Every Friday through December 18, we will be sharing RVC facts and photos from over the years right here on our blog and on social media. Be sure to check here every Friday and follow us on all of our social media platforms as we will be posting unique content across all media throughout the year!
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Today’s 50th Friday covers the year 1991.
RVC Students Win National Robotics Competition
In April of 1991, Darren Pitts and Nick Parnello, students in Joe Etminan’s robotics class, won first place at the Fifth Annual Student Robotics/Automation Contest, a national contest sponsored by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. Over 40 universities, community colleges, and high schools competed in the contest held in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Pitts and Parnello spent approximately 100 hours fine-tuning their table-top robot that was programmed to spray paint designs on t-shirts. The robot was so popular at the competition that the duo said they ended up painting 40 shirts for other contestants that day. The project was developed from an idea suggested by RVC’s Steve Soenksen.
GED Program Changes Lives
High school dropouts Tom and Muriel Irvin videotaped the ceremony where they received their GED certificates in June of 1991 because they hoped they could show it years later to their then 1-year-old daughter to impress upon her the importance of education. Tom talked about how he would never have been hired for his job at Elco if it had not been for RVC’s GED program. Meanwhile, Muriel planned to use her GED as a stepping-stone to more education at RVC with a goal of becoming a nurse.
Tom Irvin operating a forklift at Elco in 1991.
Another success story from the same year was that of a girl named Shonda who dropped out of high school after getting pregnant. She went through the GED program at RVC and later went on to take nursing assistant courses at RVC and became a nursing assistant and certified rehabilitation aid. She planned to go back to school again to become a registered nurse. “Without this GED program, I don’t know where I would be”, said Shonda.
Shonda said without RVC’s GED program she didn’t know where she would be.
Today the Adult Education and GED programs at Rock Valley College continue to produce success stories like this each year and the significance of those programs are perhaps as important for our community as they have ever been. There are currently over 45,000 adults in the RVC district without a high school diploma. In our region, adults annually earn $7,100 less than someone with a high school diploma or equivalent and only 14% of jobs in our region are available to adults with less than a high school diploma.
Starlight Kicks Off 25th Season with West Side Story
Starlight Theatre kicked off its 25th season in the summer of 1991 with critically acclaimed and sold out productions of West Side Story. The hit musical was performed previously at Starlight in 1979 but 1991 marked the first time under the direction of Mike Webb. Local critic Victor Yehling stated, “The music and the songs are, as always, beautiful; and many of them are blessed with beautiful execution.” He went on to praise the “strong acting” and called the production an “excellent beginning” to Starlight’s silver anniversary.
DWP Sees Boom Due to High Unemployment Rate
The Rock Valley College Dislocated Workers Program was a key resource in 1991 for many residents dealing with the high unemployment rate. Factory closings and job cuts put approximately 14,000 Rockford residents on the unemployment line, leading to a 7.9% unemployment rate for June 1991. Rock Valley College’s DWP provided workshops, counseling, mock interviews, assistance with resumes, and discussion groups to help people get back to work. The DWP continues its great work today by serving approximately 750 unemployed workers annually.
Unemployed workers attend a workshop at RVC’s Dislocated Workers Program in 1991.
Second Industrial Revolution
In 1991, the age of computer technology was being called the “Second Industrial Revolution” for the way computers were changing the course of industry. Due to the College’s Tech Center, which opened in 1987, RVC was still making headlines for being a leader in technology. On the Tech Center shop floor, everything was automated with high tech and the center was designed to be used by both students and area manufacturers.
Stan McCord stands in the demonstration cell in 1991 where one computer linked five different machines on the Tech Center “shop floor.”
Nearly 25 years later, Stan McCord demonstrates a HAAS CNC machining center to students at RVC’s Engineering Open House in February 2015.
They Ain’t Afraid of No Ghosts
On Monday, November 18, 1991, Ghost Hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren spoke at the RVC Student Center. The Warrens are paranormal investigators perhaps best known for their involvement in 1976 in the Amityville Horror case in which New York couple George and Kathy Lutz claimed that their house was haunted by a violent, demonic presence so intense that it eventually drove them out of their home. The reported haunting was the basis for the 1977 book The Amityville Horror and 1979 and 2005 movies of the same name. The Warrens were also portrayed by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga in the hit 2013 film The Conjuring, which focused on the Warrens’ investigation of disturbing events that occurred at a family’s farmhouse in Rhode Island in 1971.
The Warrens in the 1970’s.