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Remembering Mark Story

Welcome to Awake58! If you missed last week’s edition, click here. 

We were all shocked by the loss of Mark Story of K-64 … Four NC community college presidents were among 25 in the country named to a new presidents fellowship by the Aspen Institute … Dennis King sat with us to reflect on his time as president of A-B Tech …

As I walked out of a meeting last week, my phone buzzed with a text message. I get hundreds of texts some days, many of them mundane, but this one stopped me in my tracks. It asked whether I had heard that Mark Story, the CEO of the K-64 Initiative, had died suddenly of a heart attack that day.

I instantly texted Garrett Hinshaw of Catawba Valley Community College. I knew Garrett and Mark were closely aligned in their work, but also close friends. Garrett confirmed the news, and my thoughts immediately drifted back to the time I met Mark. 

As a native of the greater Unifour region (Alexander-Burke-Caldwell-Catawba counties), I have always been interested to watch economic development and educational attainment efforts unfold. Few have burst onto the scene with the energy of K-64 — and much of the momentum was owed to the leadership and work ethic of Mark Story.

My colleague Mebane Rash wrote a story on Mark and his approach that I hope you will take the time to read:

Click here to read our story

I would encourage you to watch this video featuring Mark Story reflecting on his role in Catawba County. The Hickory Daily Record also published a piece on Story and his impact on the community.

I’ll close this introduction by sharing what Garrett Hinshaw told me by text when I asked him for his thoughts on Mark: “Mark Story was a one of a kind leader and difference maker. He was about one thing …  getting things done. He was passionate about helping people improve their lives in any way that he could help them. You can never replace a Mark Story, but you always know that he inspired people to see the value in others and that he enhanced everyone that he came in contact with through his personal and professional interactions.”

Our thoughts and prayers are with Mark’s family and the greater Unifour region during this most difficult time.

Stay tuned for next week’s Awake58 as we go deeper on the next work of myFutureNC. We were with hundreds of education leaders today as they marked the next phase of their work.

See you out on the road,


Director of Growth,

P.S.  Some of you received the newsletter multiple times last week because of a bug in our system. While we hope you love Awake58, we know you receive enough email to not want it four or five times in one day. Please accept our sincere apology.

After 28 years at A-B Tech, Dennis King reflects on his career as he retires

Dennis King worked at A-B Tech for 28 years — and for the last five he has been president of the college. We had the chance to spend an afternoon with King recently as he prepares to step away. I would encourage you to watch the whole video.

King was open with us throughout the interview. He shared a heartbreaking story about a student who overdosed on campus — and he told us that the fear of an active shooter has kept him up at night. 

He also spoke of the many things he is proud of about his tenure at A-B Tech, including the launch of the RISE program on campus. “Like so many schools,” King said, “we weren’t paying as much attention as we should to those first-semester freshmen who come in here not knowing anything about what they want to do … We want to make sure that everybody gets the education they want.” 

King also addressed the future of the system: “There has been talk for years about consolidation. I hope we don’t do that. I hope we leave the colleges where they are and let them serve their people. If you force somebody to go from some rural community to drive 50 to 70 miles to get an education at an A-B Tech, will that person do it? I’m afraid that the answer is no.”

King also recently sat down with the Citizen-Times for a wide ranging interview that is worth your time.

Ever wonder what it’s like to visit a community college with EdNC? Join us. ‘The future is now’ at DCCC

Last week, my colleague Mebane Rash and I visited Davidson County Community College. Our visit was punctuated by several tornado warnings, but the DCCC team rolled with the punches to provide a robust visit of their campus.

One idea your college might find worth copying? The DCCC enrollment bus.

“We were in the community, but not in the community,” said Rhonda Coats, the vice president of student affairs. She said the college had conducted a survey back when Mary Rittling was president, and they were surprised how many people in the community didn’t know about the college or weren’t aware of its offerings.

The bus goes to high schools, career fairs, the health department, and public libraries. Paul Riley, an admissions counselor at DCCC and a driver of the bus, says students drop their guard on the bus, and it’s easier to figure out what the real hurdles to enrollment are.

Check out Mebane’s story on our visit to learn more about the bus and DCCC.

Four presidents from NC named to prestigious new fellowship

The Aspen Institute has announced the inaugural 25-strong class of the Aspen New Presidents Fellowship for Community College Excellence. The four from North Carolina are:

Lisa Chapman, Central Carolina Community College.

Maria Pharr, South Piedmont Community College.

Pamela Senegal, Piedmont Community College.

Janet Spriggs, Forsyth Tech Community College.

According to the Aspen Institute, the New Presidents Fellowship is designed to support community college presidents in the first five years of their presidency in an effort to “accelerate transformational change on behalf of their students.”

Each of the four presidents was excited when I spoke with them this week. Pamela Senegal told me via email, “I look forward to having a network of forward thinking peers and experts to help guide my organization towards transformational change that will increase student success and address long standing educational equity gaps.”

I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with all four of the presidents. I visited with Lisa Chapman at Central Carolina most recently. Chapman began her career in education at Central Carolina, moved to the system office for several years, and is now leading her hometown school. 

The second stop on our tour of all of the community colleges for back in 2017 brought us to Rowan-Cabarrus Community College,  where we met Janet Spriggs. Spriggs led us on our tour and gave us great context on the school’s innovative work to serve students. Spriggs is now president of Forsyth Tech

Maria Pharr always showcases her energy and passion when you visit South Piedmont. Pharr began her presidency at South Piedmont Community College in January 2017, and before that she served in a variety of roles across the community college space, including serving as executive director of BioNetwork and Life Science Initiatives.

I’ve enjoyed discussing the role of media with Senegal over the last few years. My colleague Nancy Rose visited Piedmont Community College during our community college blitz in the fall of 2018, and she was struck by Senegal’s emphasis on showcasing her staff and their work.

For more on the fellowship, check out our report.

How northeastern NC organizations are working together to connect people to jobs

Scott Hamilton, president of the Golden LEAF Foundation, shares a perspective this week on the work of the foundation to connect people to jobs in our rural regions. Hamilton writes: “Right now, many industries in North Carolina are struggling to find the right mix of talent, experience, and credentials in the labor market. It’s going to take a collaborative approach to workforce development to fill available jobs. The Golden LEAF Foundation is proud to do its part to connect North Carolinians to quality jobs in these vital fields.” 

For more on the work of Golden LEAF, check out Scott’s piece by clicking here. You might also want to check out our earlier coverage of Golden LEAF’s new GLOW initiative.

My thanks to Golden LEAF team member (and regular Awake58 reader) Kasey Ginsberg for letting us know more about this work.

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Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.