As a professor at Richmond Community College, Fran Driggers empathized with students who had lost their jobs. She found herself in a similar situation more than 25 years ago when Clark Equipment Company closed. She went from working with computers in a business setting to sitting in the same college classrooms wondering what the future would hold. She retired this semester and hopes her replacement will find as much joy in teaching at RCC as she did.
“RCC was my beginning,” said Driggers. “I had no idea I wanted to teach, I just took classes. I had always loved English and was encouraged by Professors Audrey Moore, Ron Layne and Naomi Daggs to get my bachelor’s degree and come back to teach at RCC.”
She earned her Associate in Arts degree in 1991 and started teaching in the college’s Basic Skills Program at the Rockingham Center. She worked with adults who could not read. She taught the basics, including how to count money. It was challenging and rewarding, but she wanted more.
“I went to UNC Pembroke and earned my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English and education. I worked for several years as an adjunct faculty member teaching developmental courses. My master’s degree allowed me to teach college-level courses, and I was hired full time in 1999 to teach in the college-transfer program,” said Driggers.
She loved teaching adults in the developmental courses because she said she could see the proverbial light bulb come on when they grasped a concept. Their joy at learning gave her great pleasure. She found teaching college-level courses equally rewarding and challenging.
“Getting students, especially the fellows, to understand the need to use standard English was challenging. Many had been taught to put a comma everywhere they felt there was a pause. My job was to teach them that there is a rule for every comma. We also had plenty of discussions regarding the use of ‘ain’t.’ Just because it is in the dictionary doesn’t mean it is intended for use in a professional setting. I learned by working with vendors from around the world that street lingo means they won’t understand a word you say. It was a good lesson for me that I shared often,” said Driggers.
During her decade as a full-time faculty member, Driggers worked under four presidents. She saw the college’s vocational programs dwindle to a few and is pleased to see more being added. The changes in technology are many, and she felt it was time for a personal change.
“RCC is a wonderful place to work. I loved my career there. Everyone treated me with respect, and the people are like family. The time was right to make the transition into retirement. I’m relaxing right now and taking some time to breathe. I might come back in a part-time capacity,” said Driggers.
English Department Chairman Linda Pridgen is pleased to know she can call on Driggers to teach. She said students learned a great deal from Driggers.
“When looking for a quote to describe Fran, I need look no further than her student evaluations. Time and again, students refer to her ability to communicate and explain in detail how to write expository essays or research papers. As one student said, ‘Mrs. Driggers gives us all the tools to succeed. She is detailed, informative and teaches with passion. She makes her subject interesting and goes the extra mile for students.’ Fran had an uncanny ability to connect with students, boost their self-esteem, and help them believe in themselves. That is a remarkable gift,” said Pridgen.
Developmental Department Chairman Sharon Reid knows students will miss Driggers as a mentor.
“Having an office next to Fran for years, I was aware of the number of students who came to her for counseling and personal advice. She was truly an advocate for the students and always took time to listen to their problems. Even though she was friendly, she always kept that professionalism about her, and the students regarded her with respect. She will be missed as an instructor and mentor to the RCC student body,” said Reid.
RCC President Dale McInnis walks around campus talking with students and is aware of Driggers’ value to the college.
“When you talk to our students, you find out who is making a difference in the classrooms, and Fran Driggers is always mentioned when students talk about their favorite professors. She taught, nurtured and guided her students in a way that made a permanent impact on their lives,” said McInnis.