They're health care workers, business managers, educators, police force members, civic leaders, and hundreds of other positions that are positive influences on the way of life in Stanly County. Lydia Almond Morris expressed it best. "I can meet people for the first time and feel a special bond with them if I find we are graduates of Stanly Community College."
Stanly Community College (SCC) is concluding its 45th Anniversary celebration, and several former students met on campus recently to talk about their years. Host for the session was Dan Hazlett, who was one of SCC's original eight full-time faculty members when curriculum classes began in 1972 and continues to work at the College both teaching and with extra-curricular activities.
"Commemorating 45 years has involved a number of activities, including a photo display and video production of probably 250 pictures from that time, but it was appropriate that the celebration concluded with students since that is the College's focus and purpose," Hazlett commented. "Having taught these students made hearing their success stories and their comments on courses they found stressful but appreciated when they went to work made for an enjoyable evening. Listening to them talk about instructors and staff brought back extremely good memories of the people I've had the opportunity to work with over the 45 years, too."
Ms. Almond attended her first courses at the original campus on Wall Street, when the name was Stanly Technical Institute and classes were offered during four 11-week quarters rather than the current semester system.
During 1976, her second year in the Secretarial Science curriculum, classes moved to the current location. As the second president of the College's Phi Beta Lambda (PBL) chapter, she presented Board of Trustees Chair Annie Ruth Kelly with the first flag to fly over the new campus. "That ceremony is a day I often remember," Ms. Morris told the group. "We had a program that included city and county officials. Classes were dismissed, and I remember the children from the Early Childhood Education day care lab sitting around the flagpole. I had never been in a leadership position to do anything like that, but it was one of many experiences at the school that gave me the confidence I needed to have a successful career."
Kay Russell Hatley and Linda West Long finished their Associate in Applied Science degrees on the original campus. Ms. Hatley was one of the College's first Student Government Association officers, and Ms. Long was the first student to graduate with a straight-A average. Both talked about the opportunity the new school offered.
"I thought the classes were extremely hard," Ms. Hatley commented, "but the school was establishing its credibility and I realized it was worth the time and effort to do well. I remember working really hard on shorthand and being so excited when I would reach another level of timed dictation or do a perfect translation. Then, shorthand was a standard office skill, but today most people don't know what you're talking about! I also remember that the first quarter there weren't enough typewriters for all of us so the keyboarding class was held at noon while staff members were at lunch and machines could be moved from desks to classrooms. My education has served me well, even these 45 years later as I keep my husband's dental office open following his death."
Ms. Long remembered graduation exercises at a banquet held at the Heart of Albemarle restaurant. "It was the nicest place in the county to go for a special occasion. There were 16 of us, and the girls wore formals. I knew I was part of something special but never envisioned the College would have the beautiful and outstanding facilities it has now. Whether operating my own day care center or working in industry positions, I knew my education had given me the skills I needed. In one particular position, I wrote a training manual. My supervisor was surprised, but you didn't get through STI without writing a lot of reports – and you kept rewriting them until they were right!"
Rick Gardner, Gina Richardson Airheart, and Debbie Wood talked about classes and their experiences as presidents of the PBL chapter.
In 1984, Gardner, a Business Administration student, became the first of six Stanly students who would be elected as state PBL president. "I had read articles about SCC and PBL and thought I'd like to fly somewhere! I never imagined the leadership opportunities I would have, including flying to national conferences and meetings in Chicago, Washington, Atlanta, and San Francisco. PBL at the level it had become at SCC was a lot of work, but it prepared me for my career in management at the Food Lion corporate office. I've never worked as late there as I did preparing PBL reports for competitions. We're talking taking a break to go to Donut Dinette when it opened at 6:00 in the morning! All those First Place plaques on display represent lessons in teamwork, perseverance, and the determination that a little community college could hold its own with the big schools. Those years were life-changing ones for me, and I use the skills I learned at Stanly and Catawba College every day. Most of all, I'm glad I had to take the Public Speaking course and did the oral presentations for PBL events. Being able to speak to groups has made a major difference in my career advancement."
Ms. Airheart, a Fashion Merchandising and Marketing student, talked about major fashion shows the program produced each spring and working with a Bridal Fair that was one of the first activities held at the newly-opened Agri-Civic Center. "I learned fast that there was a tremendous amount of work involved before the fun part of modeling began!" Ms. Airheart also remembered the introduction of computers on campus. "I thought it was a fad that would soon pass! However, we were forced to learn how to use them, and then one of my first positions involved computerized organization of shipments for foreign markets."
