There are many fond memories bound in the Sampson Community College yearbooks, and Joanne Williams likes to sit and flip through the pages and remember the educational institute during its earlier years.
Williams was the second hired employee of the industrial educational center that is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Chartered in 1967 as an extension of Wayne Technical Institute, Sampson Technical Institute was decreed by the General Assembly as an independent unit with Dr. James Earl Vann as the first president.
“We didn’t have a lot of support back then,” Williams recalled about her time spent working as a controller for the college. “We had to work hard to really sell the college.”
For the first year, Williams said she and Vann worked from a one-room office space on Rowan Road at the County Complex. Eventually, as the staff grew, the school was moved to the old East Indian School north of Clinton before the current location was constructed following a bond referendum in 1972.
“They required we have at least 10 students before we could make a class,” Williams said. “We went anywhere we could trying to find students to fill the classrooms.”
According to Williams, at one time, classes were spread all across the county, using buildings, rooms and schools as a classroom environment.
With no budget and few employees, Williams said the educational center grew, and the college began offering not only high school vocational classes, but technical courses and eventually college courses.
The official move to the N.C. 24 campus didn’t happen until 1976, when the faculty and staff of the college moved, holding an open house in April of the same year. At this time, the North Building, a trailer for storage and the metal vocational building were the only structures on the site. One year later, in 1977, the East Building was completed to house vocational classes.
In 1979, the name was changed to Sampson Technical College, but would again change in 1986 when Dr. Clifton Paderick, the institute’s third president, established Sampson Community College. The official name change wasn’t made until late 1987. It was around this time that Williams says she stopped working with the college, after 20 years of service in the bookkeeping office.
“Sampson Community College is one of the most wonderful things in Sampson County,” Williams shared. “It has remitted many students to further their education.”
For its future, Williams says she hopes the college continues to grow. Over the last 20 years, the college has continued to change, with the addition of the Kitchen Building, Warren Student Center, Technology and Activities centers and the Occupational Building. More change is planned for the future, after the ConnectNC bond passed last year, allowing roughly $4.7 million to come into the college for renovations and new construction.
“If the college continues to grow as it has been doing, it will be a huge asset to the students,” Williams said. “By having this type of educational institute locally, students can stay home, work and study to get their education without having to leave.”
The college has changed during its five decades of existence, and Williams says she is proud to have been a part of the beginning process. When the college first opened, there was one classroom, one office and one instructional offering in an adult high school program. That changed when the business administration curriculum started with Lois Denny, who was employed on a part-time basis. Three full-time vocational programs soon followed, including bricklaying, plumbing and electrical work.
“Now, Sampson Community College has so many options,” Williams attested. “Students can begin furthering their education right here at home and then after two years, transfer into a much larger college.”
After working in the educational industry for more than 20 years, Williams sold medical equipment and later sold insurance. She just fully retired last March, and enjoys spending time at home with her family, which consists of her husband, two children, seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
“I always loved what I did,” Williams said. “The children were the best part.”
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.