Who was or is the greatest scientist — Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking? You might think this an unfair comparison since each was great in his own right, and each lived during different eras, and in the case of Einstein and Hawking, had the benefit of their predecessors’ thinking. A fair evaluation would involve looking at each man’s contribution within the time in which he lived.
So it should be for anyone who accomplishes great things, including college presidents. Anyone who has been following the news for the last six months knows that Charles Chrestman, president of Robeson Community College, will be leaving soon. Now is a good time to reflect on the college’s growth in the last 10 years under his leadership. Chrestman shared a “State of the College” presentation with the college’s trustees at a recent board meeting and the following information was culled from his presentation.
In 2002-03 when Chrestman arrived, the college’s budget was $18 million. As he prepares to leave this spring he has crafted, with the help of business office staff, a $42 million budget.
Over that same time period, the number of full-time employees at the college has grown from 176 to 193 and the number of part-time employees has grown from 291 to 340. The majority of these employees live and shop and pay taxes in Robeson County, which means that dollars spent on their salaries turn over many times in the community, bolstering both the local economy and tax base.
The number of credit programs offered by RCC is now at 34 compared with 20 when Chrestman arrived. With the increase in programs, one would logically expect an increase in enrollment. Full time equivalent enrolled last year was 4,148 compared to 2,361 10 years ago.
With the increase in programs and full-time equivalency, the college has seen a growth in the number of graduates. Last year’s graduates totaled 260 compared with 214 in 2003. Again, this is more people, better educated, and more capable of earning higher wages, which benefits the county as a whole.
Now, let’s talk big numbers. In the past 10 years, more than $13.8 million in new construction has been added to RCC’s campus. While some of this money went to contractors outside of our county, not all of it did. Local contractors successfully bid on several projects and again provided a major boost to the local economy by keeping those construction dollars close to home. This is also true with a portion of more than $3 million in renovation money spent over the past 10 years.
While we’re talking millions, let’s not forget financial aid awards. In 2002-03 students received approximately $4 million through RCC’s financial aid office. Last year that figure was more than $8.8 million, and once again, these dollars are spent mostly in our local community. The financial aid office notifies local banks before the disbursement each semester, so that those banks can arrange to have enough cash on hand to handle the sudden influx of funds.
Over the past 10 years, the RCC Foundation’s assets have grown from $351,000 to more than $1.5 million due largely to Chrestman’s support of the foundation’s Capital Campaign fund drive. This money will remain invested and provide scholarships for students in perpetuity.
Shortly after his arrival in Robeson County, Chrestman brought on RCC’s first full-time grant writer and the results of this endeavor have been nothing short of spectacular. Between the leadership of Chrestman and the technical expertise of Lynda Parlett and her successor, Lisa O. Hunt, grants and sponsored programs have grown from $292,000 in 2003 to almost $21.8 million today.
If you ask Chrestman about his accomplishments at RCC over the past 10 years, he will quickly tell you that any accomplishments were a team effort and in part, he is correct. It does take a good team to accomplish much in today’s complex environment, but it also takes good leadership. A good team with mediocre leadership is not likely to go very far. RCC and Robeson County have been blessed with both a good team and good leadership at our community college.
The great 16th century scientist Isaac Newton purportedly once claimed, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” In the near future the RCC board of trustees, with the state board’s blessing, will hire a new president. While she won’t replace Chrestman the person, as a talented leader she will be able to stand on Chrestman’s shoulders and see RCC and the community further down the road to an even brighter future.
Dennis Watts is the Public Information Officer at Robeson Community College. If you have questions about RCC or suggestions for future articles, he can be reached email@example.com.