RCC honors ex-president by naming building in his honor

Kelly Mayo Staff writer

October 21, 2013

LUMBERTON — The name of Robeson Community College’s third president will be etched in stone at the institution after the Workforce Development Center was named in honor of Charles Chrestman on Sunday.

About 80 people, including RCC instructors and trustees and members of the community, attended the ceremony honoring Chrestman, who served as RCC’s president from January 2003 until his retirement in February.

RCC’s trustees on Feb. 24 adopted a resolution to rename the building to honor Chrestman. Board Chairman George Regan read the resolution during the ceremony.

“Now therefore be it resolved that the board of trustees hereby expresses to Dr. Charles Victor Chrestman its sincere gratitude for the unselfish and responsible fulfillment of his duties above and beyond the call of duty …,” Regan read.

During the ceremony, Johnny Robertson, past president of the Robeson Community College Foundation, presented Chrestman with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the state’s highest civilian award, which is presented by the Governor’s Office.

Regan said the board decided to rename the building after Chrestman “for his contribution to RCC and to the county.”

“It serves two purposes,” Regan said. “To train students here and retrain the people our businesses need.”

The Dr. Charles V. Chrestman Workforce Development Center, which was completed in fall 2009, houses the BioAg Center, Industrial Services, Small Business Center, Human Resources Development, Occupational Extension/Community Services and the vice president for Adult and Continuing Education’s office.

Emma Lee Locklear, a trustee, said the building was Chrestman’s vision.

“He was the conceiver and he worked real hard to find the money we needed to build the Workforce Development Center,” she said.

Locklear said Chrestman started the practical nursing and radiology programs during his tenure as president.

“He had a vision and … he had the best interest of Robeson County at heart, for students and for the community,” she said. “… He was an excellent administrator.”

She said Chrestman was also instrumental in getting East Carolina University to place a dental school in Robeson County. Construction is expected to begin soon.

Chrestman said the opening for RCC’s president “kind of caught my eye” from across several state lines.

“I was serving at a community college in northeast Mississippi as chief academic officer for 28 years before coming here,” he said. “I called a board of trustees member, he encouraged me to apply, I did and … I liked what I saw.”

Chrestman called it “really strange” to have a building named after him.

“I’m humbled,” he said. “I never expected it. It’s my intent to never do anything to embarrass the school for doing this.”

Chrestman said he enjoyed his time at RCC.

“We just had a great 10 years doing things where we had the opportunity to do them,” he said.

During Chrestman’s decade, RCC’s annual budget increased from $18 million to $42 million. Total full-time employees grew from 176 to 193, with the number of part-time employees increasing from 291 to 340.

The number of credit programs currently offered by RCC is 34 — 14 more than when Chrestman arrived. Enrollment increased during the decade from 2,361 to 4,148.

In addition to the Workforce Development Center, a Continuing Education building was constructed at COMtech and a Health Science building on the college’s main campus. Two other buildings were renovated, aging roofs replaced, and parking areas expanded.

During Chrestman’s tenure, RCC began offering the ACT’s WorkKeys Assessment, which leads to a Career Readiness Certificate. Today, Robeson County ranks in the top three among the state’s 100 counties with more than 5,000 people certified.

The college also landed one of the state’s NCCCS Biotechnology Network regional centers that now serves a statewide role in advancing bio-agriculture.

Pamela Hillbert is now president of the college.