“There are not enough accolades to pay you for what you have done for Southwestern Community College,” Paul Holt, founding SCC Board of Trustees member, told Conrad Burrell, who stepped down as the college’s chairman of the board. Burrell has served as the board’s chair for 11 years.
“That’s a long time,” said Burrell, who has served longer than any other SCC chairman. Terry Bell of Otto, vice chairman and an SCC board member since 1995, will take over the leadership role.
“Terry will do a great job,” said Burrell. “We are entering a new year and I think the focus on our new chairman being from Macon County will be a good direction for the college,” said Burrell, a Jackson County native.
“Conrad has been very unselfish in his promotion of SCC, whether it’s Jackson, Macon or Swain County, or the Qualla Boundary,” said Jerry Sutton of Franklin, who has served seven terms as SCC board chairman.
SCC President Don Tomas said the longterm commitment and advocacy of Burrell and other board members drive SCC’s success. “This board has 100 percent participation and you don’t always get that from every board,” Tomas said.
In paying tribute to Burrell, Tomas said, “During Conrad’s leadership SCC has fostered the growth of community and public school partnerships, increased in physical size and enrollment and created innovative methods to minimize local and topographical barriers to education.”
Student enrollment set new records, increasing 54 percent since 2000 when Burrell became chairman, Tomas noted.
SCC has twice been ranked as one of the top ten in the nation among community colleges in a ranking by Washington Monthly Magazine, Tomas said.
Plus, Tomas added, five times out of the last six years, the college has achieved Exceptional Designation from the North Carolina Community College System based on the annual NCCCS performance measures and standards.
“Under Conrad’s leadership SCC built a Macon Campus, opened a new center in Cashiers, developed Early College programs on the Macon and Jackson Campuses and a virtual campus at Blue Ridge and spearheaded BalsamWest Fiber NET,” Tomas said.
Burrell said his biggest challenge, but also his greatest accomplishment, was the purchase of the adjacent six acres of N.C. Forest Service property. “That finally allowed SCC’s Jackson Campus to expand,” said Burrell, who has served on the board 16 years.
“Conrad always had a vision of where SCC could go,” said former board member George Hooper of Cullowhee. “He’s put a lot of thought and work and devoted a large part of his life to getting the college to where it is today.”
Board member Pete Penland of Macon County agreed. “Conrad has given his undivided attention to the college. Ever since he became chairman in 2000, Conrad made the college his number one priority.”
One of the best things about Conrad’s leadership, according to board member Kate Welch of Swain County, is “he never gets rattled.”
“No matter what the situation, Conrad always remains calm and cool and a true gentleman,” said Welch. “Plus, he always expresses appreciation to everybody else but he never takes any credit for himself.”
“Terry is a lot like Conrad,” said Sutton, who served 26 years on SCC’s board. “Terry values honesty, progress and education. He will carry SCC to its next level.”
A native of Macon County, Bell’s career has been dedicated to education. He received a bachelor’s degree in middle grade education in 1974 and a master’s in school administration in 1983 from Western Carolina University. Bell’s career highlights include science instructor in Haywood and Macon counties, principal at Macon Middle School, principal at East Franklin Elementary, principal at Union Elementary School and assistant principal at Franklin High School. He retired in 2009 as director of auxiliary services for the Macon County School System.
“I look forward to serving as board chairman to continue the leadership that Conrad Burrell has provided for several years,” said Bell. “It will be my goal to provide governance to keep Southwestern a top community college.”