By 2010 we were proud to be serving almost 8,000 full and part-time students in 75 programs annually.  We were also welcoming 14,000 Continuing Education students each year. Another 16,000 were regularly attending summer workshops.

While 70% of these students were central Albertans, many others arrive from across the country (and a few from around the world) to discover the beauty and opportunity latent in central Alberta.

Those students included not only young people, but people of all ages, who were retraining, upgrading or furthering their education: 30% of our students were over 25 years of age.

More than 100,000 people participating in some learning, cultural or other activity at RDC every year. In every field, from health care to building trades, from social services to education, our alumni were actively making central Alberta a better place.

Expanding our reach into the community

Since 1964 when we welcomed our first students, RDC has developed in parallel with Red Deer and the Central Alberta Region. Together, our College, city and region have grown rapidly – not just in population, but in the all-important opportunities that we provide for a great quality of life.

Together, we developed a world-class Arts Centre that is now busy day in and day out with College and community courses and performances. We also combined our energies to create a new Library Information Common with full access for public and regional library patrons.

We worked tirelessly to offer several different degree-completion options at RDC so more students could learn in and remain in our great region.

As we continued to grow our programs the College continued to expand and for the first time since setting our roots along the Queen Elizabeth Highway, we set our eyes elsewhere, to the heart of Red Deer in the downtown.

In 2012 we opened our downtown campus, home of our first named school, the Donald School of Business (DSB).  It was named in recognition of long-time College supporters and local entrepreneurs, Jack and Joan Donald, co-founders of Parkland industries Ltd (now known as Parkland Fuel Corporation). Their $3 million contribution to RDC, the largest single private donation in the history of RDC, enabled us to open a new school that embodied their values and business approach.  

On September 23, 2011, a sunny day, we opened our doors to more than 500 students, having accomplished what some said was impossible: establishing a new campus in the heart of downtown Red Deer in a mere 14 months. Never before had a project this size been accomplished that quickly, professionally, both on time and on budget.

Designed for the business leaders of tomorrow, students saw their attendance like an ongoing job interview with future employers because every day they had opportunity to rub shoulders with bankers, business people, and entrepreneurs because of the location downtown.  

In 2013 RDC began offering its first four year Business degree, which could be taken entirely in Red Deer. The Bachelor of Business Administration was offered in partnership with Mount Royal University. The program filled up fast, highlighting how in-demand locally offered degrees are to central Albertans.  

"By adding new programs like the Bachelor of Business Administration, RDC will be able to open its doors to more students to ensure that our region can sustain its growth,” said President and CEO Joel Ward, who took the job in 2009.

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An Athletics year to remember

So much of the visionary thinking of the previous decades started to come to life in the 2010s. The Athletic Leadership Fund, with its focus on ensuring sustainable Athletics programs at RDC, became a  key in bringing back the RDC Hockey Kings to the ACAC.  In 2013, the Hockey Kings were reinstated and rejoined provincial competition.  

The strength of the fund to develop strong Athletics programs across our campus in all sports was further proven in our 50th Anniversary year, the most successful in our sports history.

Red Deer College made national history in 2014 year. When our Queens and Kings won the CCAA National Titles in Volleyball, it was the first time in Canadian history the Championships were won by teams at the same college in the same year.

Our Queens Curling team won the ACAC bronze and went with high hopes into the year-end bonspiel, winning CCAA gold.  

Along with the Queens and Kings Volleyball teams, our Kings basketball took home the ACAC gold and brought home the silver medal at the CCAA championships in a thriller that, to the last buzzer, was a nail-biter. Lloyd Strickland was selected to the tournament all-star team for his on-court performance, which was the true story of the weekend, garnering international media attention.  His unprecedented shooting performance nearly stole the gold medal from the Langara Falcons, as he hit four three point shots in the final thirty seconds of game play.

