LUMBERTON — Charles Chrestman, president of Robeson Community College for almost a decade, told the college’s board of trustees Monday that he plans to retire at the end of the year, saying the “time is right.”
Chrestman, only the third person to hold the office of RCC president, has 40 years in higher education. His retirement becomes effective Dec. 31.
“It’s been 10 good years. We’ve accomplished a lot,” Chrestman said. “It’s been a real honor to serve at the college. You have a really good faculty and staff to keep you moving forward … .
“Everyone has to go sometime.”
Chrestman said he made his retirement announcement early so that college officials could move with the process of finding his successor.
George Regan, chairman of the trustees, said the search for the next president will begin immediately. He said at next month’s board meeting the board will consider proposals from two groups, including the North Carolina Association of Community Colleges, on how the search should proceed.
“Six months sounds like a lot of time to find a new president, but it really isn’t,” Regan said. “”It’s going to be hard, but we hope to have someone ready to take his place (the beginning of the year). I hope we don’t have to have an interim president.”
Regan, who was chairman of the RCC board of trustees when Chrestman was hired in 2003, said that the college has moved forward dramatically under Chrestman’s leadership.
“I hate to see him go. He has moved this school up to a new level,” Regan said. “He’s a community leader whose well recognized in the community for what he has done both for the community and RCC.
“We knew he would be strong in industrial recruitment when he was hired,” Regan said. “He’s always been out there looking and listening to find out what job skills are needed in the community He has looked to bring the higher skill jobs into the community that are needed. He’s worked closely with industry to get them the skilled (employees) they need.”
In his letter of resignation, Chrestman stated that the college is fully accredited. He said that the institution is financially solid and operating within accepted general accounting principles, pointing to a “very good” state audit to support his position.
According to Chrestman, “enrollment continues to grow at a sustained rate due to education programs that are valued, needed, and delivered by a well-qualified faculty and staff.”
During Chrestman’s tenure, the college underwent a 10-year reaffirmation of accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Several educational programs also became nationally accredited, and others are completing self-studies for national accreditation.
During Chrestman’s tenure, three new buildings were constructed: a Continuing Education building located in COMtech Park; and a Health Science building and a Workforce Development Center, both located on the college’s main campus. Two other were completely renovated, aging roofing systems replaced, and parking areas expanded.
During his tenure, RCC began offering the ACT’s WorkKeys Assessment, which leads to a Career Readiness Certificate. Today, Robeson County ranks in the top three among the state’s 100 counties with more than 5,000 individuals holding the certificate
The college also landed one of the state’s NCCCS Biotechnology Network regional centers that now serves a statewide role in advancing bio-agriculture.
During Monday’s meeting, Eva Meekins, the nursing program’s director, told the trustees that all 19 of RCC’s recent nursing graduates passed the state’s licensing test on the first try.
Meekins told the board that when she became director of the program three years ago, only about 67 percent of the graduates passed the test on their first try.
“We now believe we are on the right track,” Meekins said. “We feel we are preparing our graduates well.”
Meekins said that this year there will be 45 students in the nursing program, with another 24 students in the college’s new practical nursing program.
Nahaven Lowry, one of the nursing program’s recent graduates, she has been been hired by a hospital in Dillon, S.C., and will be starting her job at more than $20 an hour, twice the wage of her last job.
“There are a number of other similar stories that can be told,” Meekins said.
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.