Garrett — homegrown CCCC leadership
Dr. Matt Garrett was president of Central Carolina Community College for only four years, 2004-2008. ... (more)
Dr. Matt Garrett, president of Central Carolina Community College from 2004 to 2008, congratulates ... (more)
SANFORD - Dr. Matt Garrett was president of Central Carolina Community College for only four years, 2004-2008, but his tenure at the college goes back much further than that and his impact on it will continue into the future. He is the only president to have been selected from the college's administrators.
Garrett came to CCCC in 1985 serendipitously. Living in Jacksonville, N.C., he had been working at area community colleges for 10 years when he enrolled at North Carolina State University to pursue a doctorate in adult education.
After a year of a grueling commute of three hours each way, he decided to relocate closer to Raleigh. It was then that he saw a job opening for an associate dean for Student Development at Central Carolina Technical College (now CCCC). He applied, was hired and moved to Sanford.
"Although I had relocated simply for convenience to Raleigh, I soon found out that CCTC was a very special college with great employees and a friendly atmosphere," Garrett said. "I had been at two other colleges but neither of them had the same sense of pride and commitment to helping students achieve. There was also a culture of innovation and hard work at CCCC that suited me well."
He worked at Central Carolina Community College for almost 22 years, serving as dean of students, psychology and sociology instructor, executive vice president/chief academic officer, and, lastly, president.
When Dr. Marvin Joyner decided to retire in 2004 after a 21-year career as president, Garrett applied for the position and was hired by the board of trustees.
"Working at the college was more than a job to me, it was a passion, and I even had a sense of 'calling' about the importance of what the college was doing for people," he said. "Every year I met so many students whose lives had been blessed by CCCC. I wanted to be sure that our college stayed on the path of excellence that we had been following since being established. I knew it would be difficult to follow Dr. Joyner, but I believed my years with the college made me the ideal person to build upon the legacy."
Garrett's vision was to lead the college to continue to be innovative in educational programs, methods, and delivery systems. He wanted to replace some of the older facilities and beautify the college's campuses in Chatham, Harnett and Lee counties. It was also important to him that the college continue to operate with complete integrity regarding finances, staff relations, and student relations.
Not long into his presidency, the opportunity came to buy a large amount of acreage from the Mike Watson family: 20 acres adjoining the Lee County Campus and 36 acres across Kelly Drive from it. That more than doubled the size of the campus, from 48 to 104 acres.
"The college had run out of room to grow at that location and that was the only adjacent land," Garrett said. "I always knew it was absolutely essential to the college's future. Without a doubt, obtaining that additional acreage was our greatest single accomplishment during my presidency."
When speaking of the achievements during his presidency, Garrett always speaks of what "we" accomplished for, he said, it took many people working together to make good things happen.
During his presidency, new facilities were planned or under construction: the West Harnett Center, and the new buildings at the Emergency Services Training Center in Lee County, which opened in 2008; as well as the new Siler City Center, and the Sustainable Technology Building and joint Chatham County-CCCC Chatham Community Library on the Chatham County Campus, all of which opened in 2010.
The college was able launch new dental education programs in state-of-the-art facilities at the W.B. Wicker Business Campus. The programs were established with grants obtained by the college, costing taxpayers nothing.
Under Garrett's leadership, the college collaborated with Lee County Schools to establish Lee Early College at the Lee County Campus, where students can earn both a high school diploma and an associate's degree in five years.
Also during his presidency, the college was reaccredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools for another 10 years.
"My tenure as president was rather short, but we ran about a hundred miles an hour every day of it and did accomplish a few things," Garrett said. "First and foremost, we helped thousands of people to improve their lives and their families' futures. Secondly, we operated with a high standard of integrity like our predecessors had."
Bobby Powell, of Sanford, a long-time member and former chairman of the college's board of trustees, remembers Garrett's achievements.
"Matt's accomplishments in the brief time of his presidency have not been surpassed anywhere in the state," Powell said. "He led by example - one of the greatest measures of a leader. We made so much progress under Matt - there was an explosion of things. It was the biggest era of building we've ever been through. Matt was also a wonderful people person."
Since retiring, Garrett still has a full schedule. He co-pastors Moncure Baptist Church and spends a lot of time volunteering with charitable organizations. He also enjoys babysitting his grandchildren. He is happiest being busy and serving others.
"It is my prayer that I will faithfully serve God and other people until my days are over," Garrett said.
Looking at Central Carolina Community College now, on its 50th anniversary, Garrett said he feels pride.
"Just look at all the great things CCCC is still doing!" he said. "No doubt the best days are still ahead of the college, and I believe it is in good hands."
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