The seeds of Sampson Community College’s rich history were planted 60 years ago, well before its roots grew into what it is today. Even before its creation, Sampson Community College (SCC) — or Sampson Technical Institute as it was called in the late 60s — was on the drawing board. That drawing board sat on the desk of John Thurman Denning.
Denning, who was serving as superintendent of Sampson County Schools, realized in 1963 that Sampson County did not have the means nor the facilities to meet growing educational needs in the county. Denning had been researching ways to educate soldiers returning from Korea and Vietnam in order to help them attend universities or enter the workforce.
After initially creating the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, more commonly known as the G.I. Bill, after World War II, the government extended these benefits to include all veterans who had served their country either in wartime or during peace. This created a need that Denning was happy to fill as he was able to launch a program that served as an extension of Wayne Technical Institute (WTI).
This small extension of WTI grew and soon there was enough demand to hire a full time director. Not long after Denning appointed Midway High School English teacher James Earl Vann as director, educational demands were brought about as a result of the G.I. Bill. In 1967, Denning was able to secure a grant to develop what became known as Sampson Technical Institute.
Half a century later, Ann Denning Herring sits in the library named after her father, the John Thurman Denning Library on the campus at Sampson Community College. She laughs as she and her husband, Dr. Mac Herring, Jr. share memories with friends and those she calls family. Those gathered for the special occasion are Dr. Veronica Stevens, Robin Bradshaw and Lisa Smith, all members of SCC’s nursing department. They are joined by SCC president Dr. Bill Starling, SCC Foundation executive director, Lisa Turlington and a former member of the nursing department, Wanda Capps. Capps now serves as vice president of academic affairs.
Dr. Herring was a well-loved pediatrician at Clinton Medical Clinic in Sampson County for more than four decades and these nurses have all grown up together as family over that time. They all gathered to thank Dr. and Mrs. Herring, for continuing a legacy that began decades ago.
“Both of my parents were educators who believed schooling was very important for everyone,” says Ann Herring. So much so, as a matter of fact, her parents JT and Verna Denning already have an endowment named after them at the college as well. “I can’t tell you what it means to us to see all of these nurses who trained at this college, who have taught others at this college and many of whom have worked with my husband in a medical capacity here in Sampson County for all these years.”
This week, Dr. Mac Herring and his wife Ann, daughter of “Founding Father of SCC” JT Denning have announced that they have created a scholarship to help nurses at Sampson Community College. This new scholarship seals their legacy among health care educators here forever. It is called the Dr. Mac and Ann Herring Nursing Scholarship Fund.
“It was fun to gather with friends and colleagues to celebrate their generosity and to reflect on their impact on this community,” said Turlington who is very familiar with both the Dennings and the Herrings. “Dr. Mac and Ann set the bar high for service to others, and it is evident through their careers, their families, and their relationships. While Dr. Mac is known throughout the county for having touched the lives of most children who’ve been born in Sampson County in the last forty years, I’ve watched Ann working quietly behind the scenes in our church and community. They have been longtime supporters of the college through the J.T. And Verna Denning Endowed Scholarship and now will continue the tradition through an additional scholarship for health care.”
Wanda Capps, formerly division chair of health programs and currently vice president of academic affairs, is close with the Herrings on several fronts.
“I was fortunate to work with Dr. Herring as a RN in the pediatric unit at SRMC in the late 80s,” says Capps. “His compassion and love for children and their well-being is paramount to who he is not only as a pediatrician but as an individual. His family and his wife’s family has impacted Sampson County in both the medical and educational arena which has defined and molded who we are as a community. He is indeed a special man in the hearts of many as well as Mrs. Herring.”
“We are excited about the newly-established nursing scholarship from Ann and Mac Herring,” says Dr. Paul Viser, a colleague of Dr. Herring and president of the SCC Foundation. The Dennings are key pillars in SCC’s very existence and certainly we are nothing short of grateful for this continued support by the Herrings as well. Dr. Herring has seen firsthand the critical importance of the SCC nursing program over the years. It’s great that this family’s dedication to SCC’s mission will continue to benefit current students.”
“We want to thank Dr. Herring and Ann for their scholarship support for nursing students,” said Starling.
Starling has been with SCC for as long as any employee of SCC.
“Seeing the Herrings today was particularly rewarding. To listen to Dr. Herring’s recollection of his practice when he and a number of the College’s nursing faculty were assisting his patients brought back many memories for all of us. For many of us who grew up in this community, Dr. Herring provided invaluable care to children and helped ease the fears of young parents.”
Dr. Herring says JT Denning’s proudest accomplishment was the establishment of Sampson Community College and he and Ann will do their part to carry on that legacy.
“I worked besides dozens of nurses who graduated from and taught school at SCC,” Dr. Herring remembers. “This includes my office nurse of 35 years, Patsy Gregory. I remember another graduate, Judy Hall with whom I worked together for a decade after she graduated from SCC in 1974. I have always been impressed by the training and preparation of SCC graduates. Ann and I establishing this nursing scholarship as a token of our appreciation for this wonderful institution and what its graduates have meant to us.”