Retiring CCCC president shares thoughts
Portrait shot of President Garrett
President Matt Garrett of Central Carolina Community College retires as of Sept. 1 after 21 years ... (more)
SANFORD — President Matt Garrett, of Central Carolina Community College, officially retires as of Sept. 1.
“This job was a lifelong dream, and Central Carolina gave me the chance to do it,” Dr. Garrett said. “Everything I’ve done for 21 years has been to make the college grow and prosper and succeed. It feels like some of my blood, sweat, and tears is in every brick. After I retire, when I drive by the campuses and centers, I’ll have feelings similar to those of a parent seeing an adult child succeed — a feeling of satisfaction.”
His career at the college began on Sept. 1, 1987, when he became director of admissions. Since then, he has served as dean of students, psychology and sociology instructor, executive vice president/chief academic officer, and president. When he retires, he will have served 30 years in the state community college system, 21 of them at Central Carolina — the last four as its president.
In-coming president Dr. T. Eston “Bud” Marchant III arrives Aug. 15 and Garrett plans to turn over the reins to him soon after.
“A college can have only one president,” Garrett said. “I’ll be around to help with the transition, as needed, but Dr. Marchant will be in charge.”
Following are a few thoughts from President Garrett on his retirement, education, and the college:
Q — What has been your greatest accomplishment as president?
Garrett — “That question cannot be answered because ‘I’ didn’t accomplish anything, but ‘WE’ (the college and those it serves) accomplished a lot. During my tenure, we simply carried on the tradition of excellence established by those who preceded us. I worked with a supportive board of trustees, an excellent faculty, willing community leaders, and an eager student body to accomplish a lot of things to serve the educational needs in Chatham, Harnett and Lee counties.
“I will always look back on my years at CCCC as some of the most satisfying experiences of my life. I always knew we were working together to do the right things for the people of our three counties who were seeking a higher level of education. Like every important undertaking, we faced many obstacles and frustrating moments along the way, but we accomplished more than I ever dreamed we would.”
Q — What are some of those accomplishments?
Garrett — “Among the accomplishments are:
1. Purchase of 56 acres of land adjoining the Lee County Campus, ensuring room for long-term growth.
2. Planning a shared public/college library and a sustainable technologies building on the Chatham County Campus. Both will soon begin construction.
3. Planning a new center in Siler City, which begins construction in 2009.
4. Finding the funding to build the West Harnett Center. The plans were developed under President Marvin Joyner, but delayed due to lack of funds.
5. Constructing a classroom building and two fire-and-rescue training scenarios at our Emergency Services Training Center, in Sanford.
5. Opening new dental hygiene and dental assisting curriculums.
6. Opening Lee Early College with Lee County Schools in 2006. Plans are underway to begin a Chatham Early College in 2009.
7. Enabling the college to be reaccredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Q — You had a son graduate in May with an associate degree in Industrial Systems Technology. How did that make you feel?
Garrett — “There was a great deal of pride as a parent and for the college. I’ve been telling people for years that a community college education helps you get a job. When it happens to your own son, it’s not just talk; it’s practicing what you preach. He finished a bachelor’s degree at a university, then came here and got an education that led to a real job, a good job.”
Q — What motivated you during your career?
Garrett — “Most people think first of money or fame — or maybe power, but my limited experience in receiving a portion of all three has convinced me they are weak as long-term motivators. The only motivator that has kept me going is believing that I was helping the next generation. All of us live between two generations. We must honor those who came before and help those who will follow. Those before us built everything that we enjoy. Those that come after us are counting on us to leave the world at least as good as we found it and, hopefully, better.”
Q — You are an ordained minister and an active member of your church. What do you see as the relationship of faith and education?
Garrett — “As a Christian, I don’t think we can separate faith from our actions. To me, my work at the college is a branch of my ministry. I try to be sensitive not to force Christian beliefs in secular settings, but I also think it would be a terrible mistake to remove all Christian influence from the workplace. I would not have been able to face some of the challenges of being a college president without prayer and faith. Some days, some situations came to my attention that seemed so difficult, I’d pray for divine intervention and wisdom. God’s been faithful.”
Q — What will you remember most?
Garrett — “I’ll remember the personal memories of individual students that said I had helped them to have a better life. I’ll also remember how blessed I have been to have been a part of this remarkable college. I am so grateful to all who came before me and built it into one of the best comprehensive community colleges in the state, enrolling about 20,000 people each year.
“Much of my last week, I’ll walk through the buildings. As I see the names —— Marvin Joyner, Gilbert Lett, Meigs Golden, and others — I’ll remember the years I was associated with them. I am so grateful for them.
“I’ve been working to have an Employees’ Hall of Fame Board. I want all the long-term employees’ names to be permanently remembered, so people who come after will know these people built this college. This is really important to me.”
Q — What are your plans for retirement?
Garrett — As president, I was expected to be at a meeting somewhere in one of our three counties several times a day and almost every night. Now that I’ll have more personal time, I intend to do some writing, some reading for pleasure again, some traveling with my wife, Becky, and some volunteering to help in church and community. I’ll also take courses at the college. I am not saying goodbye, because I will still be around to support the college and its mission.”
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