolina Teacher’s College was appointed Director of the North Carolina Survey of Public Education to make a study of the “need in North Carolina for State supported community colleges and to project a basic plan for the development of community college services and facilities in the State.” 


Morehead City Technical Institute closed and was moved to Gastonia where it became Gaston Technical Institute, also operated under the auspices of NC State College.  Gaston Technical Institute began operation in September 1952.  The Institute’s curriculum served as a blueprint for the curriculum of the future Industrial Education Centers.  The Institute ceased operation in 1965 when it merged with Gaston College. 


The Community College Study prepared by Dr. Allan S. Hurlburt and a state-wide committee was released in September 1952 and was the first North Carolina publication that solely involved community colleges. The study established criteria for establishing community colleges in North Carolina, and provided an outline of proposed legislation to implement recommendations for a system of state-supported community colleges.  The Community College Study drew heavily from President Truman’s Commission Report of 1947 and advocated comprehensive institutions, free tuition, and a statewide network within commuting distances of all citizens.  It also emphasized the need to break down economic barriers, citing minimal correlation between the ability to succeed and the ability to pay.

First Community College Legislation, 1953-1955


“The Community College Bill” (HB 579) was submitted to the General Assembly on March 3, 1953. The bill’s purpose was to “authorize the creation, establishment and operation of community colleges under the supervision of the State Board of Education.” The bill was defeated in the House. 


On April 30, the General Assembly authorized the appointment of a Commission on Higher Education.  Governor William Umstead appointed the Commission in the fall of the year. 


Luther H. Hodges (D) is elected Governor of North Carolina and the original community college system and Industrial Education Centers are born during his tenure of 1954-1961.


After a comprehensive study of higher education in the State, the Commission on Higher Education issued its report on January 9, 1955. In its report, the Commission emphasized the great value of the community college, and stated that this type of institution may be North Carolina’s solution for the problem of the large increase in enrollment predicted. 

First State Aid for Community Colleges, 1955


The General Assembly established the State Board of Higher Education and D. Hiden Ramsey of Asheville was appointed as the Chairman. The General Assembly also approved the first state support for community colleges in the form of small grants-in-aid for Asheville-Biltmore College, Carver College, Charlotte College, and Wilmington College/Williston Unit. These institutions were previously supported by some combination of local taxes and student tuition.

First Community College System Established, 1957-1958


On June 5, 1957, the General Assembly passed a "Community College Act" to initiate and develop a system of state-supported community colleges under the supervision of the State Board of Higher Education. 


On June 12, 1957, the General Assembly appropriated $500,000 to the State Board of Education to initiate a state-wide system of area vocational schools known as Industrial Education Centers and authorized the Industrial Education Centers Study. Dallas Herring of Rose Hill, North Carolina was named Chairman of the State Board of Education, a post which he would hold until 1977. 


Asheville-Biltmore College, previously a locally supported community college, was the first college to be certified as a state-supported community college on October 21, 1957. At the time, Asheville-Biltmore College’s campus was located at Seely’s Castle where it would remain until 1961.


On December 5, the State Board of Education adopted a set of principles and procedures for an improved program of trade and industrial education in the state as a supplement to high school training. The Board proposed to establish a number of industrial education centers in school administrative units.   


Wilmington College (located in the Isaac Bear Building) including Williston Unit was certified as a state supported community college on March 5, 1958. Charlotte College (located in Central High School) and Carver College are both certified as state-supported community colleges under the 1957 Community College Act on May 5, 1958.

Industrial Education Centers Established, 1958-1962


On March 6, the State Board of Education adopted Regulations Governing the Establishment of Industrial Education Centers.


On April 3, 1958, the first seven Industrial Education Centers were approved by the State Board of Education and by the Advisory Budget Commission on April 11.  The first Industrial Education Center, Leaksville-Rockingham County Industrial Education Center, opened for classes in the vocational building on the campus of John Motley Morehead High School in Spray, NC (now Eden) the week of May 19, 1958. 

