Dr. Bill Adams: Over 50 Years of Service in North Carolina Public Education

Since 1965, Dr. Bill Adams has devoted his life to public education, primarily vocational and adult education, throughout North Carolina.

Education has always been a big part of Adams’ life.  He is the son of the late William H. (Howard) Adams, Sr., who taught vocational agriculture in North Carolina High Schools (Harmony High School, Maiden High School, North Cove High School, and Bunker Hill High School) from 1935-1974.

After graduating from Maiden High School in Maiden, North Carolina in 1961, Bill Adams followed in his father’s footsteps and majored in Agriculture Education at North Carolina State University.

 

Western Alamance High School:  1965-1969

Upon completing his Bachelors of Science in Agriculture Education in 1965, he began his teaching career at Western Alamance High School in Elon, North Carolina, which had just opened only three years earlier, in 1962.  In the fledgling agriculture department, he planned and taught vocational agriculture classes to youth and adults, supervised the agriculture department, operated the greenhouse, purchased equipment and maintained inventory, and served as advisor to both the Future Farmers of America Club (FFA) and Adult Farm Club.  Adams took his FFA students to various events and competitions across the state and they participated in numerous fundraising and community service activities.  In 1968, he taught his first community college course, a Welding course, for Technical Institute of the Alamance, now known as Alamance Community College. Adams enjoyed his years of teaching vocational agriculture at Western Alamance High School from 1965-1969 and still keeps in touch with some of his former students. One of his early students was Don Honeycutt, who is now employed at the North Carolina Community College System state office as a Regional Customized Training Director. Adams continues to attend Western Alamance High School class reunions and will attend the class of 1967’s 50th reunion this fall.

 

Davidson County Community College:  1969-1982

In 1969, when community colleges were still in their infancy in North Carolina, Adams took a position as the Chairman of the Agriculture Technology Department at Davidson County Community College, an institution that had just opened its doors to students six years earlier, in 1963. The Agriculture Technology program started in 1967.  Adams’ many duties in this position included being responsible for teaching courses and curriculum development, recruiting students, developing quarterly department schedules and budgets, purchasing and inventory of supplies and equipment, operation of the College greenhouse and development of a quarterly newsletter.

Adams enjoyed building the Agriculture Technology program at DCCC as well as organizing and advising an Agricultural Technology Club and Delta Tau Alpha Honor Society Chapter during the 1970s-1982.  He also assisted in the establishment of the North Carolina Postsecondary Agriculture Student Organization in the 1970s.

During his years as Department Chairman, he worked hard to bring credibility to the Agriculture Technology program and prove that his vocational students could succeed in 4-year colleges and universities just as much as any other students.  He worked to promote the transferability of technical courses by signing agreements with senior institutions, particular Tennessee Technological University, where a number of his students transferred.

He frequently took his students on trips to 4-year colleges and universities such as NC State University, NC A&T State University, and Tennessee Technological University in order to inspire and encourage his students to continue their education for a Bachelor’s degree, and give them hope that they accomplish even more.

Many of his students went on to graduate from Tennessee Technical University, North Carolina A&T State University, and NC State University.  At least 37 students got a bachelor’s degree between 1969 and 1987.  Two earned their doctorate degrees.  Some went on to become high school agriculture teachers, soil and water conservationists, university agriculture professors, and one became the first African-American Forest Ranger in Guilford County.  Adams still keeps in touch with many of his students today as well and has held several reunions of graduates of the program over the years.  He is currently planning another for 2017.

 

Davidson County Community College:  1982-2003

In 1982, Adams moved into the Continuing Education division at DCCC as Director of Industrial Services and established and directed operation of the Small Business Center, Cooperative Skills Center and New and Expanding Industry Programs.  From 1983-1987, he served as a Program Coordinator for Continuing Education Programs and was responsible for planning, organizing, and evaluating courses for business and industry.  His duties also included hiring part-time instructors, scheduling classes, and maintaining budgets and reports.  He developed brochures, advertisements and slide programs to promote continuing education and business/industry programs.  This position included the duties of the Director of Industrial Services plus administering Occupational Extension and Job Partnership Training Act Programs.

