BCCC celebrates four decades of community education

Published 4:18 pm Saturday, December 8, 2007

By Staff
NCCCS’s president-elect helps celebrate milestone
Staff Writer
Past and future met Friday morning at Beaufort County Community College during a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the college’s charter.
Graduates reminisced about their experiences, and the new president-elect of the N.C. Community College System, Scott Ralls, participated in the celebration.
The N.C. Board of Community Colleges voted unanimously Thursday to appoint Ralls to succeed H. Martin Lancaster as president of the N.C. Community College System. Ralls will assume the presidency April 1, 2008. Ralls, 43, takes the system’s top job after a five-year stint as president of Craven Community College in New Bern.
Beaufort County Community College President David McLawhorn said the anniversary is one that’s more than just taking note of the buildings and other tangible items that make up the college.
McLawhorn, who became president of the college in 2001, is the fourth man to serve as president of the community college since its founding in 1967. Preceding him were Charles Byrd, James P. Blanton and U. Ron Champion. Portraits of each of them were unveiled during the ceremony. They will hang in the multipurpose room of Building 10 on campus.
When founded in 1967, the college was called Beaufort County Technical Institute. That year, state Sen. Ashley B. Futrell and state Rep. William R. Roberson Jr. introduced legislation in both houses of the General Assembly to establish BCTI in Beaufort County. On Nov. 28, 1967, Beaufort County voters approved a $500,000 bond issuance for the proposed institute.
The next year, 39 students became BCTI’s first graduating class. Since then, the school has graduated almost 6,000 students with degrees, diplomas and high-school equivalency certifications.
The college’s present campus, on U.S. Highway 264 east of Washington, was purchased in 1969. The first building was completed two years later. Beaufort County Technical Institute changed its name to Beaufort County Community College in 1979 because of the addition of the college transfer program to its offerings.
The campus now has 11 buildings in which more than 30 curriculum programs are offered to students.
Annette Jefferson, who graduated in 1969, attended the college when it was located in the old fire department building on Fifth Street in Washington. The fire poles were in the building when she attended classes there, she said.
Ralls echoed Jefferson, saying that “the value of the open door, that’s something we should never forget.”
Jefferson went on to a 30-year career with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.
Russell Smith, owner of Russell’s Men’s Shop in Washington, earned an associate’s degree in marketing and retail technology from the college in 1975.
Now a member of the college’s board of trustees, Smith said, “It’s exciting to look back over where we have been, but as a new trustee, I’m excited about where we’re going in the next 40 years.”
Chocowinity resident Carrie Peed, a 2007 graduate, said she has concluded “students are the top priority” at the college. She studied at the college for five years. Now, she works there as a computer-support specialist.
Helping to provide educational opportunities to the community is the Beaufort County Community College Foundation, a nonprofit established in 1984 to raise money to support the college. During the celebration, it was announced the foundation’s assets now top $1 million. That goal was reached when more than 90 Cypress Landing residents contributed money to establish the new Cypress Landing Scholarship Endowment.