VGCC Sets Two Annual Graduations; Enrollment Continues To Increase

Monday, January 26, 1998
Jerome Johnson Honored As Instructor Of Year


Graduation at Vance-Granville Community College will be twice as nice this year.

The school's Board of Trustees voted unanimously Monday evening, Jan. 26, to conduct two graduation ceremonies annually in the future. Dr. Ben F. Currin, president, said Spring Graduation will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday, May 17, and Summer Graduation will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 10.

Prior graduations have been held in late August and have been for all students who completed their programs of study throughout the previous year. Currin told the trustees that many students, particularly large groups like college transfer and associate degree nursing, complete their studies in May and are off working or enrolled in four-year colleges by the time the August graduations rolled around.

Danny H. Mangum Jr., student representative to the board, told the trustees many students have told him they favor two commencements. "The college transfer students in particular are happy about it because they plan to be off in other schools in August and could not participate," he said.

Currin also pointed out that having two graduations would ensure that more family and guests of graduates will be able to attend in the event of inclement weather. The May graduation will be planned for the gazebo area by the campus lake, where past graduations have been held, but the Civic Center will be set up in case rain drives the ceremonies inside.

With 500 or more graduates at one annual graduation and more than 100 faculty members being invited to attend, graduates would only be permitted one guest in the Civic Center, Currin said. The president expects about 300 graduates in May and 200 in August, and this will allow each to have more guests if the ceremonies have to be inside.

Conversion to the semester system, as Vance-Granville has done this school year, makes this the appropriate time to make the change, Currin added.

Trustee John K. Nelms said the proposal had real merit and added,

"Graduation has become a real rat race at the time we've had it, and two graduations will give students time for a social atmosphere so they can enjoy their special day."

The 1997 graduation was held on Aug. 21 when 499 VGCC graduates received degrees, diplomas or certificates.

Spring Enrollment Climbs

Dr. Currin told the trustees that preliminary figures for Spring Semester shows 232 more students enrolled than in Spring Quarter of 1997.

"We are defying a trend seen across the state since community colleges went to the semester system, and we had anticipated some loss," Currin said. "Frankly, I'm surprised and I can't really explain it, but I'm very pleased."

Currin reported 361 students enrolled in the college transfer program, compared to 271 last spring. There are 1,035 in technical programs, compared to 959 last spring, special programs are up from 490 to 601, and high school from 230 to 242.

The only significant drop was in vocational programs, where 290 students are enrolled, where there were 346 last spring. Basic Law Enforcement enrollment of 20 is down one from last spring.

Nelms said he understands why enrollment is up. "As I move around the area, I hear nothing but good things about this school, and I credit that to President Currin, the faculty and staff," he said.

Franklin Campus Construction


Construction of the Franklin County campus should be completed on schedule if the weather cooperates, reported J. David Brooks, chairman of the board's Building Committee.

A wet winter has put the project about two weeks behind schedule, but the architect has told Brooks the two-story, 36,000 square-foot building can be completed by mid-July if contractors get a break in the weather. Plans are to begin Fall Semester classes in the new facility.

The architect's report shows the two-story classroom/lab structure is complete, and the second floor steel deck is in place. Plumbing and electrical conduit are in place. A slab has been poured and bearing walls are in place for one of the single-story wings which will hold shops. Work has begun on parking lots and driveways, curbs and gutters.

Committee Reports

On a recommendation from its Personnel Committee, the trustees voted to accept the resignations of Katherine C. Brafford and Hazel S. Boyd and approved the promotion of Ernestine J. Peace.

Brafford, who was accounting supervisor, has left to be finance officer for the city of Henderson, and Boyd, an instructor and coordinator of literacy, has become interim director of HealthCo. Peace, a 19-year employee in the VGCC business office, will replace Brafford.

John M. Foster, chairman of the Budget Committee, presented the mid-year financial status report. All accounts were reported to be in good order, with approximately 47.5 percent of budgeted funds expended.

Johnson Honored As Instructor Of Year

An innovative instructor who has positive influences on the community as well as his students has been honored as Vance-Granville Community College's top teacher for 1997. 

G. Jerome Johnson, instructor and coordinator of Theatre Arts, was nominated by VGCC for the N.C. Community College System's Excellence in Teaching Award. The college's Board of Trustees honored Johnson and presented him a plaque at the board's Jan. 26 meeting. Shown in the photograph at right making the presentation are, from left, President Dr. Ben F. Currin, Chairman John T. Church, Johnson and Vice Chairman John K. Nelms.

Johnson, who holds a Master of Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a Bachelor of Arts in Music and Theatre from St. Andrew's Presbyterian College, came to VGCC in the fall of 1988 as resident artist through the North Carolina Visiting Artist Program. Specializing in theatre arts, he presented more than 400 performances, workshops, lectures and demonstrations during his two-year residency.

In its nomination of Johnson to the state system, college administrators said he had made such an impact on the community during those two years they decided to offer him a permanent, full-time position as coordinator of Theatre Arts. He directs and coordinates cultural activities at the college and teaches courses in speech, drama appreciation, oral communication, recreational music and drama, major American playwrights, and acting.

While praising Johnson for his instructional skills, the nomination cited his interest in his students and the rapport he develops with them. "The fact that his office is always crowded with students is the indication that he welcomes them and that they are comfortable talking to him," the nomination said.

One of Johnson's most challenging assignments is teaching courses Vance-Granville offers inmates pursuing associate degrees at the Federal Correctional Institution in Butner. Because of their unusual personal histories and the distractions of the prison setting, Johnson has found he must design teaching techniques and activities especially for the prisoners. "He has been remarkably successful with these students by allowing them to use dramatic literature as a vehicle for exploring the drama in their own lives," college officials said.

Johnson is probably best known to the community for acting in and directing14 major productions for the Henderson Rec Players and the Granville Little Theatre, including The King and I, Steel Magnolias, Oliver! and The Music Man. He has also encouraged middle school and high school teachers to include theatre in their curriculums and has written study guides for them.

The success of Jerome Johnson as an instructor is probably best expressed by former students. Helen Wackerhagen of Henderson wrote that she returned to college late in life and, after attending Vance-Granville, she transferred to UNC-Chapel Hill and is currently a graduate student at East Carolina University. She said she has had many excellent teachers, "but very few of Mr. Johnson's caliber."

Like several others who wrote letters to accompany the nomination, Wackerhagen mentioned how Johnson takes a personal interest in each student, finds each student's strengths and helps them build on those strengths so they can attain their goals. She said she and the other students in Johnson's Major American Authors course went into it because it was required for college transfer, but it became the high point of their class days. "Students were actually in tears on the last day! I hope you realize how rare that is," Wackerhagen said.

Nancy Radford wrote of Johnson's energy and enthusiasm and how they spilled over to his students. She also said he use lecture, role play, drama, student interactive games and video to hold his students' attention.

Jill Nicole Miller wrote of how Johnson helped her overcome her fear of public speaking in his speech class, primarily through positive reinforcement. "He didn't ever not tell me when I did something incorrectly, but he always managed to say something positive about my speeches, too," she said.

While repeating many of the attributes cited by other students, Rebecca J. Martin of Norlina said Johnson imparts his love of teaching and learning to others. "Mr. Johnson is the definition of a teacher," she wrote. "Instructors like him help Vance-Granville Community College to be an excellent institution of higher learning."