Ms. Wood talked about friendships that have lasted the 15 years since she was an Accounting student in 2002. "I was a late bloomer student! My kids were grown, and I decided it was time for me to do something I really wanted to do. I was nervous at first but soon found that at the College age didn't matter. We were just all there working toward the same goals. The most unique situation was that after I transferred and graduated from Pfeiffer University I was employed there and, eight years after being a PBL chapter member, I was a PBL chapter adviser!"
After years in the Charlotte banking industry, Nancy Honeycutt returned home in a position with Uwharrie Bank. "I did my training and had my first employment at SCC. Both prepared me to meet the challenges of the many changes for employees and employers that have come about since the 1980s. I think back to college and realize that I learned both technical skills and people skills. College was stressful, especially Speech class, but I realize now that the things you work hard for are among the things you appreciate the most."
The former students also had words of advice for those enrolled during the 45th Anniversary celebration.
Ms. Honeycutt said, "Take advantage of the extra opportunities. The College's history includes outstanding organizations that develop leadership skills. I know students think they're too busy, but the skills learned pay real dividends in the workplace. Then, be sure to learn to use good grammar!"
Ms. Airheart commented, "Meet and enjoy the other students. I may go years without seeing someone, but it's exciting when I re-connect."
"If you're interested, you can learn something every day – sometimes even when you don't realize it's happening," Ms. West remarked. "Take advantage of the opportunity to ask questions, to listen to people who have experiences to share, and don't rush through at such a speed you don't appreciate the special moments and people that Stanly Community College offers."
"Expect the unexpected," commented Kathy Almond, the Outstanding Student Leader Award recipient on her graduation night from SCC, who is now CEO and President of the local Chamber of Commerce. "I never dreamed my time at SCC would lead to my work with the Downtown Development Association and now with the Chamber. I remember I felt prepared for both work and additional education when I finished classes at SCC. I also remember a couple of faculty members who pushed me into all kinds of extra opportunities, and I am extremely grateful for them. I think they saw potential that I didn't realize at that point, and fortunately they wouldn't take no for an answer. My graduating class actually was the first to hold classes in the Kelley Building during my final year on campus. Over 3 1/2 decades I have attended meetings and programs on campus and am so proud to witness the continued growth of buildings. The expansion of SCC over the decades is certainly a major factor in our community's foundation."
Tara Curlee, a recent nursing graduate said, "Keep an open mind to possibilities, and don't ever give up! My Associate in Arts degree led to an RN degree and my dream of being a health care professional. What an impact SCC had on my life!"
"One of my favorite sayings is, ‘Be sure to dance with the one who brought you,' and I will always give Stanly Community College credit for providing me with what I needed to be successful academically when I pursued additional degrees and for encouraging me to be involved in the community," remarked Martha Sue Hall. "I had been a chapter leader and state president of Future Business Leaders of America when I was at South Stanly High School, and I found that SCC allowed me to keep growing in so many ways. When I was thinking seriously about running for a seat on the County Commissioners, I went back to two SCC faculty members for advice. Upon winning, I found that the school had done a bulletin board of election news articles and pictures of me while I was a student. Later, I was honored to receive the Outstanding Alumni Award, and I remember thinking that the SCC employees would never realize what a positive influence they had been on me."
"These students cross SCC's history," Hazlett said, "and the good thing is that they represented hundreds of others who are responsible workers and strong leaders in so many areas of Stanly County and the surrounding area. When we celebrate an anniversary like this, we do look at the campus growth, the state-of-the-art programs, and the achievements of employees in community and professional activities. Most of all, though, we celebrate our success when we hear about a student who is successful. This group of them spoke on behalf of 45 years of others who, as Lydia Morris said, are bonded by Stanly Community College."
Alumnae Lydia Almond Morris, Linda West Long, and Nancy Honeycutt tell stories of their SCC days. Ms. Long was in the first graduating class.
Ms. Morris presenting SCC Board of Trustees chair the first flag to fly over the new campus following the College's move from Wall Street to College Drive in 1976.
Alumni Rick Gardner and Gina Richardson Airheart, PBL presidents in 1982 and 1983 who hadn't seen each other in 13 years, share memories during a gathering of former SCC students to celebrate the College's 45th Anniversary.
Gardner and Ms. Airheart pose with the Phi Beta Lambda Leadership Development Project First Place award that the chapter won at the business student group's national conference in 1983.