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From Store Associate to Corporate Leader – SCC Business Student Finds Success

Rick Gardner 1984
In 1984, SCC PBL Chapter President Rick Gardner places NCPBL “Chapter of the Year” award in a Stanly display case, along with a certificate signed by the College’s Board of Trustees.

Rick Gardner 2019
Today, SCC Alumnus Rick Gardner (Concord, NC), is a Manager III,
Macro Space Planning, for Ahold Delhaize, Retail Business Services.

Rick Gardner loves to travel to tropical destinations. Matter of fact, he is almost done with a travel to each state venture’. With 38 already under his belt, he only has 12 states left to visit. The first he marked off was California 35 years ago when he was Stanly Community College's Phi Beta Lambda President and attended the group's national conference in San Francisco. When Rick is not soaking up the sun on sandy beaches, he oversees teams planning floor designs and space allocation for the five brands at the Ahold Delhaize organization. Ahold Delhaize is one of the world’s largest food retail groups, supporting over 2,000 retail stores across the United States, with additional stores in Europe, and a joint venture in Indonesia.

Rick graduated from Stanly Community College (SCC) in 1985 with an Associate in Applied Science Degree in Business Administration. In 1998, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration, Management, from Catawba College.

Rick remembers always wanting to pursue a career in business. “There are so many opportunities in the business world. You can take most any interest you have and apply it to business. It really is an open field with countless opportunities,” he said. Rick chose to attend SCC because of the outstanding Phi Beta Lambda (PBL) activities. “I saw SCC’s PBL as a huge stepping stone that could help me launch myself in the business world. I knew it would help prepare me as much as my actual classes and education. It’s about balancing the two and utilizing what you learn from both to make yourself successful,” he added.

Rick's roots run deep with the PBL organization. He served as SCC's 1984 Chapter President and then as the 1985 State President, SCC's first. Both years he helped SCC acquire the North Carolina (NC) PBL "Chapter of the Year" award. His successful career resulted in being selected last year as the NCPBL Business Person of the Year, and currently serves on the NCPBL Professional Division-Foundation's Board of Directors where he has been the President for the past three years. “I’ve stayed actively involved in NCPBL since I was a member at SCC. I love giving back to the organization that helped me so much as a student,” Rick said.

After graduating from SCC, Rick went to work in a management role for Food Lion. He tells us that he holds a deep admiration for the faculty and staff at SCC, and attributes much of his business success from the work ethics he learned at SCC and his involvement in PBL. “The instructors and staff really cared about me as a student and person. I only have positive things to say about my time and the instructors at SCC. I could not have asked for a more positive experience. I have created a lifelong friendship with Dan Hazlett. He was, and still is, an incredible instructor, mentor and adviser. Edna Lipe-Harkey is another mentor and adviser who I value as a friend.”

Rick also credits his business success to working with incredible people. “I love my team and what we do for the organization. We have a very ‘service’ mentality in that we support what the five different brands of Ahold Delhaize need from a strategy and philosophy standpoint. It is an extremely competitive and fast-paced business but very rewarding. The most challenging thing in my 34 years with the company is adapting to constant change. Change can take on many forms, but changing people, management, consumer demands, technology, and the business environment, are just a few that require an individual to change with the times. If you do not adapt to change, you will not be successful.”

Rick tells us the most rewarding aspect of his job is being a part of someone’s growth and development. “I’ve interviewed, hired, trained and been a part of hundreds of people in my career and it’s a great feeling to know you’ve been a part of their careers and watched them grow. In the back of my mind, I have always thought I would have loved a career in education. Helping others advance their career gives me that feeling of coaching, mentoring and teaching that I love.”

SCC is very proud of the business success that Rick has accomplished over the years and selected him for the 2009 Stanly Community College Alumni of the Year Award; an award that recognizes individuals for their contributions to the College, the community and their profession.

Rick wants to encourage students to be themselves and to be honest. “First and foremost, be yourself and always have the upmost integrity in everything you do and say! Be very open-minded and listen carefully to the opinions and advice you will receive from others. I always make a pro and con list before making decisions and weigh out what is the most important to me. Seeing it on paper is often more eye opening. Lastly, value diversity and inclusion in yourself and others. This can take on various meanings but acknowledging and respecting all people will take you far in life.”