HAMLET — RichmondCC held its annual Convocation on Wednesday, which celebrates the scholarly circle of life for the college and its students.
Dr. Dale McInnis, RichmondCC president, provided a State of the College address, followed by inspiring words delivered by Dr. Robin Gary Cummings, chancellor of the University of North Carolina-Pembroke.
Several awards were presented during the ceremony attended by students, faculty and staff. Electric Utility Substation and Relay Technology instructor Brian Terry received the Faculty of the Year Award, and IT technician Birgit Godfrey received the Staff of the Year Award.
The Outstanding Alumni Award was also presented to 1994 RichmondCC graduate Brett Deaton. Deaton graduated with an associate degree in Business Administration and continued his education and career training to get to where he is today, which is director of Supply Chain for Toyo Tire North America in Atlanta, Ga. He and his family traveled to Richmond County to be at Convocation and reunite with his alma mater.
STATE OF THE COLLEGE
McInnis said RichmondCC is entering a new phase after experiencing unprecedented enrollment growth over the past seven years, rising from 42nd to 27th out of the 58 community colleges in the North Carolina system.
“This fall, our curriculum enrollment dropped for the first time in many years, and I am excited about that,” McInnis said. “It is triggering improvements and innovation in how we work together and how we serve and prepare our students for the rest of their lives. This is a college-wide effort, and in just two months, progress is already being made. Everything we are doing is built around
what our students and the community have told us.”
Some of the actions being taken include:
• Improving the advising process and the relationship between students and faculty.
• Reinventing recruitment and communication tactics to reach current and prospective students.
• Becoming the “job broker” for the region and working with employers to fill crucially needed, high skill, high demand jobs.
• Developing new programs that will reduce the time and cost for students to be prepared to succeed in a new career.
• Offering more clubs and activities for students on campus.
“Too many students told us that they needed more accessible clinical sites for our healthcare programs,” McInnis said. “We listened, and now partnering with FirstHealth, we will create the largest simulated hospital in our state, next door to our campus, beginning in 2018-19.”
Also coming in 2019 is a new cafeteria on the College’s main campus and the Kenneth and Claudia Robinette Building housing the Levin School of Business and Information Technology in downtown Rockingham.
“All of these initiatives, all of these exciting things are happening because we listened to our creative, talented and hard working employees,” McInnis said. “These are their ideas, their dreams, their vision to make our college better and stronger.”
GUEST SPEAKER — UNCP CHANCELLOR
Cummings, who became the sixth chancellor of UNCP in 2015, was the guest speaker for the Convocation ceremony. Cummings is a former heart surgeon and transitioned into university administration by way of public health. A native of Pembroke and a member of the Lumbee Tribe, Cummings attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and studied medicine at Duke University.
“Dr. McInnis and I are kindred spirits,” Cummings said. “We both returned home in our professional careers, and we are deeply committed to providing access to higher education for the people of southeastern North Carolina. We both agree we are here because of you, the student, and your success. If you succeed, then we are successful.”
Cummings talked about growing up in Union Chapel on a 25-acre farm where he and his eight siblings learned a lot about hard work helping his father grow tobacco, corn, cotton, soybeans and cucumbers.
“I realized early on, farming wasn’t my calling,” he said. “Starting in high school, I was drawn to medicine.”
During his 20-plus years as a heart surgeon, he operated on more than 3,000 patients.
“I’ve held 3,000 hearts in my hands,” he said. “That is the power and potential of education — to take a boy from a farm in rural North Carolina, to an operating room.”
However, in 2004, a benign tumor found in his brain changed the course of his life. The tumor was removed, but it affected his fine motor skills, and he could no longer hold his instruments with the precision needed to perform surgery.
“On that day, I not only lost my livelihood, I lost my identity, or at least I thought,” Cummings said. “I was able to rebound, to chart a new path in my life thanks to education. … An important part of what we gain through education — what you are gaining each and every day — is resiliency.”
“I suspect many of you are gold medalists in resiliency,” he said. “No matter your path ahead, I have no doubt you will find success thanks to perseverance, passion and your education — and the resilience, the grit that follows. Richmond County is counting on you. Scotland County is counting on you. Southeastern North Carolina is counting on you.”
Wylie Bell is director of marketing and communications for Richmond Community College.