The Daily Southerner
“Community” was a key word in Edgecombe Community College (ECC)’s 45th anniversary celebration Friday in the college’s Keihin Auditorium.
To Dr. Scott Ralls, president of the North Carolina Community College System, the most important part of the community college system’s name is “community.”
“Our students that pour through our doors are not just students with student numbers, but they’re our neighbors and our families, the folks we go to church with, the people we see on the ball fields, and so the faculty and staff reaches out and embraces folks in a way that I think sometimes only a community college can,” Ralls said.
ECC has served the Edgecombe community for 45 years, while the state’s community college system is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
When Ralls reflects on the unique impact of the system, which serves one out of every eight adults in North Carolina, he thinks about what he terms “heroes in the hallway.” Those “heroes” are people that “sometimes might not have had all the advantages in life” but are doing everything they can to better their lives by continuing their education, said Ralls.
One such “hero” is 23-year-old Chris Knight, the college’s Student Government Association (SGA) president and a student in the college’s collision repair program.
“My future goal in life is to own my own body shop,” Knight shared with the crowd at Friday’s celebration. He is the father of a 3-year-old daughter and said he enrolled at ECC because it’s close to home.
”Congratulations to Edgecombe Community College for making education affordable and accessible to people like me for the past 45 years,” Knight said.
Tarboro Mayor Donald Morris told the crowd that the college has had “a personal connection to me and the education of my family.”
Morris’ daughter Susan took radiology technician courses at ECC and earned her associate’s degree. His wife, a full-time mother of three, took business administration courses at ECC and received a promotion as a result of continuing her education. His grandson, Christopher Boyd, graduated from the Early College High School, a partner of the college, in four years with a high-school degree and two associate degrees. Morris proudly presented a resolution to Lamm in honor of the college’s anniversary after sharing his story.
“We know that the real story of Edgecombe Community College is in the lives of the students that we have enriched and improved,” said Charlie Harrell, the college’s vice president of administrative services and longest employee.
While student success stories are proof of the college’s mark on the community, adding to the college’s success are the college’s strong leadership team and expansion efforts, according to Harrell.
The college has had 46 different Trustees in 45 years, with Jonathan Felton, the longest-standing member, serving since 1970, and a “solid administrative team that’s stood together for 30 years,” Harrell said.
“Having such longevity and solid leadership to me is almost unheard of,” he said. In the early days, Harrell said the college staff’s job descriptions needed only one line – “whatever it takes to get the job done.”
He recalled the days when the bookstore was housed in a single-wide trailer and the first academic offices were housed in the old prison building. In those days, tuition was $39 per quarter and the first president’s salary was $11,256.
Now, Harrell works at a rapidly growing college spread out over two campuses, one in Tarboro and one in Rocky Mount. A new 7,000-square-foot facility for auto body students is set to open in March 2013 and a new workforce training center is an upcoming construction project.
“It’s not where you start, but where you finish. Edgecombe Community College started from some mighty humble beginnings, but look where we are now,” said Tim King, 2012-2013 Keihin Endowed Faculty Chair and graduate of the college.
To Anderson Ferrell, author of “Edgecombe Community College: Creating an Edge for 45 Years,” the story of the “reuse and reordering of the prison building” is the “essential telling event” for the college.
“With this gesture, a place for protection of society becomes an aid to society,” Ferrell said, quoting a line from the book.