New Joliet Junior College president drawn to JJC by its history

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Joliet Junior College President Dr. Debra Daniels, impressed with the school's unique history, is leading its participation in several major on-site and community projects. | TOMMY THOMPSON PHOTO ~ JOLIET JUNIOR COLLEGE


Joliet Junior College named its new president, Dr. Debra Daniels, in March. Daniels, who previously worked at San Bernardino Valley College in California, was drawn to JJC because of its prestigious history.

“When I was in graduate school I studied Joliet Junior College because we’re the first community college. It has a very interesting place in community college history,” said Daniels. “I always wanted to be associated with that. It just seemed like a really good fit. When I saw the ad, I had to apply.”

Joliet Junior College, founded in 1901, was the first public community college in the country. The college was founded as a postgraduate high school program by J. Stanley Brown, superintendent of Joliet Township High School, and William Rainey Harper, president of the University of Chicago.

“At that time, education was only accessible to the wealthy that lived by cities or in cities. They had this wild idea that education should be brought to the masses,” said Daniels. “Their first classes were in secret because it was such a controversial idea to do this. Eventually, they were able to organize and get support from the community. It’s that kind of risk taking and entrepreneurial spirit that prevails here at JJC.”

Daniels feels that her transition to becoming the new president of Joliet Junior College has been smooth, and she has been impressed by the faculty and staff’s dedication to its students.

“I’ve had a really good time coming over. People are amazingly kind to me and helpful,” said Daniels. “The people that work here are very dedicated to our students, and that’s really nice to find. They really love what they’re doing, and it makes a big difference.”

One major project that Joliet Junior College is currently undertaking is the construction of its new Allied Health building.

“We’re finishing the construction of the Health Professions Building and the expansion and renovation of the Natural Sciences building,” said Daniels. “We’ll host a ribbon cutting for the Natural Sciences building on Sept. 25, and the Health Professions Building will open for students for the spring 2013 semester. We’re looking forward to that. Both projects are moving along very well.”

Another project that Joliet Junior College is presently working on is the construction of its new City Center building in downtown Joliet.

“The groundbreaking for our new City Center Campus will be sometime in January 2013. It will be six stories, 96,000 square feet, and will cost over $50 million. We have great partnerships with the city and everyone is looking forward to our new building downtown.”

Daniels believes that it’s important for the community to know that the Joliet Junior College faculty and staff are working very hard for its students, even in the summer months.

“People often ask me if I am off for the summer. We’re working all the time,” said Daniels. “We are working for 12 months and running all the time trying to get ready for fall semester, and we have summer school going on right now. We serve 47,000 students annually here, which is huge. In order to carry out that kind of business, we really have to work hard at keeping ourselves organized.”

For more information about Joliet Junior College, visit the Website at, or contact them via phone at (815) 729-9020.