Western Wyoming Community College History
Western Wyoming Community College (Western), the fifth of seven community colleges in Wyoming, was established in the Fall of 1959. Through the efforts of a citizens’ committee, a campaign was begun, an election was held, and the College and the original district were created. In September, 1959, forty students enrolled for college credit courses with five full-time faculty teaching during the evening. The College just celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2019.
In 1960–61, the College moved to Reliance, 5 miles (8 km) from Rock Springs, to occupy the former Reliance High School and daytime classes began. In September, 1964, the original district was expanded to include all communities within Sweetwater County, a new Board of Trustees was elected, and the official name of the College became Western Wyoming Community College.
Consistent growth of the College led to the inauguration of a $1,822,000 building program on October 4, 1966. On November 11, 1967, ground-breaking ceremonies marked the beginning of construction on a new campus, and completion in June, 1969. Growth continued. In March, 1973, voters approved a $1,780,000 bond issue to provide additional instructional facilities. The new vocational-technical education building was ready for occupancy in Fall, 1974, and the college center building was completed. In 1976, three residence halls were constructed to provide on-campus housing, made possible by a loan from the State Farm Loan Board. The College was granted accreditation by the North Central Association in April 1976.
Again, in 1981, the citizens of Sweetwater County demonstrated their support for Western Wyoming Community College by authorizing a building project that cost in excess of $63,000,000. This major expansion created one of the most modern and beautiful community college campuses in the West. The Rock Springs Daily Rocket-Miner advocated the expanded campus through the work of its late publisher, Charles E. Richardson. Students who enrolled in 1985 were the first to use new student housing, the Green River Center and the Technology and Industry shops. Between the Fall of 1987 and Fall of 1988, a new student commons area, classrooms and labs, offices, Children’s Center, studios, and theater were occupied. A new chemistry laboratory was completed for the Fall of 1993. Construction of a fifth residence hall was approved in December, 1994, and completed in August, 1997. The most recent expansion was the construction of a sixth residence hall completed in 2008.
Student numbers have increased from 40 in 1959 to serving over 7,000 people per year as of 2019. These figures include all students – varying ages and interests, enrolled in the credit, non-credit and extension programs. Western has progressed from one graduate in 1962 to over 400 in 2018-2019. The commencement ceremony is held each year in May and includes Summer, Fall and Spring graduates. Over the years Western has awarded more than 9,200 associate degrees and certificates since tracking.