1958 First seven Industrial Education Centers began operation.  Each of the first seven sites had previously offered day and night vocational classes for high school students and adults through the local high schools prior to being approved as an Industrial Education Center.
  • Guilford IEC (Guilford Technical Community College)
  • Goldsboro IEC (Wayne Community College)
  • Durham IEC (Durham Technical Community College)
  • Burlington IEC (Alamance Community College)
  • Wilmington IEC (Cape Fear Community College)
  • Wilson IEC (Wilson Community College)
  • Leaksville-Rockingham County IEC (closed to form vocational division of Rockingham Community College in 1966) 
  • Guilford IEC (began operation in the old Guilford County Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Jamestown on present site)
  • Goldsboro IEC (operated 1958-1959 in Goldsboro High School)
  • Durham IEC (operated 1958-1961 in Durham High School and Hillside High School)
  • Burlington IEC (operated 1958-1959 in Williams High School and a rented building)
  • Wilmington IEC (operated 1958-1959 in New Hanover High School)
  • Wilson IEC (operated 1958-1959 in Charles L. Coon Junior High School)                   

First New and Expanding Industry programs created (Now Customized Training)


Legislation was passed in July which made the Industrial Education Centers full-fledged members of the state’s public school system. The bill wrote a definition of the centers into the State School Machinery Act and provided that counties allotted their share of the centers’ costs before dividing funds among the regular school administrative units. 


Four Industrial Education Centers began operation: 

  • Asheville IEC (classes held in Lee Edwards High School and other high schools from 1959-1961; now Asheville-Buncombe Technical College)
  • Gastonia IEC (classes held in Ashley High School; closed in 1965 and merged with Gaston College)
  • Winston-Salem IEC (classes held at Reynolds High School, Hanes, Gray, Carver, and Atkins High School in 1959-1960; now Forsyth Technical Community College)
  • Central IEC (classes held in Central High School 1959-1963; merged with Mecklenburg College to form Central Piedmont Community College in 1963)

College of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City became the fifth community college approved under the “Community College Act” of 1957 and opened for classes on September 21, 1961. Two new Industrial Education Centers began operation:

  • Lenoir IEC (Operated at Stallings Air Force Base and Contentnea Consolidated School 1960-1963; now Lenoir Community College)
  • Catawba IEC (now Catawba Valley Community College)

First Extension Unit began operation:

  • Duplin County (now James Sprunt Community College)

Three new Industrial Education Centers began operation: 

  • Pitt IEC (now Pitt Community College)
  • Fayetteville IEC (now Fayetteville Technical Community College)
  • Lee County IEC (now Central Carolina Community College)

In February, the State Board of Education approved an Extension Unit Plan for the IEC’s which provided an experimental stage of development of a new IEC and allowed “unit extension courses to be taught in areas which had a need for this instruction but which could not meet all the qualifications for an IEC.” 


The Governor’s Commission on Education Beyond the High School (Carlyle Commission) recommended merger of IEC’s and existing community colleges operating under the Board of Higher Education into a system of community colleges under the State Board of Education.


The General Assembly adopted Carlyle Commission recommendations in the Community College Act.

Dr. C. Horace Hamilton, professor of Rural Sociology at NC State College, published a study entitled Community Colleges for North Carolina:  A Study of Need, Location, and Service Areas which influenced the Carlyle Commission. 

The Federal Government passed the Manpower Development and Training Act which launched the era of federal funding for employee training and retraining. Programs were established in the Industrial Education Centers to respond to this Act

Three Industrial Education Centers began operation:

  • Randolph IEC (now Randolph Community College)
  • Rowan IEC (now Rowan-Cabarrus Community College)
  • Wake IEC (now Wake Technical Community College)

Three Extension Units began operation: 

  • Ansonville (became Anson Community College)
  • Rutherford (now Isothermal Community College)
  • Pamlico (now Pamlico Community College)

New Community College System Established, 1963-1979


On May 17, Omnibus Higher Education Act (G. S. 115A) created a new Community College System and Department of Community Colleges under the supervision of State Board of Education. In addition, the act created the Consolidated University System.

The original community colleges (Asheville-Biltmore College, Charlotte College, and Wilmington College) became designated as four-year institutions.

Dr. Isaac Epps Ready (1903-1986) was named as first head of Community College Department of the State Board of Education.

Gaston College became the sixth and final community college approved under the “Community College Act” of 1957 and began classes in 1964.

1963 Davidson County Industrial Education Center (now Davidson County Community College) began operation.

All 20 Industrial Education Centers, College of the Albemarle, Gaston College, and 4 Extension Units (James Sprunt, Ansonville, Rutherford, and Pamlico) formed the nucleus of the new community college system.

