Pictured, left to right: Dr. Debbie A. Dewitt, Dr. David W. Sink Jr., David Blevins, Jim Rasmussen, Virginia Plyler, John B. “Chip” Gould, Marcy Parsons, Dr. Laura B. Leatherwood, Ryan Brown and Kathryn Gould. (Photo by: Rich Keen, Blue Ridge Community College.)
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Blue Ridge Community College honored employee excellence during the annual Faculty and Staff Awards presentation on Tuesday, Dec. 5, in the Blue Ridge Conference Hall. The annual awards program recognizes those who excel in higher education service through Blue Ridge and is presented by the College’s Educational Foundation.
Before the six award winners were revealed, Blue Ridge President Dr. Laura B. Leatherwood recognized employees who had served for more than five, 10, 20, 25 and 30 years. She also praised the entire faculty and staff team for making Blue Ridge one of the most successful community colleges in North Carolina.
“Because of each of you, there is tremendous momentum underway that will propel us forward to be stronger than ever in 2024,” she said. “You provide our College with its heart and strength. We see this every day on our campuses, in all of our divisions and departments, as you sustain and, in fact, give life to our mission.”
The Faculty and Staff Award winners were announced by Mr. Jim Rasmussen, Blue Ridge trustee and president of the Educational Foundation Board of Directors.
“At Blue Ridge Community College, employees play a significant role in our students’ lives — as teachers, advisors, and mentors,” he said. “You assist students with finding purpose and direction in the educational process, setting them on a path to meet their career and life goals. The Foundation is proud to present these awards today.”
The event also included a welcome by Trina Stokes, executive director of the Educational Foundation, and closing remarks by John B. “Chip” Gould, chairman of the Blue Ridge Community College Board of Trustees.
The 2024 Faculty and Staff Award winners included Katy Gould, Ryan Brown, Virginia Plyler, Marcy Parsons, David Blevins and Dr. Debbie Dewitt.
Katy Gould, business administration and marketing instructor, was selected to receive the 2024 Wellness Employee of the Year.
Employee wellness has long been a priority for Blue Ridge Community College and presents an annual recognition to a deserving employee using the College’s wellness program to meet their goals. This year’s winner competed against and outperformed other employees using the Wellness Committee’s point-based system that encourages friendly competition and healthy lifestyles.
Gould adhered to a regular fitness routine including home and on-campus workouts through Blue Ridge’s gym. She actively participated in Wellness Committee-sponsored events, including wearing pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. She is also a wellness advocate in her service on the Wellness Committee.
Dr. Eliza B. Graue Extra Mile Award
Ryan Brown, adjunct emergency medical technician (EMT) instructor, was awarded the 2024 Dr. Eliza B. Graue Extra Mile Award.
Dr. Eliza B. Graue, former president of the Blue Ridge Community College Educational Foundation Board of Directors, established an endowment in 1990 to fund an annual faculty recognition award. An educator herself, she wanted to provide special recognition to an instructor who has in some special way touched the lives of students at Blue Ridge Community College.
Brown began as an EMT student at Blue ridge and later obtained his paramedic credentials. He now serves as a part-time EMT instructor, making time outside of the classroom to further mentor his students. Recently, Brown created a schedule for all programs in emergency medical services to collaborate through group training scenarios. His peers describe him as “passionate for education” as he helps students to understand public safety principles.
Dr. David W. Sink Jr. Community Service Award
Virginia Plyler, instructor of emergency medical services (EMS), was awarded the Dr. David W. Sink Jr. Community Service Award.
Initiated through an endowment fund set up by the second president of Blue Ridge Community College, this award is presented to a Blue Ridge Community College employee who provides exceptional service to the community, a trait that Dr. Sink values greatly in his own life.
This year’s recipient is a great example of selfless service to her community. In addition to serving as a full-time EMS instructor, she works part-time as a paramedic with Polk County EMS and volunteers with Saluda Fire and Rescue. Plyler also serves on Fire Standby, the Emergency First Response Fire and Medical Team with Tryon Fire and Rescue, as well as a member of their dive team. Furthermore, she serves as an advanced paramedic with Landrum Rescue 11, an EMS tutor with agencies throughout Henderson and Polk Counties, and as an infant CPR instructor to area “Mommy & Me” groups.
Last December, a member of the local EMS community lost his house in a fire. Plyler and her students raised money to provide food for the family and a Christmas party complete with presents for the children. This summer, she worked with other EMS professionals to build a home for a retired EMS provider who had been severely injured in a motorcycle accident.
Dr. Molly A. Parkhill Staff Person of the Year Award
Marcy Parsons, Public Safety Training program assistant, was awarded the 2024 Dr. Molly A. Parkhill Staff Person of the Year Award.
Established by the third president of Blue Ridge Community College, the Dr. Molly A. Parkhill Staff Person of the Year Award recognizes a full-time staff member for individual achievement and exceptional contributions to Blue Ridge Community College.
Parsons serves as her area’s liaison for registration information, training opportunities, scheduling, and more. She regularly travels between campuses in Henderson and Transylvania County to coordinate law enforcement training registration and scheduling. In addition to her other responsibilities, Parsons supervises the part-time staff and work-study students, and she assists more than 100 instructors and the department dean.
Dr. and Mrs. William D. Killian Outstanding Teacher Award
David Blevins, mathematics instructor, was awarded the Dr. and Mrs. William D. Killian Outstanding Teacher Award, which recognizes a faculty member’s commitment to teaching excellence.
Blevins received multiple nominations for this award, in which he was described as “a one-of-a-kind teacher who is willing to challenge students but also support them as they strive toward success,” and an instructor who “walks the line between ensuring students meet his expectations and supporting them on their journey to do so.”
Blevins is known by his peers and students to be flexible in making time for students, current in his teaching methodology and technology, and willing to advocate for student needs. He tutors math students through Blue Ridge’s Student Success Center, serves on College committees and has assisted the NC Community College System with working with an upcoming redesign of developmental English and math programs.
Dr. Laura B. Leatherwood Excellence in Leadership Award
Dr. Debbie Dewitt, Dean of Arts & Sciences received the Dr. Laura B. Leatherwood Excellence in Leadership Award. Dr. Leatherwood established this award to recognize exceptional leadership in providing extraordinary services, activities, or other initiatives to benefit the College.
Dr. Dewitt’s peers described her as effective, reliable, level-headed and essential to the success of the Arts and Sciences Department. Her work has resulted in strong relationships between Blue Ridge and area high schools. She also was instrumental in relaunching the College’s Horticulture program to meet local education and workforce needs.
During her nomination, one employee said “her caring and personal approach towards faculty members, viewing them as more than just employees but as individuals with unique needs and aspirations, fosters a sense of community and support that is deeply appreciated.”
Congratulations to the deserving recipients of Blue Ridge Community College’s 2024 Staff and Faculty Awards!