Rowan County Early College Students meet Ralph Ketner

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 5, 2015

“Learn! Never stop learning. When you think you are done learning, learn some more,” Food Lion co-founder Ralph W. Ketner told students enrolled in Rowan County Early College in late October.

The 95-year-old grocery legend accepted an invitation to interact with these Early College students after they viewed the recently released, Food Lion-produced “Lessons in Leadership” video that paid tribute to Ketner’s life and life’s lessons.

Rowan County Early College is a tuition-free and intensive academic program in which high school students may earn a college-preparation high school diploma and up to two years of college transfer credit. The school is located on the grounds of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College North Campus in Salisbury.

Students have the ability to take classes at both institutions at the same time, offering them many more advanced options.

In preparation for their meeting with Ketner, Early College freshmen toured the Catawba College campus and its Ralph W. Ketner Hall that houses Catawba’s Ketner School of Business. They then gathered in the Rowan-Cabarrus Community College Student Center to view the “Lessons in Leadership” video. Ketner joined the students for the viewing, and afterwards answered numerous questions, and posed for selfies with the students at a Food Lion-funded reception that followed.

According to Early College world and American history teacher Theresa Pierce, who extended the invitation to Ketner, the students loved meeting him and shared these varied comments about that experience with her:

“I respected what Mr. Ketner said about giving more than he spends. He eats at the K&W and Palms. He’s a very humble man.”

“He doesn’t waste money. He uses his money to help others. He will not fly first class.”

“When I told my mother that I met Ralph Ketner, she was so jealous.”

“Showing us the video first was good because we learned Mr. Ketner’s background.”

“Mr. Ketner is the real thing. He drove himself to our school. All the good deeds he has done may have contributed to his glowing health.”

“He is humble about his entrepreneurship. He gave glory to God.”

Ketner, in turn, shared plenty of his own comments with the Early College students, including, “Be worth more than they pay you,” and, “If you want to be successful, look for more than one way to do things. Always find a better way to do what you are already doing.”

The “Lessons in Leadership” video and five lesson plans to accompany it are available for download through the Catawba College website at The lesson plans, created by Rowan County educators and Catawba College faculty, allow students to take the concepts featured in the video and apply them in a practical way in a classroom setting.