In 1967 an abandoned prison compound located near the Village of Union in Hertford County was purchased. Under the leadership of the State Rep. Roberts H. Jernigan, Jr., and with the support of Sen. J. J. “Monk” Harrington and Rep. Emmett Burden, a fund to establish a two-year, vocational and technical training institution was provided by the North Carolina General Assembly. Originally called Roanoke-Chowan Technical Institute, the institution’s name changed to Roanoke-Chowan Technical College in 1981 and to Roanoke-Chowan Community College (R-CCC) in 1987.
After the signing of an agreement by the Hertford County and State Boards of Education, the Hertford County Boards of Commissioners and Education jointly appointed the first institutional governing board. Among those serving on the board were Representative Jernigan, who served as chair until his death in March 1986, Senator Harrington, H. C. Freeland, Hunter Sharp, Jr., George Gibbs, John Robinson, J. L. Faulcon and Garland Barnes. Serving as secretary was R. P. Martin.
J. W. “Jack” Young, Jr. was elected as the first President. A former teacher, coach, and principal in the Hertford County School System, Young held the presidency until his retirement in September 1980. He was succeeded by five other presidents.
Dr. Edward H. Wilson, Jr. led the institution from 1981 until 1983, followed by Dr. David W. Sink, Jr. from 1984-1987. In 1987 Dr. Harold E. Mitchell who had served the school as a faculty member and later in an administrative capacity took the reigns as the school’s fourth president. Mitchell served until 2000 and was followed by Dr. Mary C. Wyatt. Wyatt’s tenure was between the years of 2001 to 2005.
On November 1, 2005, Dr. Ralph G. Soney assumed the role as president of the College and served as its sixth President. Dr. Soney, an accomplished community college educator served at four community colleges, two as chief academic officer within the state, before coming to the College. Dr. Claude Odom served as the chair of the Trustee Board upon Dr. Soney’s arrival. In 2007 the chair position transferred to Ms. Wendy Ruffin-Barnes, who currently serves in that capacity. Dr. Soney served as the College’s President until 2012.
June 17, 2013 Dr. Michael Elam became the College’s seventh President. Dr. Elam, an experienced and qualified educational administrator had served as the System Vice President for Strategic Initiatives for the Louisiana Community and Technical College System. He was the sixth President at the College of the Mainland, and served in numerous leadership roles at university and community college levels.
On August 8, 2016 Dr. Jimmy T. Tate became the College’s eighth President. Prior to becoming the College’s new president, Dr. Tate served as Vice President of College Advancement and Human Resources at James Sprunt Community College. He also served as the Executive Director of the College’s Foundation and was instrumental in raising over $2 million for the College’s foundation. In addition, he has served as an adjunct history professor for Campbell University, Shaw University, Barton College and other North Carolina community colleges. Dr. Tate has a staunch background in politics and was a former County Commissioner for Pender County. He has served on numerous advisory boards and was recently appointed by US Congressman David Rouzer to serve on the Congressional District’s Education Advisory Committee.
Roanoke-Chowan Community College is currently situated on a 41-acre tract of land and has seven buildings which house instructional space and various administrative functions. A seven-acre Arboretum/Environmental Science Outdoor Laboratory is also part of the campus. It has been designated as a Project WILD Education Site by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission. The site is open to the public for self-guided tours and over the years has been used for instruction as part of curricular and continuing education classrooms.
The College currently has about 20 curricular programs in which students may seek degrees, diplomas and short term skills-based certificates. Most recently the College has added an Associate of Fine Arts Degree in Visual Arts, in addition to diplomas in high-demand occupational training in Building Construction, Plumbing and other construction-related technologies.
The College also has taken greater strides to provide transfer opportunities for students to pursue higher-level degrees. These efforts include the addition of the Hertford County Early College, which is located on the College’s campus. Through the North Carolina Community College System, a formal transfer agreement has been established with the 16-member University of North Carolina System, as well as with a variety of private colleges.
In addition to conventional classroom instruction, the College has expanded its distance learning studies to include Internet-based courses. It has increased efforts with area school systems to provide more opportunities for high school students to take college courses, either on the R-CCC campus or at their respective high schools. Greater focus also has been placed on meeting the existing and future workforce needs of area business and industry through the Division of Continuing Education and Workforce Development.
The Continuing Education & Workforce Development Division also has continued to meet business needs by setting up basic or occupation-related classes within local industries as well as developing Focused Industrial Training (FIT) opportunities. Its Small Business component works on a one-to-one basis with individuals and small companies wanting to start and/or enhance a small business enterprise.
Roanoke-Chowan Community College has a strong tradition of building from the past and improving the present as it moves toward meeting the needs of tomorrow. Further, while the College is proud of its past, it realizes that its longevity is merely a stepping stone to the future.