RCCC ushers in Soney era

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 26, 2006

AHOSKIE – Nine months after assuming leadership at Roanoke Chowan Community College, Dr. Ralph J. Soney was formally installed as President of that institution in a special ceremony on Thursday.

Approximately 150 people, including local officials and dignitaries from the community college system, were on hand to acknowledge the ‘installation’ of Soney as the sixth president of RCCC.

Sheriff Juan Vaughan, county commissioners Dupont Davis and Johnnie Farmer and former RCCC presidents Dr. Mary C Wyatt and Dr. Harold Mitchell joined North Carolina Community College System President H. Martin Lancaster and several other community college presidents in offering remarks and accolades to the institution’s top administrator.

Dr. Claude Odom, chairman of RCCC’s Board of Trustees, offered the day’s welcome remarks following the presentation of colors and an invocation by former North Carolina legislator and Pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Greenville, Rev. Sydney A. Locks.

Odom said that Soney is a visionary and a huge asset to the community.

&uot;Dr. Soney has already shown that his leadership abilities are second to none,&uot; Odom stated. &uot;He has created an open, friendly atmosphere for the community college.&uot;

Davis went explained the importance of the institution in the infrastructure of the community.

&uot;There are four components of the community that are key to the well being of its citizens,&uot; Davis remarked. &uot;The church, the public schools, law enforcement and the community college.&uot;

In an effort to symbolize the work of a community college president, Davis gave Soney an apple.

&uot;I’m reminded of a story where a person was asked why they were planting an apple tree when they wouldn’t be around to enjoy the fruit of that tree,&uot; Davis remarked. &uot;It’s not for you that you are planting this tree. The fruits of your labor will be enjoyed by individuals who will follow you.&uot;

One by one, leaders of institutions statewide, including representatives from Western Piedmont Community College where Soney began his career as an educator, took turns recalling their experiences working with the RCCC President.

Dr. Edward Wilson, president of Wayne Community College, where Soney served as Division head of Social Services, Human Services, Agriculture and Natural Resources, said that he had a special relationship with Soney as well as the Roanoke Chowan region.

&uot;I was the second president of this institution (RCCC) and I am familiar with the citizens and the area,&uot; Wilson remarked. &uot;This community has made a very good choice in Dr. Soney, he is a good man.&uot;

Dr. Dennis Massey, President of Pitt Community College where Soney became Vice President for Academics before coming to RCCC, said that Soney would help bring RCCC to a ‘world standard’

&uot;Even in his absence, Ralph Soney still has a strong level of respect among faculty and staff,&uot; Massey said. &uot;He has demonstrated a high level of intelligence, good judgment and fearlessness, and I am sure that he will rally the people and resources needed to bring this college to the level it needs to be.&uot;

Lancaster, the top administrator in the state’s community college system, said that Soney was a person of significant ability.

&uot;RCCC is in great need of resources and Dr. Soney will have to make many decisions regarding the college’s future, many of which will not be popular,&uot; Lancaster stated. &uot;But your board has chosen well, support him in his efforts.&uot;

When Soney took the podium he tried to expedite his own speech, acknowledging that his son, 7-year-old Garrit Harrington Soney, seated with Soney’s wife Yolanda, was probably ready to get back to his ‘Gameboy’.

&uot;I know that you are all are getting tired of sitting here listening to people talk about me,&uot; Soney joked &uot;I know my son Garrit, the best son in the world, is ready to fall asleep.&uot;

Soney humbly acknowledged the praise showered on him during the ceremony and then quickly proceeded to articulate his vision of the future of the institution.

&uot;We must set our face toward the serious business of making positive change,&uot; Soney explained. &uot;I believe that by having ‘open doors’ and ‘ready access’ we can move individuals, families and even entire communities to become functioning and productive contributors across so many spheres of influence.&uot;

Soney explained what he believed were the four themes needed for the college to measure their success and progress.

&uot;Accountability, service, excellence and celebration,&uot; Soney said. &uot;These are the measuring sticks we need to gauge the next few months.&uot;

The installation ceremony was followed by a reception at the Ahoskie Inn where Soney received several gifts and mementos.

&uot;It is a new day at RCCC,&uot; Soney proclaimed. &uot;We have new meaning to our mission and a new purpose for our efforts.&uot;