Two Community Colleges brought into the new Community College system (current names shown):

  • Central Piedmont Community College (Central IEC and Mecklenburg College merged to form)  
  • College of the Albemarle

Two Community Colleges chartered:

  • Sandhills Community College (classes began in 1965)
  • Rockingham Community College (absorbed Leaksville-Rockingham IEC in 1966 and began classes that year)

Five Extension Units Began Operation:

  • Beaufort County (now Beaufort County Community College)
  • Carteret (now Carteret Community College)
  • Onslow County (now Coastal Carolina Community College)
  • Sampson (now Sampson Community College)
  • Southwestern (now Southwestern Community College)

Seven new Community Colleges/Technical Institutes were established and joined the Community College System:

  • Richmond Technical Institute (Richmond Community College)
  • Western Piedmont Community College
  • Caldwell Technical Institute (Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute)
  • Surry Community College
  • Wilkes Community College
  • Isothermal Community College
  • Southeastern Community College

Two Extension Units Began Operation:

  • Marion-McDowell (now McDowell Technical Community College)
  • Tri-County (now Tri-County Community College)

In November 1964, North Carolina became the first state to approve a State-Level plan for adult basic education under the Federal Economic Opportunities Act. Adult Basic Education (ABE) programs were created by national Economic Opportunities Act.

First Learning Lab was created at Randolph Industrial Education Center with Adult Education Act funds.

Total course enrollment for the System was 72, 677 in 1963-1964.


Gaston College joined the new Community College System and consolidated Gastonia Industrial Education Center and Gaston Technical Institute.

The Department of Community Colleges began sponsoring programs through the State Prisons Department on September 15. 

The North Carolina Community College Adult Educators Association was formed as the Community College Adult Educators of North Carolina.  Fodie Hodges of Lenoir Community College was named first President. 

Final Industrial Education Center began operation:

  • Onslow IEC (now Coastal Carolina Community College)

Four Extension Units Began Operation.  Current names are shown below. 

  • Cleveland (Cleveland Community College)
  • Craven Community College
  • Haywood (Haywood Community College)
  • Robeson (Robeson Community College)

Dr. Raymond Stone (President of Sandhills Community College) and Dr. Ben Fountain (President of Lenoir Community College) established the North Carolina Community College Presidents’ Association.

There were now 43 institutions with 28,250 full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollments.

On November 3, the graduate equivalency degree (GED) program began in the community colleges.


New Community Colleges/Technical Institutes were established and joined the Community College System:

  • Halifax County Technical Institute (Halifax Community College)
  • Martin Technical Institute (Martin Community College)
  • Beaufort County Technical Institute (Beaufort Community College)
  • Roanoke-Chowan Technical Institute (Roanoke-Chowan Community College)
  • Bladen Technical Institute (Bladen Community College)
  • Montgomery Technical Institute (Montgomery Community College)
  • Edgecombe Technical Institute (Edgecombe Community College)
  • Nash Technical Institute (Nash Community College)

Congress passed the Adult Education Act and Community Colleges became the deliverer of Adult Basic Education in NC.

NC State University Community College Internship Program was established through the efforts of Dr. Edgar Boone.


Three new Community Colleges were established and joined the Community College System:

  • Johnston County Technical Institute (Johnston Community College)
  • Henderson County Technical Institute (Blue Ridge Community College)
  • Vance County Technical Institute (Vance-Granville Community College)

Person County Technical Institute, now Piedmont Community College, was established and joined the Community College System.

First Human Resources Development program in the North Carolina Community College System opened at Lenoir Community College.

Student enrollment grew 400% from 1963-1970.


Two new institutions were established and joined the system:

  • Mayland Technical Institute (Mayland Community College)
  • Stanly Community College

The Visiting Artist program was created through a partnership between the NC Arts Council and the Department of Community Colleges. The purpose of the program was to bring exciting cultural experiences to communities across the state through music, dance, literature, theatre and art. The program ended in 1995. 


Dr. Benjamin E. Fountain, Jr. became head of the Department of Community Colleges.


Human Resources Development was extended to six community colleges.


Chartered in the 1850s as a Presbyterian College for women, Mitchell Community College became a public community college and joined the Community College System


Legislature provided funding for every Community College to have a campus.

Dallas Herring retired as Chairman of the State Board of Education. 


Dr. Charles R. Holloman was named Acting President of the Department of Community Colleges.


Brunswick Community College became the last new institution to join the Community College system.


Dr. C. Neill McLeod became the first female president of a NC Community College in the current community college system at Martin Community College. The first female administrator of a NC Community College was Bonnie Cone of Charlotte College in 1947.

Dr. Larry J. Blake became President of the Department of Community Colleges.

A New Era, 1980-1997


The General Assembly authorized creation of the State Board of Community Colleges which meant it was no longer under the jurisdiction of the State Board of Education.

