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Barber Holmes supports mission of CCCC Foundation

Click to enlarge,  Barber Holmes, who has served as the CCCC Foundation's board president, continues his support of moving the college ahead.

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Barber Holmes, who has served as the CCCC Foundation's board president, continues his support of moving ... (more)

09.15.2017College & CommunityCollege GeneralFoundation

SANFORD - When Barber Holmes joined the Central Carolina Community College Foundation board, he actually didn't know all that much about the college. Now, just six years later, he has concluded a successful, two-year term as president that many say has ushered in a new, vibrant era for the Foundation.

And for the entire college.

Holmes loves to talk about CCCC, focusing on how the college creates opportunity for people throughout the community, but he doesn't like talking about himself. During an interview, he deflects every personal question to the accomplishment of the entire board, more than two dozen community leaders who promote the college in Chatham, Harnett and Lee counties -- and who raise money to provide that opportunity he values so much.

His point is well taken. Nobody can do it alone, and elevating just one person in any organization, even the president, can sound like you're downplaying what everyone else has contributed.

On the other hand, Dr. Emily Hare doesn't want to downplay what Holmes has accomplished, either. When you ask what those achievements have been, the Foundation's executive director doesn't hesitate to start ticking off the big ones.

He expanded the college endowment by more $1 million, allowing the college to offer even more academic scholarships. Last year, scholarships totaling more than $200,000 were awarded to about 200 students.

He added two fundraising golf tournaments, boosting CCCC's "unrestricted funds," money the college can use for any purpose, so it can seize opportunities quickly when they arise.

He significantly elevated CCCC's public profile, especially in Chatham, where Holmes resides, and helped get a new health science building approved. The structure will be located in northern Chatham, along U.S. 15-501 just north of Fearrington Village.

"Holmes is very modest and won't talk about how outstanding he is, but he's very much an ambassador for the college," says Hare. "He commanded the respect of the entire board and is so motivating. He goes above and beyond to make sure people know who we are."

Landing on the Board

The irony is that Holmes pretty much backed into the CCCC Foundation in the first place.

His family did have ties with the college. The Holmes Family Meeting Room at Chatham Community Library on CCCC's Chatham Main Campus is named for his parents. His mother, the late Mary Hayes Barber Holmes, was the first woman elected as a Chatham County Commissioner and spent years as a mover-and-shaker in county and state circles. His father, Edward S. Holmes, is a retired Pittsboro attorney who was a member of the North Carolina State Legislature and also served on the CCCC Foundation board.

In fact, Holmes landed on the board just as his father was rotating off. When a previous executive director asked the elder Holmes for suggestions about who might make a good replacement, the father suggested his son.

Holmes brought to the board strong local ties, especially in Chatham, where the college's influence wasn't as strong as it was in Lee. Hare believes that has been particularly important at a time when the county is growing. "When he took over, many people in Chatham, and especially in north Chatham, didn't know CCCC existed," she says. "He came on and helped bring the college to the forefront. If Chatham is going to continue to grow -- with Chatham Park and the industrial megasites -- then CCCC is the key to it all."

Holmes also brought to the board a sharp business acumen as vice president of Holmes Oil Company, a family business based in Chapel Hill. Not many locals may recognize the name, but it's likely they do business with the company through Cruizer's, its chain of more than two dozen convenience stores throughout central North Carolina -- or with other area retailers that sell ExxonMobile and Valero gasoline purchased from Holmes Oil.

That business experience may be why he was effective pulling so many different people together for a common cause. Among all of the accomplishments during his tenure, Holmes says one of the most significant was placing advisors in all of the area high schools to help students enroll in CCCC classes and earn college credit before graduation. That initiative got started with money raised by the CCCC Foundation in a special campaign that went above and beyond the ongoing fundraising drives.

When asked about that, Holmes once again downplayed his own role. "I don't take credit; it's just one of the things we accomplished," he said, pointing out that community advocate Kirk Bradley took the lead and CCCC President Dr. T. Eston Marchant gave it the initial push needed for the project to become a success. "That was a big team effort."

Working for the Future

Though Holmes is no longer president of the CCCC Foundation board, he's still as active as ever, just with a different title. A rather lengthy one, in fact: Immediate Past President, Member-at-Large Chatham. And he's still dialed in on moving the college ahead.

Holmes gets much more animated as conversation shifts from himself back to the college. He vigorously points out how CCCC is in a strong competitive position that's becoming only stronger, year by year, as it receives acclaim as one of the top community colleges in the state and even several national accolades. Earlier this summer, The Best Colleges website ranked CCCC's Veterinary Technician program 12th and Dental Hygienist program 18th in the nation.

And Holmes says he will still go pretty much anywhere to talk about how CCCC is a great place for young people who are trying to decide how to continue their education. "With the way the economy and business are now, CCCC fits both ends of the spectrum," he says with a trademark enthusiasm that seems almost infectious. "You can go two years and then transfer to four-year college. Or, if you have a more general idea of what you want to do, you can get a two-year degree and go to work as soon as possible. And you can do it affordably."

He talks about how the college continues to develop partnerships with companies that will create yet more opportunity and make the college an even more important resource for business -- something he understands well as vice president of a successful company.

But most of all, he keeps talking about opportunity. Opportunity for students. Opportunity for companies. And opportunity for entire communities. "That's the main thing: We just want to thank everyone for keeping us in mind and contributing to the college," he says. "That helps a lot of folks who may not otherwise have an opportunity."

For more information on the CCCC Foundation, visit www.cccc.edu/foundation.