In the same season our Queens Golf team won the ACAC Silver, Kings Golf brought home the ACAC Bronze while our Queens Hockey and Kings Soccer teams won ACAC Bronze as well.

The year will long be remembered in our history, a moment in our history to inspire future Athletics glory.  The hard work of our athletes and coaching staff and the support of the Fund helped to make it so.

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Making waves in research and innovation

A key part of our vision as an institution is to directly contribute to the economic, social and cultural well-being of our region.  We know that it’s crucial to support small and medium enterprise with the creative and technical capacity to develop prototypes so companies can bring new products and services to the global market.

Our commitment to help business and industry innovate was recognized in 2013 when RDC was named one of Alberta’s Top 25 Most Innovative Organizations by Alberta Venture Magazine. For us, the recognition meant that as a College we’re charting the right path as we seek to provide much needed support to industry innovators throughout the province .

The hub of this innovation on campus is through our Centre for Innovation in Manufacturing where we provide creative and design elements to the manufacturing process for local industry and entrepreneurs. Innovations on our campus have resulted in numerous patented and patent-pending products that were prototyped at RDC and are now on market or will be delivered to markets locally and around the world.

For example, the award winning ASTech Trauma Clamp, which enables first responders to control bleeding in the field within seconds of traumatic industry, is a project that was prototyped in our innovation lab. Another recent innovation developed at RDC is a surgical implant device for veterinary orthopedic surgery.  Innovations like these were also the reason RDC was named one of the Top 50 Research Colleges in Canada.  

Every day we strive to link the expertise of expert faculty and staff on our campus with our partners in the community. That type of collaboration produces needed solutions to technological challenges in central Alberta and beyond.

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Helping to revitalize downtown Red Deer

"The presence of RDC students downtown has given it a new energy," noted Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling when the Donald School of Business opened its doors. "There has been much talk over the last few years about revitalizing downtown Red Deer and we're seeing that happen right before our eyes. The Grand Opening celebration marks an historic day for Red Deer. "

RDC would continue to support the revitalization of the downtown, when it purchased City Centre Stage, formerly the Uptown Theatre, from the City in 2012.  The theatre space came on hard times after Central Alberta Theatre acquired it then fell into financial difficulty.

Exactly two years to the day of the DSB’s opening, the College officially opened this new learning space on Friday, September 23.  Conveniently located across from RDC’s Donald School of Business, the venue would provide additional teaching and learning space for a wide range of RDC programs, including Visual Art, Performing and Motion Picture Arts and the Donald School of Business.

After purchasing the space, RDC invested more than $1 million to enhancet the space, creating an Art Gallery, upgrading technology and acoustic to the newly renovated Theatre and Cinema, and revamed the famous exterior marquee signage.  When all was said and done, the venue featured a 107 seat Cinema, a 276 seat Theatre, an Art Gallery and a conference room.

“Communities that place the arts and learning at their centre thrive and so it is very fitting that we have expanded our presence of the College into the heart of downtown Red Deer through City Centre Stage,” said Shelley Ralston, Board Chair of the College.  “RDC will always champion the arts just as we will always champion learning.”

The new space sent ripples of excitement through the community, but it didn’t keep its name for every long.  After touring the facility and seeing the good that it was doing for students, long time College supporters Bill and Irma Welikoklad wanted to leave a legacy for the College. Their $1 million dollar gift in the Fall of 2014 was the second largest individual gift ever made to RDC and it was only fitting that their generosity was recognized by naming the new venue in their honour as the Welikoklad Event Centre.  

A wide variety of programming takes place at the Welikoklad Event Centre throughout the year.  Beyond a classroom, it serves as a venue for community art groups like Central Alberta Theatre.  It is a true community hub, used to host special events like Alberta Culture Days in Red Deer, Mayoral Candidate Forums for civic elections, the popular Donald School of Business Distinguished Speaker Series, student art exhibition and student and international films.

