The trustees for Robeson Community College didn’t have to look far to find a replacement for outgoing President Charles Chrestman — but they did anyway.
No one without an agenda would have argued had the board selected Mark Kinlaw, the vice president for instruction and support services and chief academic officer at the college. By every measure, Kinlaw was qualified, and that the trustees didn’t go with the homegrown talent testified in favor of the qualifications of the board’s pick, Pamela T. Hilbert, a longtime educator from Pitt Community College who will become the first female president of the college on March 1.
Kinlaw did nothing wrong. Credentials didn’t have to be tailored for Kinlaw, who grew up in Robeson County in a family of educators, graduated from Wake Forest University, received his master’s of Educational Administration and Supervision at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke and then a doctorate in Adult and Community College Education at N.C. State University. He has been an educator in his native Robeson County for 30 years, including the last 25 at Robeson Community College, where he has ascended to the penultimate rung before hitting what appears to be a dead end.
The decision probably surprised some because this county has a history of hiring from within.
Kinlaw, we know, will be fine. A former standout athlete, he is a team player, and will be an asset, not a distraction, to Hilbert’s administration. Our prediction is that Kinlaw’s time will come, but the window for that happening at Robeson Community College has probably closed. If he has to leave the county to take that final step up the ladder, the loss will be ours.
Hilbert will need Kinlaw’s support as she tries to fill the rather large shoes of Chrestman, who has been an outstanding president at RCC, which can be demonstrated by a look at his record. Hilbert’s resume is the equal of Kinlaw’s, but her experience is more diverse.
While Kinlaw has fashioned his career entirely in his native county, Hilbert has been peripatetic, with stops at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, Carteret Community College in Morehead City and Pitt Community College in Greenville, so the presumption is that she has been exposed to administrators with varied backgrounds and a range of ideas and educational approaches.
The trustees apparently favored that diverse background over the loyalty to RCC displayed by Kinlaw for parts of three decades.
Soon enough, RCC will turn an important page, but its mission will remain the same — getting people in this county and nearby, many of whom have lost jobs to this sorry and lingering economy, the education and skills they need to get back to work. It’s a tall task, and we wish Hilbert the best.