Two Surry Community College administrative assistants to the president said a real bonus of their position remains the opportunity of working with presidents, boards of trustees and college students. SCC recently celebrated its 50th anniversary in March.
Secretary Susan Johnson, who had 40 years and six months of service when she retired, and current Administrative Assistant Cheryl Largin discussed recently their experiences of what it is like to hold a position so closely affiliated with the college presidents, the Board of Trustees, business organizations and leaders, and the students and recounted the large growth and change throughout the college’s years.
Johnson, also a former SCC student, said, “Working with the board of trustees was my favorite part, the heads of mills, judges and lawyers and Mr. John Frank, of the North Carolina Granite Corporation.”
She added that she deeply enjoyed getting to know the students and their personalities over the years and recounted the many years of student styles and fashions with affection. She listed a hippy phase, an army fatigue era, preppy years of wearing bright green and pink.
“Certainly it was an honor to be involved in whatever way, since it was a new venture in the state in the baby stage.” She said SCC broke ground for the Dobson campus during her senior year of high school in 1966 and recalled getting excited about the possibility of attending a college so close to home.
In fact, Johnson said, “There were quite a few of us that were getting excited about that possibility.”
She remembered an old tobacco barn and field standing where the Richards building is now located.
Since retirement, Johnson remains faithful to education and tutors two afternoons a week at a kids cafe for at-risk students through her church, Piney Grove Baptist Church, where she is also the church clerk.
First President John Krepick who was from New York, ran a “very tight ship,” according to Johnson. She recalled being afraid she had done something wrong when the then-president called her into his office before graduating.
Instead, Johnson said Krepick asked if she had found a job and if not, asked if she would she like the job of secretary at SCC. “Yes sir, I would like to do that,” Johnson said she replied. She had taken a general secretarial course and when the door opened, she took it and said she loved her work over the years.
She described Krepick, as “a wonderful man” who stuck to rules about certain dress codes and mannerisms.
Used to dressing up anyway while a student, Johnson said the transition overall went well, particularly since, Kripett did not encourage wearing slacks, pants suits or calling one another by first names.
Johnson recalled some new areas of educational programs at SCC that opened the doors for women and men wanting to try new things in work and education.
Johnson remembered a group of women from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Appalachian State jumping in early to take advantage of a teaching certificate program offered. She said men also were signing up for the new courses.
Eventually, SCC added the nursing program that she said was based on the popular one at the time at Martin Memorial Nursing Program. She recalled other big programs then as a cosmetology program, cake decorating program, paramedics training, and a police science program, once known as a rookie school. Now, a program that several look to enter.
“The biggest change was the revolution of the computer, going from carbon copies to a computer, was a dream come true,” said the former long-time secretary. She said it was amazing to be able to read and look over one’s work without first ever putting it on a piece of paper. The school adopted a computer science class requirement. She and other students learned by reading a text book until they could get computers. She said that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supplied funds for the early college program.
Johnson said her first year in class during 1966-67, the college buildings were not yet complete and students attended classes at Surry Central High School using its facilities.
The students eventually moved onto the campus in the spring of 1967 and took their first exams in those buildings, she said. There were three original buildings plus a greenhouse, then. Both the technology and horticulture programs are still going strong.
The way the SCC program came to be in Dobson was pretty amazing, recalled Johnson.
Before the community college program, vocational educational centers stood when someone came up with the idea of adding a college transfer program. She recalled how former trustee, Floyd Flip Reese, had been to the beach with his family when upon coming back into town, he pitched the community college idea to the local civic club.
Johnson said they liked the idea and got busy contacting the appropriate officials in Raleigh that got SCC on the list, she said.
“I remember the competition between the towns,” said Johnson, but added that Rees was known for having a “Midas touch” and ultimately led in generating the enthusiasm required.
Administrative Assistant to President David Shockley, Cheryl Largin, came to work at SCC in 1991. “I began in the continuing education division and then was transferred into (the office for) vice president for instruction to be Dr. Jim Reeves’ administrative assistant in June 1992 until January 2009.”
Largin said she feels fortunate to have spent time in continuing education, it allowed her to have “a window into their offerings.” Largin has been twice selected as Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce Administrative Professional of the Year and most recently in 2013.
“I have felt blessed because we have always had great leadership and direction.” She added that her work is more than employment, it is an opportunity. “The college has a heart and a soul and the people here.” She said it is powerful to witness collectively how the staff feels about the students.
Largin added that some of the greatest people that she has ever met has been on the SCC campus and that her life “has been fed ten-fold.”
“I love working for Dr. Shockley and the board, they couldn’t care any more sincerely than they do.”
Largin said her greatest testimony is the fact that she sent her daughter to the school. “There is nothing more important in life than your child and I felt like Surry was the answer,” she said.
“I would say without a doubt we have the greatest president in the system. He has vision, energy and the drive to see our vision through to fruition and he cares about the community,” added Largin of Shockley.
She added what the students and businesses bring to the table is incredible. The ability to change and branch out has given people opportunities to come to school that would not otherwise, she said.
Largin said, “I see how we have grown and changed and I look back since we have been celebrating these 50 years, I look back and smile because I see the love in those people’s faces. I love these people. I am blessed to be part of them in the workplace.”
Tanya Chilton may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @TanyaTDC.