From 1987-2001, Adams served as the Chairman of the Continuing Education Division and was responsible for the management and supervision of continuing education programs, law enforcement/criminal justice training, emergency medical training, fire service training, seminars and workshops, occupational extension, Small Business Center, Focused Industrial Training programs, New and Expanding Industry Training, Supervisory Training and Management Development programs, General Contractor License Preparation, Teacher Certificate Renewal Program, Insurance Institute for Agents/Salesmen, Real Estate program, health continuing education courses, and community service programs.  He worked closely with Thomasville Furniture Industries, Lexington Furniture Industries, PPG, and other business and industries in Davidson County to set up customized training programs for their employees and management personnel.  He also supervised Support Staff and Part Time Faculty for the Division. Adams was highly active in the International Management Council’s chapter in Lexington, serving as Treasurer, Secretary, and Vice President.

From 2001-2003, Adams served as Chairman of the Industrial & Community Services Division, formerly the Continuing Education division. After years of working in collaboration with Johnston Community College’s Truck Driver Training program, he worked to establish DCCC’s own Truck Driver Training program in 2000 and hired the initial faculty.  This program, which initially began as a continuing education program in 2001, is now a successful curriculum program at the Davie County campus of Davidson County Community College.   Adams retired from DCCC in 2003, with 34 years of service.

 

North Carolina Community College Adult Educators Association:  1982-Present

Since 1982, Dr. Bill Adams has been a fixture at NCCCAEA conferences.  He has served on a number of committees over those years such as the conference committee, and was a member of the State Peer Review Team (Continuing Education Leadership Committee), a member of the Board of Directors, and also served a term as President of NCCCAEA from 1998-1999.  In 2008, he was nominated for and won the NCCCAEA’s Outstanding Service Award, the second such award given, after he helped to nominate the first recipient, his good friend, Don Buie, retired Dean of Continuing Education at Central Carolina Community College.  He also led the effort to have the award renamed the Don Buie Award, long-time Dean of Continuing Education at Central Carolina Community College who passed away in 2007.  Over the past 9 years, he has continued to attend annual conferences and deliver presentations at the conferences on workforce and continuing education programs as well as the value of retired Continuing Education administrators and staff to various Workforce and Continuing Education divisions in community colleges.

 

Randolph Community College:  2003-2008

In 2003, Adams retired as Chairman of Industrial and Community Relations at Davidson County Community College after 34 years of service to the school and 38 years in education.  The next week, Rhonda Winters, now retired Dean of Randolph Community College’s Archdale campus, asked if he would like to work several days a week as a Continuing Education Coordinator there and he started in the position the very next week.  Over the next five years, he coordinated and scheduled continuing education classes throughout the Archdale and Randolph County area. One of the projects he worked on was developing a Travel and Tour series class, which involved using chartered buses for day trips to select sites in North Carolina and Virginia.

 

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College:  September-December 2003

At the same time, Pillowtex Corporation had just begun closing its operations in Rowan County, North Carolina and laying off many employees.  Jeanie Moore, head of Continuing Education at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, asked Adams if he could come help out to handle the large volume of former employees that would be coming to the college looking for assistance and training.  He spent the fall of 2003, working for both Randolph Community College and Rowan Cabarrus Community College, volunteering to assist in any way he could.

 

Central Carolina Community College: 2008

In May of 2008, Adams was asked to take the position of Interim Dean of Continuing Education at Central Carolina Community College upon the retirement of Alice Gilchrist.  It would be an almost 2 hour drive from his home in Lexington, NC to Sanford, NC, but he thought of his good friend, the late Don Buie (Retired Dean of Continuing Education at Central Carolina CC), and felt led to honor him by helping the staff and students at CCCC.  For six months, Adams guided and directed all continuing education programs at Central Carolina Community College and its multiple campuses.  In November 2008, Bill ended his term at CCCC, as a new Dean of Continuing Education was hired.  He has often commented that CCCC was one of the best places that he ever worked and he loved all of the kind folks there who made him feel at home.

 

Forsyth Technical Community College:  2008-Present

In November 2008, Sue Marion, now retired Vice-President of Workforce and Continuing Education at Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem, NC, asked Adams if he would like to serve as Director of Occupational Extension.  Since Winston-Salem was a much shorter commute, he agreed and has been there ever since.  He has loved getting to work with so many people in the Forsyth County area.  Since 2008, Adams has worked to organize and schedule continuing education classes and programs throughout Forsyth County on multiple campuses and hire faculty to teach them, such as Veterinary Technician and Administrative Assistant to flower arranging and cake decorating.

