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History of Isothermal

Founded in 1964, Isothermal Community College serves Rutherford and Polk counties in the beautiful foothills of western North Carolina. Isothermal, so-named because of the region's steady climate, is a comprehensive, two-year public institution and is a part of the North Carolina Community College System. Isothermal's mission is to "improve life through learning."

The college offers 86 programs of study, including college transfer, vocational, and technical programs leading to a two-year associate degree, or one-year or less certificate or diploma.  Isothermal also provides training for area business and industry, personal enrichment courses, adult basic education, adult high school programs and developmental courses.

The college’s Customized Training programs have assisted local businesses in the creation of hundreds of jobs. In recent years, the college has assisted Trelleborg, Facebook, American Zinc Products, Shaw Construction, Cardinal Tissue, West Rock, Ultra Machining, Timken, Parker-Hannifin and many others.

The institution is accredited to award associate degrees by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. As of Fall 2021, nearly 2,500 students were enrolled in curriculum courses at Isothermal. Thousands take part in the college’s wide range of continuing education programs each year.

The main campus is on approximately 181 acres in Spindale. Perched on the shore of an 11-acre lake, the campus is home to The Foundation Center for the Performing Arts, the area's premier venue for the arts and other special events. The Rutherfordton Learning Center is in the former Rutherfordton Elementary School and houses nursing, fire and emergency services programs along with several other continuing education offerings.

The campus is also home to Rutherford Early College High School, a collaboration with Rutherford County Schools that allows students to obtain a college degree while attending high school. In 2013, REaCH was named a Blue Ribbon School by the federal Department of Education, a prestigious designation given to only a handful of schools. Isothermal also offers a variety of online courses and has various joint programs with Gardner-Webb University, Appalachian State University, Western Carolina University and many other four-year institutions.

In 2019, The Foundation Performing Arts and Conference Center celebrated its 20th anniversary. The venue has hosted scores of wonderful performances by acts as varied as the National Symphony, the North Carolina Symphony, Charlie Daniels, Merle Haggard, the North Carolina Dance Theater, Mickey Rooney, the Acting Company, Loretta Lynn and Doc Watson. In addition, The Foundation hosts a variety of meeting and banquet functions ranging from weddings and proms to trade shows and corporate retreats.

The college also owns and operates WNCW 88.7 FM, an a 30-year-old award-winning public radio station that can be heard in parts of five different states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia.

The Isothermal Polk Center is in Columbus and opened in the fall of 1989. The Polk Center offers GED, massage therapy, dental assisting, equine studies, and driving safety classes on a regular basis as well as a variety of continuing education classes. In August 2013, the college opened the Rutherfordton Learning Center (RLC), in cooperation with Rutherford County Schools, to provide administrative and instructional spaces for the Associate Degree Nursing and Practical Nurse Education programs. Continuing Education programs, including Certified Nursing Assistant, were already operating at the RLC. It is located in downtown Rutherfordton, approximately four miles from the main campus and near Rutherford Regional Medical Center.

Dr. Margaret Annunziata has served as the college’s president since Feb. 2021. She follows the Hon. Walter Dalton, former Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina, who was appointed President in May 2013. The preceding president was Dr. Myra Johnson who served in that capacity for six years.

Student using computer in the 90's
Student using a computer in the 1990s