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Celebrating 50 years of community

The community of central Alberta, our alumni, faculty and our staff had so very much to be proud of as we celebrated the milestone of our 50th Anniversary as Red Deer College in 2014.
Red Deer College’s Anniversary year culminated with the celebration of a final milestone. On Friday, June 6, graduating students walked across the stage during our 50th Convocation Ceremonies at Westerner Park in Red Deer.  

Close to 500 students attended the ceremonies and were granted certificates, diplomas and degrees.  Among the class of 2014 were the first ever graduates in the Bachelor of Business Administration degree program, the Automation and Manufacturing Engineering Technology diploma program, and the Electrical Engineering Technology diploma program. 

A total of 1800 RDC students were eligible to graduate in 2014 alone.  Of the eligible graduates, 610 studied in Apprenticeship, Trades and Manufacturing Technologies programs, with the remainder completing programming in Science, Health, Sport and Education, the Arts, Career Development, and the Donald School of Business.  

Among the many honours bestowed on alumni, outstanding students and community members was the granting of an Honorary Degree, the first such distinction given in our history. An Honorary Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Studies was bestowed upon Red Deer’s former Mayor and longtime friend RDC, Morris Flewwelling. He was recognized for the contributions he made on the Building and Planning Committee for the Arts Centre, his integral role on the Selection Committee for RDC’s Permanent Art Collection and the leadership and vision he has offered in Red Deer, Alberta and in Canada.

Like the many RDC graduates from the last 50 years who had gone on to establish successful businesses, work for governments, run for office, thrive in the Arts, and serve communities through the expertise they gained in their trade, the graduates of our 50th Convocation left RDC as more well-rounded individuals, better equipped to make a positive contribution in their chosen fields of study.

As much as our 50th Convocation was a celebration of all the hard work and energy our learners put into their studies, it was not only about looking back.  Convocation is always a time to look forward and to anticipate all that is possible. With the legacy of all other RDC alumni to stand upon, as a College we celebrated our graduates’ promising future.

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In the next 50, imagine all we will be

Our maturity as an institution is on display every day. When people visit our main campus which is strategically located on a beautiful expanse of prairie along Queen Elizabeth II Highway, they get an immediate sense that we are an established institution with exceptional facilities.

The highly skilled, expert faculty and staff we employ work tirelessly to ensure our learners receive a hands-on education. Our people bring our campuses to life, and they carry the bold vision we’ve had since our inception.  Our recent expansion into the heart of downtown Red Deer to create more learning and performing arts space through our Welikoklad Event Centre and the Donald School of Business highlights that we embrace our tradition of visionary thinking. It’s that same vision we activate as we continue to develop our land to provide central Albertans with the facilities they needs.

It’s fair to say that Red Deer College has truly found its place in the province. And yet, the success that we have achieved in 50 years of serving the communities of central Alberta through learning was never guaranteed.  Remaining committed to the bold vision of our founders, working hard to put learners first and ensuring students have the programs they need in order to thrive is our ongoing legacy, one we strive to perpetuate.

After 50 years of serving learners we can’t help but look to the future and ask the question, “What is possible?” In 50 years, we have grown from a small number of knowledge-hungry students and instructors who met in the hallways of Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School to become the sprawling campus on the busy corridor of the Queen Elizabeth II Highway.  

We have grown from 119 students with five staff members and ten instructors to be one of the region’s largest and most recognized institutions, employing more than 1800 people, offering over 75 programs to more than 7,000 full and part-time students and 13,000 continuing education students each year.

The vision of RDC has always been bold.  And that’s why in 50 years  we have become the learning institution of choice in central Alberta attracting students from across the province, the country and from around the world.  

In 50 years we have established a reputation for being a connecting point between learners and faculty and staff who are experts in their fields.  We are known for our scholarly work, academic excellence, our contribution to the Arts, innovative research projects that support business and industry, and for offering practical solutions to social issues and technological challenges in the region.

RDC has become, in a word, irreplaceable.  In 50 more years, imagine what we will be!

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