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NCI recognizes graduates, honors faculty member
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Dr. Patricia Grant (left) receives the Lula White Johnson Distinguished Teaching Award from Kimble Reynolds Jr., chairman of the New College Foundation, during graduate recognition ceremonies Tuesday night at the former Henry County Courthouse. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Earning her bachelor’s degree in business administration through the New College Institute (NCI) deepened Joyce Barton’s sense of self-worth.

Barton, whose degree was conferred by Averett University of Danville, was one of 34 students honored by NCI during a graduate recognition ceremony Tuesday night at the former Henry County courthouse uptown.

She noted that attending NCI helped her gain useful skills such as being able to speak in front of a group.

“I realize I have much more to offer” the business world than she originally thought, she said.

Barton said NCI provides students with “a can-do environment” where they feel supported in their efforts to earn degrees and are “ready to move forward.”

“I had no idea that Southside Virginia had such an asset,” said Elizabeth Garcia, who earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies from Longwood University of Farmville. She aspires to be an English as a second language teacher.

Garcia said she spent a year at a university in a big city about four hours away from Martinsville, but the experience was not for her.

She decided to return home, but after finding a job and getting married, she realized that she did not have time to commute to a college elsewhere.

NCI is “close to home, convenient and just what I wanted” from a college experience, Garcia said.

Established in 2006 and funded by the state and The Harvest Foundation, NCI provides local access to courses needed to earn certain bachelor’s and master’s degrees offered by various universities statewide. Universities have faculty working at the institute to teach many of the courses.

Students do not actually graduate from NCI, but rather the universities that issue the degrees. However, the institute holds an annual ceremony to honor its graduating students for their accomplishments.

The 34 NCI students receiving degrees this academic year brought the total number of people who have earned degrees through the institute to 314, according to Associate Director/Chief Academic Officer Leanna Blevins.

This year’s graduates include:

• 14 with bachelor’s of business administration degrees from Averett,

• Three with bachelor’s in liberal studies degrees from Longwood,

• Seven with master’s degrees in counseling from Old Dominion University (ODU),

• Five with bachelor’s in early childhood education degrees from Norfolk State University,

• Three with bachelor’s in accounting degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU),

• One with a bachelor’s in motorsports engineering degree from ODU, and

• One with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and homeland security from VCU.

Henry County Administrator Tim Hall, who earned a master’s degree in business administration from Averett through NCI in 2007, told the new graduates to celebrate their accomplishment.

Due to family and job commitments, he would not have been able to travel outside the area to earn his master’s degree, he said.

Many of the graduates probably have similar commitments that made earning their degrees challenging, Hall noted.

“You took the balloon that is your life and put more hot air into it ... and prayed a silent prayer that it wouldn’t pop. It didn’t,” he said.

“Perseverance ... is what life is all about,” said state Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Glade Hill and a member of NCI’s board.

Hall and Stanley encouraged the graduates to remain here and use their talents to help Henry County and Martinsville become more prosperous.

“We’re proud of you,” Hall said of the community.

Also during the graduate recognition ceremony, NCI’s private fundraising arm, the New College Foundation, presented its 2013 Lula White Johnson Distinguished Teaching Award to Patricia Grant, the institute’s faculty-in-residence member for VCU’s criminal justice program.

Johnson was a former English department chairman at Martinsville High School who also taught at Albert Harris School. Hall remembered her as a popular teacher who inspired many of her students.

The award named after Johnson is presented each year to an NCI faculty member in recognition of his or her outstanding teaching.

Reading comments submitted by people who nominated Grant, Kimble Reynolds Jr., chairman of the foundation, said she inspires her students’ intellectual curiosities and dedicates herself to helping them learn.

Grant received $1,000 and a plaque. With tears in her eyes, she accepted her award, saying that teaching has “been worth every moment.”


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