Three distinguished North Carolina business leaders have officially joined the State Board of Community Colleges following a swearing-in ceremony last week.
Esteemed Raleigh developer John Kane, Wilson businesswoman Paula Benson, and former MetLife executive Geoffrey Lang were sworn-in at the November 17 board meeting, strengthening the Board’s focus on workforce development and addressing the dynamic needs of community college students.
“We have set the expectation for our colleges that we are going to be extraordinary and to do that we need extraordinary leadership,” said State Board Chairman Tom Looney. “The additions of John Kane, Paula Benson, and Geoffrey Lang – three tremendous heavy hitters in our state – are going to help us build a top-down system that reimagines college education and training for all North Carolinians.”
John Kane is a dedicated leader in the business and economic development sectors. He is Chairman and CEO of Kane Realty Corporation, an organization he founded in 1978.
Kane leads the organization, which has developed sustainable mixed-use communities, regional malls, neighborhood and community centers, office buildings, hotels, and health centers.
He is a graduate of Wake Forest University with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration. He is a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization, Chief Executives Organization and World Presidents’ Organization.
John serves on the Economic Development Board of the NC Board and previously served on Boards of Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority, Duke Heart Center, Research Triangle Regional Partnership, NC Chamber, Duke Raleigh Hospital, Duke University Health System, and NC Symphony.
Geoffrey Lang retired in 2020 after a distinguished career in business and recruitment.
He served as Vice President and General Manager of the MetLife Global Technology Campus in Cary, where he connected MetLife to the area’s rich talent pool and leaders in the technology industry.
His past experience also includes 22 years at IBM where he developed a deep set of skills in technology and the financial services industry. Prior to that role, he served as Chief Information Office at RBC Bank for seven years.
He has been a member of several boards in the Triangle, including the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, Cary Chamber of Commerce, Wake Technical Community College Board of Trustees, Habitat for Humanity, and the Regional Transportation Alliance.
In 2018, he received Triangle Business Journal’s CEO of the Year Award.
Paula Benson is a visionary leader currently serving as Executive Director of Wilson Forward. In January 2024, she will step down from that role after 12 years to become Director of the Healthcare Foundation of Wilson.
Benson has served in numerous leadership roles for organizations in Wilson and she has worked with local, regional and statewide partners on issues and opportunities in education, workforce development, health and wellness.
Prior to her role at Wilson Forward, Benson worked at SAS Institute and Ernst & Young, where she began her career as a certified public accountant.
Benson earned her bachelor’s degrees in business administration and economics at Meredith College.
“The North Carolina Community College System plays a critical role in the economic development of North Carolina by providing customized workforce development training to more than 22,000 employees at over 700 existing and new companies in the state,” says Christopher Chung, CEO of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.
“Having a business leader like John Kane on the State Board of Community Colleges offers a unique perspective into the needs of businesses and insights into how the community college system can continue to make North Carolina’s workforce the best in the nation.”
The new board members replace outgoing members Burr Sullivan, Bobby Irwin, and Jerry Vaughan.
The State Board, which serves as the policy-making body for the North Carolina Community College System, has the responsibility of overseeing various aspects such as budgets, capital projects, and curriculum. This Board is composed of 22 members, with their appointments coming from the North Carolina General Assembly and the Governor’s Office. Among these members, three are agency representatives by virtue of their positions, and one represents the student body.
“I am eager to get to know our new board members and it is clear to me they are all going to add value to our NC Community College System.”
Earlier this year, the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation aimed at reducing the board’s size to 18 members by 2027, evenly split between the House and Senate, with nine members from each chamber.