LUMBERTON — When Pamela T. Hilbert applied to become Robeson Community College’s next president, she already knew a lot about the college and the county in which it is located.
“There is a lot of diversity and a lot of needs and opportunities in Robeson County,” she said. “I looked at several colleges, but for me the question I had to answer was, ‘Where can I provide the most service?’”
On Friday, Hilbert, the current vice president of academic affairs at Pitt Community College in Greenville, becomes RCC’s fourth president, and the first woman to hold the position. She replaces Charles Chrestman, who is retiring after serving as RCC president for more than a decade.
According to George Regan, chairman of the college’s board of trustees, Hilbert will work under a three-year contract and will be paid the the current state base salary of $109,000, along with a $15,000 supplement from local funds.
“I think she will jump in right away and do a good job,” Chrestman recently told The Robesonian. “She’s a little more of an academician than I am, but that can be good for the college.”
Hilbert has held her current position at Pitt Community College since June 2006, and before being employed at Pitt she was vice president of instruction and student support at Carteret Community College in Morehead City.
The new president also served as dean of the evening division for Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh from 1996 to 1999, and as the recruiter-instructional supervisor for Wake Technical from 1989 to 1996.
An employee of the North Carolina Community College System for about 25 years, Hilbert comes to RCC with high marks.
“One of the most important tasks facing community college boards of trustees is selecting a president to lead their college,” said Scott Ralls, president of the state’s community college system. “… Pamela Hilbert has been an important part of the North Carolina Community College System for more than 20 years and is an exceptional choice for president of RCC.”
Dennis Massey, president of Pitt Community College, said Hilbert was a key player in the growth and expansion of that college during the past seven years.
“She has been a tremendous asset here during this period of phenomenal growth,” Massey said. “She is a really good leader, listener and very creative in developing new programs.
“I think she was an excellent choice for RCC president. She will bring her experience and creativity to further the work that Dr. Chrestman has done over the last decade.”
A native of Harrisonburg, Va., Hilbert moved to North Carolina in the 1970s. She graduated from Sanderson High School in Raleigh before going on to The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and earning a bachelor’s degree in theater arts and theater education. She also earned a master’s degree in adult and community college education and a doctorate of education from North Carolina State University.
Hilbert taught theater and communication skills to kindergarten through fifth-grade students in Wake County’s magnet school system and then began teaching GED classes to adults at night.
“That is how I was drawn to teaching adults,” she said. “I realized that by teaching adults I could have a positive impact on their children.”
According to Hilbert, her strength is “team building” and being able to encourage people in different areas to work together.
“For example,” she said, “those working in the area of credit programs can work with non-credit programs to better serve the educational needs of business and industry.”
Hilbert said the job of RCC president will offer many challenges.
“Community colleges are many things, but they are never boring,” Hilbert said. “There’s always opportunities to develop new programs. and there are always space issues for accommodating the programs offered.”
The new president said RCC, like the other state community colleges, provides the workforce and personal development that North Carolinians need.
“I also look forward to working with other agencies in the county,” Hilbert said. “These partnerships are critical for the success of the college.”
Hilbert offered praise for Chrestman’s tenure at RCC.
“Dr. Chrestman is well respected throughout the state,” she said. “I look forward to expanding on the good work that he has done at RCC.”
Hilbert’s husband, Todd Wade, is the assistant chief at the fire department on the U.S. Marine Corps base at Cherry Point. She has a grown daughter.
During her free time, the new RCC president said she enjoys reading mystery stories, spending time at the coast and visiting family members, many of whom reside in Virginia.
Chrestman announced in July that he would be retiring at the end of 2012. He later agreed to stay at RCC until the end of February so the trustees would have adequate time to find his replacement.
The trustees on Feb. 14 honored Chrestman by naming the campus workforce development center in his honor. The designation of the building as the Charles V. Chrestman Workforce Development Center was included in a three-page resolution passed by the trustees recognizing Chrestman for his service to the college and community during the past 10 years.
There will be a retirement reception for Chrestman from 2 to 4 p.m. today at the college’s Workforce Development Center on the Lumberton campus. The event, which is open to the public, is being sponsored by the college’s board of trustees.