Jerry Chandler's last day at RCCC after 34 years

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 29, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
Dr. Jerry Chandler thought he’d spend a couple of years working as a radiologic technology instructor at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College before moving onward and upward.
But after settling in at the college, he realized he didn’t have to leave Salisbury to build a career.
Fast-forward 34 years and Chandler has held nearly every administrative position on campus, including associate dean of human resources, dean of instruction and interim president.
Chandler said it’s those opportunities that kept him at Rowan-Cabarrus.
“When I first came here as an instructor, I was young and never stayed anywhere more than three or four years,” Chandler said. “There were other opportunities at other colleges in other areas, but I felt challenged here.”
Chandler will serve his final day as the vice president of college advancement today.
“When you get to retirement you have feelings of joy and then you having feelings of I’m going to miss this,” Chandler said.
It didn’t take Chandler long to climb the academic ladder at Rowan-Cabarrus.
After teaching for more than three years, then-president Dr. Dick Brownell offered him a spot in his office.
“As assistant to the president, I could be asked to do anything at anytime,” Chandler said. “I was kind of like the utility man on a baseball team.”
Chandler said the role gave him a better sense of how the college operated.
“It was exciting because it was something new,” he said. “I had been so focused on one area of the college then all of a sudden, I had a much broader view of the institution.”
Although Chandler loved the classroom, he said his role as an administrator has been equally fulfilling.
“The rewards in adminstration are very different than in the classroom,” he said. “You get a lot of rewards out of seeing the people you work with achieve things.”
Terry Chapman, dean of health and public service technologies, said Chandler has been very easy to work with in the 30 years they’ve known each other.
“I think the thing about Jerry is that he really values you,” he said. “He is very concerned about moving the college forward, serving the students, serving the community, and that’s kind of contagious.”
Carla Howell, assistant to the president, said in the 23 years she’s known Chandler, his leadership and mentoring have helped her grow.
“He has kept the passion and the appreciation for Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in the forefront and willingly had the fortitude to carry the college through many good and challenging times,” she said.
Chandler said he’s proud of the growth the college has achieved during his tenure, including the expansion of allied health and trade programs and the addition of the college transfer and fine arts degree programs.
He said the college was the first multi-campus institution in the state and now has the largest cosmetology school.
“It’s really been astounding growth for a community college,” he said. “We started out as one of the smallest medium-sized institutions, but we’re in there with the big boys now.”
Chapman said Chandler has always had a sense of pride in the college.
“Rowan-Cabarrus has not always been the educational opportunity of first choice, but he never saw it that way,” Chapman said. “He promoted this institution as a first choice institution, as something that should be taken as a point of pride by the community.”
Chandler was around when the college transitioned from Rowan Technical Institute to Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. He also helped facilitate the incorporation of the college foundation.
“Jerry has not just been an influencer at the college, he’s also played an important role in Rowan and Cabarrus counties through his volunteer work,” said Carl M. Short Jr., chairman of the Rowan-Cabarrus Board of Trustees.
Throughout the years, Chandler has given back to the community through the Rowan Tourism Development Authority Board, Rotary Club and Faith Baptist Church.
Chandler plans to continue his involvement with the United Way and the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce.
“When I look back at it, I haven’t given nearly as much to the community as I’ve gained from it,” he said.
After enduring some health issues last year, Chandler decided it was time to retire and focus on family life.
He plans to spend more time with his wife, Connie, two children and four grandchildren doing activities like fishing and camping.
“When you go through those kinds of episodes you realize that there is this part of life that you need to pay more attention to,” he said.
When Connie retires from Faith Elementary School, the couple plans to take a four- to six-month camping trip across the country.
“That’s a dream trip,” Chandler said. “I did it when I was a boy with my family.”
But Chandler admits he’ll miss Rowan-Cabarrus.
“I have two favorite days, No. 1 the first day of class because there is a real energy and a real enthusiasm among the faculty and students,” he said. “No. 2 is graduation day when you see them all walk across the stage. That’s the most heartwarming of all.”
Chandler said he might still pop up for graduation.
“You may see me out there clapping and waving because I’m just so proud of what they have been able to do.”
And Chandler said he’ll still stop by for lunch with his colleagues.
“I’ll miss the people the most,” he said. “I’ve always been proud to be here among a great faculty and staff representing such a fine institution.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
Facebook: SalisburyPost