When hired, he was also given the task to establish and develop, from scratch, an Electric Lineman Academy program at the Surry County campus in King, NC. He spent one year developing the program by involving Pike Electric and Duke Energy in the planning process, forming an advisory board (consisting of Pike Electric and Duke Energy employees), hiring a team of instructors, securing equipment and supplies, scheduling classes, securing and preparing the facility, recruiting students, and marketing the program.   The program was launched in 2010 and the nine-week program is offered five times a year.  As of December 2016, 32 classes have been completed, and more than 400 graduates have found jobs.  The job placement rate is 80-100 percent.  The program is the only program in North Carolina that is nationally certified through the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER).  One of the benefits of the national certification is that the names of students who take and pass the test are automatically entered into a National Registry that employers across the country can access and immediately verify those who have passed.  Students come from as far as California, Florida, Ohio, and New York to take the program.

Through the Forsyth Electrical Lineman Pre-Apprenticeship program, students learn academic and field skills necessary for entry-level occupations in the utility industry. The regional top employers, including Pike Electric and Duke Energy, recruits program graduates to participate in a full registered apprenticeship program where wages range from a starting salary for a first-year apprenticeship of $12.60 to upwards of $22 after graduating from the program.

In 2015, then U. S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez (now head of the Democratic National Committee) said during his visit to Forsyth Technical Community College and to see the Electric Lineman program that “This is a win-win situation. They are not only building the workforce, but they are building the middle class and building infrastructure. Every single person we asked how they liked this job, they said they love it. They are punching their ticket to the middle class and that is great,” he added. “We are trying to scale and support models like this that help employers meet their needs and help people who want a bright future in this community to thrive.”

The program is earning a national reputation for its affordability, top-notch instruction, state-of-the-art facilities and job placement statistics. And thanks to scholarships made available through the Fallen Linemen Foundation, a limited number of qualified students each year can participate in the program expense free.

The Fallen Linemen Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting linemen and their families, awards two $1,000 scholarships per year to qualifying students enrolled in a North Carolina electrical linemen program.

Pike Enterprises, an industry sponsor for the program, has hired nearly half of the graduates. Other employers include Duke Energy, American Lighting & Signalization, Utility Lines Construction Service, City of High Point and many others.

Adams is very enthusiastic about this program and proud of the fact that it has helped to train many of North Carolina’s unemployed citizens, leading them to use their new skills to obtain good paying jobs.  Many other community colleges have visited the program, which has received state-wide recognition for its quality and has served as a blueprint for other Electric Lineman programs across the state. Adams continues to attend job fairs, make high school visits, and serve as a presenter at NC Workforce Development Conferences and NC Apprenticeship Conferences across North Carolina.  The program has received numerous donations from Pike Electric and Duke Energy, which typically hire many of the graduates of each class.  He has worked to obtain donated equipment and is currently assisting with a proposal to expand the program through grant funds. He has never lost his enthusiasm for and interest in Continuing Education programs or the North Carolina Community College System.

 

Conclusion

Dr. Bill Adams has had a passion for education and a love of helping people since he first stepped into a classroom to teach a high school agriculture class 52 years ago.  He has carried the flag of education in North Carolina for 52 years, the flag of the North Carolina Community College system for 48 years, and the flag of the North Carolina Community College Adult Educators Association for 35 years and continues to be one of its biggest fans.  His career in the North Carolina Community College System spans every President of the system, from the first president of the Department of Community Colleges, I. E. Ready, to the most recent president, Dr. Jimmie Williamson.  He can still be found at the NCCCAEA conferences, visiting with old friends or meeting new members of the NCCCAEA, sharing with them the many benefits of becoming a member of the organization and the importance of building a network of colleagues.

In 2017, when many statistics show that many in today’s workforce change jobs, or in some cases, career fields, every 5 years, Dr. Bill Adams is an example of someone who loves his job, enjoys helping others, and has devoted the past 52 years of his life to serving North Carolina through public education and the state’s community colleges, while helping to build North Carolina’s workforce and provide a better way of life for so many of its citizens.

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