Dr. Gordon Burns became the interim president of Vance-Granville Community College on Aug. 11, 2018. He was appointed by the VGCC Board of Trustees and approved by the North Carolina State Board of Community Colleges in July.
The former leader of Wilkes Community College (WCC) in Wilkesboro was the longest serving president in the history of the western North Carolina college, retiring in 2014 after 18 years at WCC and 46 years in education.
He succeeds Dr. Stelfanie Williams, the sixth president of VGCC, who announced plans in May to take the position of Vice President for Durham Affairs at Duke University. A search process is under way to find a successor to Dr. Williams.
After completing high school in Easton, Pa., Dr. Burns earned his Bachelor of Science degree at Eastern Kentucky in Richmond, Ky., in 1969, and his Master of Education and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from the University of Missouri in Columbia, in 1971 and 1976, respectively. His Ph.D. major was Industrial Education with support areas in Educational Administration and Industrial Management.
Vance-Granville is the fourth community college home for Dr. Burns in North Carolina. Prior to his time at WCC as president, Dr. Burns served as executive vice president at Lenoir Community College in Kinston from 1988 to 1996, and as vice president for instruction and dean of continuing education at Wilson Community College in Wilson, between 1978 and 1988. In 1973-1978, he was the director of a vocational technical school in Boonville, Mo., which serves eight school districts, and was the adult education director for the Boonville Public Schools. He began his career in education in 1969, teaching at public schools in Lexington, Ky., and Centralia, Mo.
At Wilkes, Dr. Burns is credited with leading the college through a period of significant growth and successes in enrollment, donations to the college’s Endowment, construction and renovation projects, technology, academic offerings, planning, and school, university, business and industry partnerships.
Among his most notable accomplishments while at Wilkes Community College:
- Dr. Burns transformed a fiscally constrained college into one of fiscal viability. During his 18-year tenure, full-time equivalency (FTE) enrollment at the college increased from 1,859 to 3,339, and the state budget increased from $8.9 million to $17.8 million.
- The WCC Endowment Corporation transferred more than $30 million to the community college during those 18 years.
- Dr. Burns created a new vision for long range and facilities master plans for the campuses in Wilkes, Ashe and Alleghany counties.
- He is credited with improving the spirit de corps and cohesiveness among college personnel focusing on mission and vision and goals; securing reaffirmation of accreditation; automating the performance review and budget planning processes; invigorating professional development; and advancing campus security.
- Under his leadership, Wilkes expanded curricula offerings and electronic campus infrastructure, enhanced partnerships with business and industry, and grew partnerships and programming with public schools and regional universities.
When asked about his success at Wilkes, Dr. Burns said, “Of course, I didn’t personally do all of these things. Perhaps my greatest contribution was assembling, leading and creating synergy among a talented team of administrators, faculty and staff and creating a learning and working environment that fosters achievement of mutually agreed upon goals resulting in shared pride, satisfaction and success.”
Operations will be the top priority during the transition to a new president at VGCC, he said. “The ultimate compliment at the end of the period would be that we didn’t miss a beat, that the college continued on its journey. I would not be here to change things so that things would be done in the Burns way or in the Wilkes Community College way. They need to be done in the Vance-Granville way with the Vance-Granville people.”
“Dr. Williams has continued the journey of creating a great work environment and a great learning environment here and a supportive one for all, the students, the faculty and the staff and has worked well with Trustees in the governance of the institution,” he added.