East Central Junior College was established on April 2, 1968. The name of the college was changed in 1980 from East Central Junior College to East Central College to reflect the comprehensive nature of the institution and its mission to provide not only the first two years of a baccalaureate education, but career and technical programs and other services to meet the needs of the region.
The College held its first classes in September, 1969, in temporary facilities at Memorial Auditorium and other rented locations in Union. There were 476 students enrolled the first semester. That same year the Board of Trustees approved the purchase of land for a permanent campus. A site was selected just east of Union, a 114-acre tract bordered on the north by Highway 50. An additional 92 acres were purchased in 1994 to accommodate expansion and growth.
The first classes at the permanent campus were held January 24, 1972, in the Administration Building. During the course of the next three decades, voters approved bond issues to fund construction of additional buildings on the campus. A $15.8 million bond issue was approved in August of 2006 to fund construction of the seventh major campus facility, the Health Science building, completed in the winter of 2009. During the 2010-2011 academic year, the first building on campus, the Administration Building, was expanded and remodeled. The newly remodeled facility includes student services, the library, the learning center, general classrooms and administrative offices. The building was formally dedicated October 30, 2011 in honor of the late George H. Buescher. Mr. Buescher was a member of the original Board of Trustees, serving from 1968 to 1980. The current Hansen Hall, named after founding board of trustees member, Robert Hansen, was named in his honor September 2014. The College opened the Business and Industry Center (BIC), located at 42 Prairie Dell plaza, during the 2016 fall semester. The Business and Industry Center houses the Precision Machining, Welding, Industrial Engineering Technology and HVAC programs, as well as the Center for Workforce Development
In addition to the over 200 acre main campus in Union, East Central College offers courses and programs at off-campus locations in Washington and two locations in Rolla to bring educational opportunities to growing number of students. Currently, more than 2,100 students are enrolled in a transfer, technical education or allied health program.
Six individuals have served as president of the institution. Dr. Don Shook was the founding president, serving from 1968 to 1986. He was followed by Dr. Charles Novak who led the college from 1987 to 1989. From 1990 to 1999, Dr. Dale Gibson was ECC president. Dr. Karen Herzog took over the reins in the summer of 1999 and served until her retirement in 2005. She was followed by Dr. Ed Jackson who led ECC until June of 2012. Dr. Jon Bauer is the current president.
Since its inception in 1968, ECC has been a dynamic entity within the local region, offering excellent educational opportunities and program partnerships between the College, other educational organizations, and local business and industry. The College has helped countless individuals prepare for careers, begin work on college degrees, and take part in enrichment programs and cultural activities.