In 1963, the North Carolina General Assembly passed the Community College Act creating a system of comprehensive community colleges and technical institutes. In September 1964, the people of Wilkes County approved the establishment of a community college through a bond vote for construction of facilities and a tax authorization for the operation of the college. Wilkes Community College was approved by the State Board of Education on October 1, 1964.
The first board of trustees was sworn into office on January 15, 1965, and the name “Wilkes Community College” was officially adopted on that date. This board employed Dr. Howard E. Thompson as the college’s first president, and he served from March 5, 1965, to June 30, 1977. He was followed by Dr. David E. Daniel, July 1, 1977, to April 2, 1989; Dr. H. Edwin Beam, interim president, April 3, 1989, to July 16, 1989; Dr. James R. Randolph, July 17, 1989, to July 7, 1995; Dr. Swanson Richards, interim president, July 8, 1995, to February 29, 1996; Dr. Gordon G. Burns, Jr., March 3, 1996, to June 1, 2014; Morgan Francis, acting president, June 2, 2014, to June 30, 2014; and Dr. Jeffrey Alan Cox, the college’s current president who assumed duties on July 1, 2014.
The Wilkes Community College Endowment Corporation was established on January 26, 1971, as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, which consists of a 30-member volunteer board of directors. On September 9, 2016, the endowment corporation changed its name to become the WCC Foundation. The foundation exists solely to support and advance the objectives of Wilkes Community College by raising funds for scholarships, capital projects, staff and faculty development, and the beautification of Wilkes Community College. Annual drives and events such as the Annual Fund Campaign, Henry Moore Golf Classic Tournament, and MerleFest support the foundation’s mission.
In 1990, the Board of Trustees was expanded to include two trustees from each of Alleghany and Ashe counties, making a total of 16 trustees plus the Student Government Association president, who serves in an ex-officio capacity.
Thompson, Hayes, and Lovette halls, the first buildings on the Wilkes County campus on Collegiate Drive in Wilkesboro, were occupied on April 1, 1969. Since then, the college has expanded with more buildings for classrooms and offices. These include the Power Mechanics building, Randolph Hall/Bumgarner Gymnasium and Building 7 in 1978; the Industrial Classroom building in 1980; the Continuing Education building in 1981; and the John A. Walker Community Center, a convention and cultural arts complex, in 1984. Daniel Hall was added in 1989; the Doc and Merle Watson Theatre in 1990; the Beacon Building, purchased in 1994; WCC Alumni Hall, completed in 1998; the Horticulture Complex in 2005; and Lowe’s Hall, which was occupied in spring of 2007. An Automotive Technology Complex comprising two buildings, the McNeill Automotive Center and the Collision Repair Center, was dedicated in January 2014. These facilities make up the current 17 buildings and 151.7 acres of the Wilkes campus.
WCC’s North Wilkesboro Center, which houses the College Readiness Division, opened in 1984 on 10th Street and relocated to White Pine Street in North Wilkesboro in 2004.
In 2013, the WCC Foundation, formerly WCC Endowment Corporation, purchased a vacated office building on Oakwoods Road and renovated it. The building is named Herring Hall and houses the Health Sciences Center. The building opened for use in summer 2015.
The college also has an Alleghany County center in Sparta, which began offering continuing education courses in 1974 from its downtown Sparta location. The center began offering curriculum classes in 1983. Alleghany County remodeled the Bassett Walker plant to co-house the Business Development Corporation and the WCC-Alleghany Center in 2003.
The Ashe County campus in Jefferson, which was elevated to multi-campus status in 2008, began operations in 1985. The facility underwent renovations and additions in 1996 and 2005.
In 2009 the Wilkes Early College High School opened on the Wilkes Campus of the college.
Apprenticeship training courses were the first to be offered and began in September 1965. Part-time business technology programs began in December 1965. The first one-year diploma program, Practical Nurse Education, began March 7, 1966. On September 15, 1966, students were admitted to full-time status in Associate in Arts and Associate in Applied Science Degree programs.
In August 1997, the college completed the redesign of its curricula and began issuing credits based upon semester hours. Course offerings over the Internet began in spring 1998 and offerings through the North Carolina Information Highway began in fall 1999.