BCCC graduate named chairmanPublished 8:42pm Monday, July 23, 2012
When high school seniors come into Russell Smith’s clothing store in downtown Washington, he likes to ask what their college plans are.
“When they say BCCC, it’s almost like they’re apologizing,” Smith said. “I want to change that.
“It’s my desire that students – young and old – be excited about attending Beaufort County Community College,” he said. “Whether it’s a traditional college student seeking to transfer to a four year university or an older student seeking new job skills, the college needs to be visible and available.”
Smith was recently appointed chairman of the Beaufort County Community College Board of Trustees after spending the last five years on the board.
Smith succeeds Mitchell St. Clair. The former chairman initiated Smith’s appointment after working closely with him on the search committee for the school’s new president (The committee selected Dr. Barbara Tansey).
“He was my first choice,” St. Clair said. “We have a new president. So, I felt we needed a new chair. He’s young, energetic and graduated from this college.”
Smith is the first graduate of the college to hold the position.
Board member and County Commissioner Robert Cayton said Smith’s ties to the college and the Washington community would strengthen the board.
“He brings the perspective no other board member could bring,” Cayton said.
Smith earned an associate’s degree in retailing and marketing technology in 1975 when the school was still called Beaufort County Technical Institute (BCTI).
“It was basically a 4-year business degree crammed into two years and one quarter,” he said.
Smith started his retail career through BCTI’s cooperative work program. He worked at men’s clothing store Hilton’s before opening his own store across the street in 1983.
He said the college has grown by leaps and bounds in the decades since he attended.
“I’d put our nursing program up against any in the state,” Smith said. “We have an excellent staff and faculty. They’ll do anything for their students.”
The rest of the Smith clan has ties to BCCC, too. His wife, Denice, earned an associate’s degree from BCTI. Their daughter, Olivia, took online courses at BCCC before graduating from Pitt Community College.
Because Smith’s son, Zach, took BCCC courses his senior year of high school, he was able to start as a sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Smith works closely with other local charities like Eagle’s Wings. He will be emceeing the upcoming Dancing with Our Stars fundraiser.
Board members are not compensated for their roles in shaping the college. Smith said he saw his appointment the same way as he sees other volunteer positions he has held — as his civic duty.
“It’s important to do your part to make Washington a better place to live,” he said.