Butler epitomizes community leadership

When one thinks of community leadership, it’s hard to do so without Ann Butler’s name crossing your mind.

It’s easy to envision her, shirtsleeves rolled up, helping distribute bottled water to hurricane victims; giving blood at a hospital-sponsored drive; cheering on Special Olympians during their annual spring athletic event; donning an apron and serving up hot and cold shrimp; gently opening an incubator to check on soon-to-hatch bird eggs; or walking side-by-side with teenagers, showing them the ropes at the county’s hospital or urging them on from the sidelines at a sporting event.

Through our memory’s lens, there are dozens of other snapshots that could easily portray the woman who, in many ways, has become synonymous with many different aspects of life in Sampson County. After all she has been a rich part of its history for over three decades, first as an educator, then as a champion for Sampson Regional Medial Center and, finally, as leader of Sampson Community College’s Continuing Education program.

Interspersed throughout her colorful career are the many community activities of which she’s been a part. She was, for example, one of the founding members of Sampson’s United Way and remained an active participant in the organization for years, doing all she could to help better the quality of life for all residents of our great county. Likewise, she was founder of Sampson Regional’s youth volunteer program, affording middle school students with an interest in a healthcare career the opportunity to get hands-on experience in the hospital environment.

And that just touches the edges of Butler’s continuous involvement in this community.

Recent word that she is retiring from SCC gives us pause as we reflect on what she has meant to all those she has touched through her varied careers, as well as all of us here at the newspaper who have worked hand-in-hand with her on numerous projects that have promoted the hospital, the college and a plethora of good causes she has supported through the years.

Butler has given every single job she has held her all, never minding the work and always loving the opportunities each career gave her to forge relationships that, in the end, always seemed to benefit the community as much as it did the individuals.

In her words: “…by far my greatest love is the relationships I’ve forged with staff, faculty and especially the students. I’ve never considered myself defined by my life’s work, but more importantly by the relationships I’ve forged and enjoyed along the journey.”

Butler has forged many, and while she prefers to shy away from the limelight, we believe she deserves the accolades we offer today for jobs well done along the way, but most especially for the efforts she has always made to ensure this community is a better place for us all. That she has done it without wanting the glory that should come with it only makes her that much more endearing to us and all those who know her.

Her retirement isn’t really a surprise and, then again, it is. No question she deserves a breather, although knowing Butler it will be a short-lived one as she finds yet another place to hang her hat, albeit in more of a volunteer role this go-round.

When she closes her college chapter on Feb. 28, she will leave behind a lasting legacy of hard work, community leadership and a servant’s spirit. But we know the next chapter of Butler’s life will include much of the same, as she sets her sights on other ways to make a difference in a place that owes her a tremendous thanks for what she has done thus far.