State Board of Community Colleges announces winners of prestigious faculty and staff awards

The North Carolina State Board of Community Colleges announces winners of the annual faculty and staff awards, which recognize excellent performance and commitment to the community college mission.

“I am honored to recognize this distinguished group of our esteemed faculty and staff! They truly embody the essence of excellence in higher education with their dedication and commitment to our students,” said Dr. Jeff Cox, President of the North Carolina Community College System. “Their commitment to student success, to excellence in teaching and learning and to meeting the workforce needs of business and industry is shaping the future of their communities and our state.” 

The 2024 winners are:

  • President of the Year: Dr. Jack Bagwell, College of the Albemarle 
  • Excellence in Teaching: Jere Miles, Wilkes Community College 
  • Staff Person of the Year: Christy Lefevers, Catawba Valley Community College 
  • System Office Staff Person of the Year: Jonnell Carpenter 
  • I.E. Ready Lifetime Achievement Award: President Kenneth Boham 

headshot dr. bagwellPresident of the Year 
The President of the Year Award encourages, identifies, and rewards outstanding leadership and commitment to the community college mission among the presidents of the institutions of the North Carolina Community College System. 
Dr. Jack Bagwell of the College of the Albemarle has been selected as the 2024 President of the Year.  

“College of the Albemarle has a rich history and an integral role in our community, and Dr. Bagwell is ensuring that it remains at the heart of the Albemarle region,” said W. David Harris, Chair of the COA Board of Trustees. “His infectious leadership style has a profound impact, and he truly deserves recognition as one of the finest in his profession.” 
Bagwell’s unwavering dedication, visionary leadership, and tireless commitment to the College has not only transformed the institution but has left a mark on the broader landscape of community colleges across the state.  

“He cares about people, he cares about COA, he cares about our community and you can see that in day-to-day interactions. I like to think when people are not looking, he’s still the same person and that’s pretty amazing,” said Kris Burris, Vice President of Student Success and Enrollment Management at College of the Albemarle. 

Bagwell also prioritizes student connections. He meets with students regularly at all four campuses each month.  

“I like to keep doing things and changing things, and there’s no better place to do that than the community colleges. We have to be nimble and swift, and have to make decisions fast and deliver on those decisions,” Bagwell said. “The magic behind being president of the year is having good people doing great things every day at a wonderful college.”  

The presenting sponsor of this award is the John M. Belk Endowment. 

jere miles headshotExcellence in Teaching 

The Excellence in Teaching Award provides statewide recognition of faculty members who exemplify the highest quality and standards of instruction throughout the System.  

Jere Miles, Lead Instructor of Information Technology at Wilkes Community College, has been selected for the 2024 Excellence in Teaching Award. 

“It’s so rewarding to work with students every day and know that I’m helping to change their lives. It’s why we do this,” Miles said. “Students are successful because of some sort of support structure, whether it’s their family or significant other, and we need to build relationships with these students so that if they don’t have that maybe we can step in a fill that gap, so they do achieve the success they’re after.” 

Kasain Tillman, a student at Wilkes Community College, said Miles really gets to know his students. 

“He’s very into students’ lives and understands everyone learns at a different rate. Some can read a book and that’s all they need. Some have to see it. Some have to be hands on. He does it all,” Tillman said. 

The presenting sponsor of this award is Lenovo. 

christy headshot Staff Person of the Year 

The Staff Person of the Year Award recognizes excellent performance and commitment to the community college mission by the non-teaching staff of the institutions of the North Carolina Community College System. 

Christy Lefevers, Associate Dean for Workforce Connectivity at Catawba Valley Community College has been selected as the 2024 Staff Person of the Year. 
“Some of our students face so many struggles. They might be a flat tire away or one bill away from saying this is too hard, I give up, and it’s our role at the community college to support them and put our arms around them and help them see they can do it,” Lefevers said. 

Dr. Garrett Hinshaw, President of Catawba Valley Community College said Lefevers is one of the most passionate and committed individuals that he has ever worked with at Catawba Valley. 

“She has just done so many amazing things, from her time in the classroom to working with students, to taking over the apprenticeship program and really making it beneficial to this community and all of our workforce partners,” Hinshaw said. 

The presenting sponsor of this award is Duke Energy. 

headshot of jonnellSystem Office Staff Person of the Year 

The System Office Staff Person of the Year is an inaugural award given to a staff member that has gone above and beyond to serve the colleges and System Office team. 

Jonnell Carpenter, Assistant Legal Counsel, is the 2024 System Office Staff Person of the Year Award recipient. 
“Hiring Jonnell was one of the best things I could have done for myself and for this agency,” said Tawanda Foster Artis, General Counsel and Vice President at North Carolina Community Colleges. “She is proactive. She thinks ahead, anticipates needs, and offers solutions. She is also very service-minded and is always looking for ways to help.” 

Sandra Thompson, Associate Vice President for College and Career Readiness at the System Office, was just two months on the job when she needed to cancel a contract.  
“I was very nervous about it because I’d never done it before, but someone told me to call Legal Affairs. Jonnell answered the phone, and she was wonderful. Within one hour we were able to get everything wrapped up and she was so kind,” Thompson said. “She explains things in laymen terms and doesn’t use legal jargon that’s hard to understand. You are always welcome to walk in her office and ask questions. She is so easy to work with and delightful.” 
Carpenter said the best part about the job is the widespread impact she is able to make. 
“I have been in education for 10 years now one way or another and I can’t imagine a bigger impact than working for the students and future generation,” Carpenter said. “I touch every department here at the System Office. I’m able to work with colleagues on every floor of the building. It’s a privilege of mine to be able to do that.” 

The presenting sponsor of this award is the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. 

headshot of kenI.E. Ready Lifetime Achievement Award 

The I.E. Ready Lifetime Achievement Award is an honorary award given to an individual that has made a significant statewide contribution to the Community College System. 

Dr. Kenneth Boham has been selected as the 2024 I.E. Ready Award recipient.  
“His ability to recognize leadership opportunity and potential in people has been extremely instrumental in propelling this system forward” said Dr. Mark Poarch, President of Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute. 

Jennifer Haygood, Senior Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer of the UNC System, worked with Boham when he was a community college president. 

“Whether you agree or disagree with his position on an item, no one could ever deny that his heart and his passion was for our students,” Haygood said. “While his 40+ year career speaks volumes, it was his willingness to step up and serve as interim president at multiple institutions often with really challenging circumstances that really demonstrates his commitment.” 

Boham was the president of Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute for more than 20 years before serving as interim president at several colleges across the state. 

“If it’s right and good for the student and it will help the student, then chances are it is the right thing to do,” Boham said. “The greatest accomplishment are the people that have gone after me and have been able to go out into the system and serve well.” 

The presenting sponsor of this award is the NC Rural Center.  

The awards will be presented during the 2024 North Carolina Community Colleges Awards Dinner and Celebration on April 17th at the Umstead Hotel in Cary. Visit the Awards Dinner and Celebration event website for tickets, sponsorship opportunities, and to read about the award winners. 

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