College History

The Beginning


It was an era of activism, long hair, miniskirts, bell-bottom pants and an almost universal fondness for avocado green. Richard Nixon was in the White House, and Neil Armstrong had landed on the moon. This was the setting when arrangements were made for the construction and lease of two large metal buildings at 1209 Quail Street that would house the West Campus of the Community College of Denver, the original name for what eventually would become Red Rocks Community College. The two metal buildings provided a total of 45,000 square feet and offered few amenities. Accommodations were extremely modest when first quarter classes began September 22 for 780 students.  By the second quarter, enrollment had grown to more than 1,000 students. In early 1969, General Services Administration, which was located at the Denver Federal Center, designated 140 acres of land at West Sixth Avenue and Arbutus Street as surplus and thus donated the land to the State of Colorado for a new college campus (the land had been used as a gunnery range for the former Remington Arms plant). 


Ground was broken for the college’s sprawling brick and concrete facility in December 1971.  Among those gathered on the 140-acre campus for the celebration were Dr. Joseph K. Bailey, RRCC president from 1970 to 1973, and Governor John Love. The first phase called for the construction of the industrial building and the east wing, which together provided 117,000 square feet of instructional and administrative space. The first phase of construction was completed in time for the opening of the 1973 fall semester. The west wing and the bridge connecting the east wing were completed in fall 1975. RRCC employees at the time remember the muddy trek between the two buildings during the two years it took to add the west wing and the bridge. The West Campus was one of three campuses that made up CCD. The North Campus (Front Range) opened in 1968, the West Campus (RRCC) in 1969 and the Central Campus (Denver) in 1970. In 1972 RRCC became accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. 


College enrollment soared through the mid 70s, bolstered by returning Vietnam veterans. In 1976 more than 2,800 vets were enrolled as full-time students. The emphasis then was on occupational courses, which attracted about 80 percent of the enrollment. The transfer of credits to four-year institutions was evaluated on an individual basis. 


The college officially became Red Rocks Community College on July 1, 1983. And in 1985 the Community College of Denver System was dissolved, and Red Rocks became an independent institution under the governance of the State Board of Community College and Occupational Education (SBCCOE).


At the urging of community leaders in Denver’s northwest metro area, RRCC established a satellite campus in Arvada in October 1990. Originally housed on Wadsworth Boulevard in a former mortuary turned bank, the Arvada campus moved into its current location on Miller Street in 2001. Just in time for the college’s silver anniversary celebration, plans were finalized in late 1994 for more than $13 million worth of construction and remodeling of the main building. The three projects, completed by August 1996, included a new Learning and Resource Center (LARC), new classrooms and laboratories, and a Student Center.


RRCC had an annual enrollment of more than 14,000 and is one of the fastest growing institutions of higher education in the state. More than 60 programs are available in areas from business and technology, to theatre and arts, to healthcare and renewable energy, plus hundreds of general education courses that transfer to four-year colleges. The college is nationally recognized for its leadership in several areas, including the second largest OSHA training center in the country. RRCC has been recognized for programs that serve diverse populations, such as the Gateway program which assists ex-offenders in reconnecting with their careers, and a Green Jobs for Veterans program.

RRCC Presidents

1969-1970 Dr. Theodore Albers (Campus Director)

1970-1973 Dr. Joseph K. Bailey (Campus Director)

1973-1981 Dr. G. Owen Smith (Campus Vice President)

1981-1982 Dr. Barry Noonan (Acting President)

1982-1987 Dr. Richard E. Wilson

1987-1989 Dr. Thomas K. Thomas

1989-1998 Dr. Dorothy A. Horrell

April 1998 Dr. Jim L. Raughton (Acting President)

1998-2004 Dr. Eric E. Reno

2004-2008 Mr. Cliff Richardson

2008-2024 Dr. C. Michele Haney