RCCC in retrospect

Published 9:39 am Monday, September 17, 2012

WINTERVILLE –Dr. Ralph Soney, during a typical school year, would be busy in his role of President of Roanoke-Chowan Community College.

But on Wednesday afternoon he sat in his Winterville home, 60 or miles away from what has been his normal routine since November 1, 2005 – the day he was hired to become the sixth president in RCCC’s long history.

Roughly 24 hours after seeing that near seven-year tenure come to an end much quicker than anticipated, Soney reflected on his RCCC career, to include the reason behind his decision to resign.

“There are many things that I’m proud of during my time spent at the college,” Soney said during a telephone interview conducted late Wednesday. “What I’m most proud of is the fact that we were reaccredited this year by SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools). You can’t operate without that accreditation.

“I felt that we had turned the corner; we were back in the good graces of the community there and we were growing,” he continued. “We worked very hard in getting the community, the local businesses, to respect what we were doing to train their future employees and to respect our students, our graduates.

“We also worked hard during my time there to improve the diversity of our students and to treat our students with dignity and respect each and every day,” Soney added. “Another thing I’m proud of was the way the college was serving the business community. We worked with the likes of Nucor, Berry-Kerr and Perdue, just to name a few, to help them help themselves. I can only hope that my successor there will build on that.”

However, despite those successes, Soney said politics was slowly eroding the core of a new foundation he was attempting to build at the school. Hence, he submitted a letter of resignation a few weeks ago to the RCCC Board of Trustees. He asked to remain onboard until Dec. 31, but by a 9-2 vote of the board during Tuesday night’s special called meeting, Soney was sent immediately out the door.

“Many of the leadership issues within Hertford County were starting to manifest themselves on our board and on our campus,” Soney noted. “It was becoming harder to maintain our mission and objectives at the school. I didn’t outline those specifically in my letter of resignation, but I feel certain those in the know in Hertford County are aware of those issues. There are a lot of good things going on there, but the politics – the cronyism, the favoritism – undermines even the best of efforts. For me it was a moral and ethical choice to offer my resignation.”

Soney said he had requested a resignation effective date of Dec. 31 to, “allow the faculty, the staff and the board some time to work on the transition of leadership. My willingness to stay was simply transitional. It’s typical for an administrator to have 30-60 days to slowly back out of the way.”

As he emerged from behind closed doors Tuesday night after being informed of the board’s intent to approve his immediate resignation, Soney was met by a host of supporters – faculty and staff. They were stunned to hear the news of his sudden departure and offered words of comfort to their ousted leader; also assisting him with a quick task of packing up the personal items in his office.

“That was pretty emotional,” he said, pausing to collect himself in an effort to fight back the tears. “They showed up on their own accord Tuesday night. It was nothing that I asked for, nor did I facilitate that turnout on my behalf. I’m grateful to all of them, and to others not there, for their overwhelming support.”

Soney credited the school’s staff for RCCC’s success.

“They stepped to the plate and made what it is. They brought it back to where it was years ago,” Soney noted. “People were beginning to put their trust in the college again and it’s to their credit that was happening. I wasn’t there to win a popularity contest and, ultimately, the blame fell on my shoulders. I was there to lead that staff, those students, because the school was important to the community and it was important to me.”

As to what the future holds for Soney, he said only time will tell.

“I feel some doors will open for me; I’m only 54 years old and I’m still interested in the field of education. I really don’t know where I’m heading right now. I’m going to take a couple of weeks off and think about it,” Soney concluded.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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