Rio Hondo College celebrates its 51st academic year in 2013-2014. The Rio Hondo Community College District was established by election in October 1960, but first classes were not held until 1963-1964. Since the district’s boundaries at that time were identical to those of the Whittier Union High School District, administration of the district was by the high school district Board of Trustees. Creation of the El Rancho Unified School District in 1962 required that Rio Hondo College establish its own Board of Trustees, and an election for that purpose was held in April 1962.
The new Board of Trustees appointed Dr. Phil Putnam as the founding Superintendent-President in February 1963. In May 1963, the Board chose Rio Hondo as the name for the college. The name, long associated with the area surrounding the Rio Hondo River, means “deep river.”
College classes were offered for the first time in the late afternoons and evenings in September 1963 at Sierra and El Rancho High Schools. Following selection of the present campus site, a $12 million bond issue to build the college was approved by 80.1 percent of the district voters in October 1963. During 1964 and 1965, Rio Hondo College conducted classes for a limited
enrollment at the former Little Lake School in Santa Fe Springs.
The present campus opened in the fall of 1966 with an enrollment of 3,363 day and 2,682 evening students. Measure A, a $245 million bond passed by voters in 2004, now provides new buildings and facilities upgrades campus-wide as well as new off-site educational centers in South Whittier and El Monte. Today, Rio Hondo enrolls approximately 20,000 students per semester.
The Rio Hondo Community College District encompasses a 65.5 square-mile area which includes
the cities of Whittier, Pico Rivera, Santa Fe Springs, South El Monte, and portions of Norwalk, La
Mirada, Downey, La Puente and Industry, some unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, and the portion of the City of El Monte, south and east of the Rio Hondo River.
School districts within the college boundaries are the Whittier Union High School District, El Rancho Unified School District, and the El Monte Union High School District.
Students come to Rio Hondo seeking a variety of educational experiences. Rio Hondo’s educational program includes courses for transfer to four-year colleges and universities, general education courses for greater understanding of individual and community life, vocational training in certain areas, and courses for improving academic performance necessary for studying at a higher level.
The Rio Hondo College Foundation was established in 1992. The Foundation assists the college in meeting the needs of its students and community. The Foundation’s focus is to secure financial and community resources to support Rio Hondo College programs and services such as student scholarships, innovative educational projects, teaching and training support, and capital expenditures