Dr. Phail Wynn, Jr. became the first African-American president of a NC Community College at Durham Technical Institute.


Carl Horn became first Chair of State Board of Community Colleges.


Governor Hunt named community colleges the “presumptive deliverer of training” in North Carolina.

Former Governor Robert W. Scott was named to head the Department of Community Colleges.

High School students were approved to take Community College courses.


Small Business Center program began.


Official service areas were created for each Community College.


The North Carolina Community Colleges Foundation was chartered.


Commission on the Future was created by the State Board of Community Colleges.

Focused Industrial Training (FIT) program was created for training and retraining of employees of established industries.


25th Anniversary of the Community College System

Legislature declared that all Technical Institutes may be renamed Community Colleges and offer comprehensive programs.

First Statewide Long Range Plan adopted.


State Board of Community Colleges adopted the landmark report of the Commission on the Future of North Carolina Community Colleges.


State Board of Community Colleges, State Board of Education, and the UNC Board of Governors jointly adopted statewide education goals.


First Critical Success Factors report showed performance by college on a number of measures; an Institutional Effectiveness position was funded for each college to track data and use it for improvement.

The North Carolina Center for Applied Textile Technology, formerly the North Carolina Vocational Textile School, became a member of the North Carolina Community College System.  In 2005, it was absorbed by Gaston College.


State Board required every college to have a Diversity Plan for personnel.


First statewide capital bond issue for community colleges ($250 million) passed by a substantial margin of the popular vote.

Governor’s Education Cabinet was created by statute.


Common Course Library was created to facilitate articulation across higher education.


Comprehensive Articulation Agreement was signed with the UNC System- Associate Degrees transfer as first two years of baccalaureate.

Dr. Lloyd V. Hackley became President of the Department of Community Colleges.

The Small Business Network (SBCN) extended to all 58 community colleges.


The Honorable H. Martin Lancaster became President of the Department of Community Colleges.

Department of Community Colleges was renamed North Carolina Community Colleges System Office.

All North Carolina Community Colleges converted from quarter to semester system.

Dawn of a New Century, 1998-2013


Distance Learning Consortium was formed by all 58 community colleges.


South Piedmont Community College was established through the abolishment of Anson Community College and Union Technical Education Center. 


Virtual Learning Community (VLC) adopted first courses online.

North Carolina Community College System consulted with Thailand to help start ten community colleges there.

National Showcase Award and State Innovation Award presented to NCCCS for workforce training and placement.


Golden Leaf Foundation funded Biotech Centers.

Second statewide capital bond issue passed for higher education and included $600 million for community colleges.


GlaxoSmithKline Foundation made $1 million grant for teacher preparation.

Career Readiness Certificate was adopted in North Carolina.


Golden LEAF awarded $9.4 million to NCCCS for Biotechnology training.


Six BioNetwork Centers were created at community colleges around the state.

Community College System and UNC System formed a Task Force on Partnership.

Duke Energy began its Community and Technical College Grant Program.


Independent Study revealed North Carolina Community Colleges deliver Double-Digit returns to Students and taxpayers.

NC was chosen as one of five states to receive “Achieving the Dream” grants to community colleges to improve student success.

First Minority Male Mentoring Conference was held.


Early College High Schools were authorized by the State Board of Community Colleges.


Initiative was developed to combine databases of university system, community college system and public schools with help of SAS Institute.


Dr. R. Scott Ralls became President of the North Carolina Community Colleges System.

Community Colleges and the Association of NC Independent Colleges and Universities signed articulation agreement.

North Carolina’s Learn and Earn high school reform initiative, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, received the 2008 Innovations in American Government Award.

2009 JobsNOW initiative was established to provide short term training to help unemployed workers get new jobs.

The National Manufacturing Institute and the North Carolina-based National Center for the Biotechnology Workforce (NCBW) announced a formal alliance to jointly develop biotechnology and pharmaceutical production workforce. 


NC Community Colleges received Jobs for the Future’s Accelerating Opportunity Initiative Design Grant to support community college efforts to transform Adult Education.

North Carolina Community College System partnered with researchers in five-year study to track employment outcomes for community college students.


Gates Foundation and Jobs for the Future recognized NC Community Colleges’ student success efforts.

North Carolina was one of ten states to receive Core-to-College grant from Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors to help align K-12 and post-secondary standards.


North Carolina Community Colleges System celebrated 50th Anniversary of establishment of the Department of Community Colleges.