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History of Mayland Community College and Conversation with School President Dr. John Boyd

By Tim Gardner

     Mayland Community College is a true treasure for higher learning. Located at the farthest Southern end of Avery County, its name is derived from the three counties it primarily serves; Mitchell, Avery, and Yancey. Mayland is currently one of 58 institutions operating under the North Carolina Community College System.

     The college was first chartered as Mayland Technical Institute in February 1970 by the General Assembly of North Carolina upon recommendations by the State Board of Education, the Advisory Budget Commission and Governor Robert W. Scott.

     Operations began in September 1971 in the Board Room of the old Northwestern Bank in Spruce Pine. From September 1971 to August 1972, the institute offered its first courses in continuing education and basic skills. In the fall of 1972, 102 students enrolled in four curriculum programs.

     In August 1973, the first graduation ceremonies were held, honoring 24 curriculum graduates and 40 General Education Diploma (GED) recipients. Between 1980 and 1999, Mayland Community College grew exponentially, adding 23 new programs. Part of the growth included the establishment of the Mayland Technical College Foundation in April 1982.

     In 1986, the school opened its Small Business Center. And the following year Mayland Technical College formally became Mayland Community College, effective January 1, 1988. Later in 1988, the campus added the Learning Resources Center and Student Commons, a $1.7 million complex comprising 19,000 square feet.

     The following year (1989), Mayland Community College purchased the five-acre tract adjacent to the college campus. Then in the spring of 1997, Mayland opened the Samuel Phillips Center, a $3 million, 26,796 square- foot, three-story facility, housing offices, classrooms, an auditorium and a bookstore.

     On April 9, 1998, Mayland reached another milestone, surpassing 4,000 GED’s awarded in the 25 years since the program’s inception at the school.

     Mayland’s Yancey County Learning Center opened in Burnsville in 2001 and its Avery County Learning Center opened in Newland in 2002.    

     Currently, Mayland Community College includes the original campus outside Spruce Pine, as well as the two satellite learning centers and other facilities. Through all its educational programs, Mayland serves more than 10,000 students each year, including approximately 1,100 full-time students. Mayland offers a variety of curriculum programs, including numerous college transfer options, as well as nursing, adult education, distance learning and dual enrollment for high school students. To assist the local workforce, MCC provides several workforce development and continuing education courses that directly serve the needs of local and regional business and industries, as well as the civic and cultural interests of the community.

     High Country Press reporter Tim Gardner recently interviewed MCC President Dr. John C. Boyd concerning various topics including the school’s achievements, challenges and future as well as details about his presidential credentials. Questions and answers from that conversation follow.

     High Country Press: What is your professional background?

     Boyd: My career has spanned over the years from being an Army Officer, Beaver Trapper, Community College Faculty Member, and the last twelve years as a Community College President.

     High Country Press: A former college president (the University of Georgia’s Dr. Henry King Stanford) described a college or university as ‘a critic, a prophet and a conscience of society.’ What description of such would you offer?

     Boyd: A community college is a community’s hope for the future.

     High Country Press: How do you define the role of a college president?

     Boyd: I consider the President as being the person who pulls the college and the community together for the common good.

     High Country Press: Two-part question: How long have you been Mayland Community College’s President and how did the process come to fruition?
     Boyd: I have served seven years as President at Mayland Community College. I was a Community College President in Colorado and was seeking to move back to the east coast.

     High Country Press: What are your general observations about the North Carolina High County and its people as well as the Mayland Community College students, faculty and staff during your time here?

     Boyd: We live in an area in which the residents still have the resourcefulness that America is famous for and that has made America great. The people from the mountains care about their community and have a strong work ethic.

     High Country Press: You have a highly-accomplished and honorable career in the United States Military. How have your military experiences helped, and been assets in your career in higher education and serving as a college president?

     Boyd: The military has given me a better understanding of leadership and strategic planning. As an Infantry Officer you learn the importance of servant leadership. Ultimately, it’s the people you work with who make everything work efficiently and effectively.

     High Country Press: What are Mayland Community College’s top accomplishments during your tenure as its president?

     Boyd: The construction of the Anspach Advanced Manufacturing School. The multiple national rankings Mayland Community College has received. Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) reaffirmation. The construction and opening of the Bare Dark Sky Observatory and Mayland Community College Earth to Sky Park as well as securing the Pinebridge complex.

     However, I have always felt that the greatest accomplishment is the many stories that I hear from students and community members about how Mayland Community College has changed their lives.

     High Country Press: Mayland has consistently ranked among the nation’s best community colleges for higher learning and in various other measurements. Would you elaborate about those most noteworthy achievements and ratings?

     Boyd: The high rankings Mayland Community College has achieved are directly related to the quality and the caring of our faculty and staff as well as the quality of students that we have in our area.

     High Country Press: What are the stiffest challenges facing Mayland Community College currently and in the next few years?

     Boyd: Our greatest challenge will continue to be dwindling budgets from the state. Currently, we have to do all we can to help our counties grow economically; we are hampered with decreased state funding.

     High Country Press: What are some of your top priorities or ‘pet projects’ that you are still working hard to help Mayland Community College achieve?

     Boyd: The completion of the Mayland Community College Earth to Sky Park and Pinebridge complex. I feel that both of these projects are game changers to the economies of our three counties (Avery, Mitchell and Yancey).

     High Country Press: Another two-part question: One of the foremost job responsibilities of any Chief Executive Officer– president, chancellor or another such position title– at a college, university or another institution of higher learning– is fundraising. How much more crucial is fundraising for a small community college like Mayland? And how much harder is it to raise funds for a community college compared to a larger college or university?

     Boyd: Fundraising and the generosity of the people in our community allows us to do things that we could not otherwise do. It has built the Anspach Advanced Manufacturing School, The Bare Dark Sky Observatory, and provides desperately needed scholarships to our students. Large institutions generally have an economy of scale in public funds that a rural community college does not have. We make up the difference with fundraising.

     Universities tend to rely on a large alumni base. Graduates affiliate with those universities even if they started at a community college so community colleges have to look beyond its alumni.

     High Country Press: Mayland has progressed at an abundant pace from beginning its operations in a Board room at a bank in 1971 to moving to a sprawling main campus with several buildings and satellite campus buildings added in other locations. And it’s also grown from an institute to a community college. Where do you expect Mayland to be in terms of continued growth and success in ten, fifteen or more years?

     Boyd: I believe the things that Mayland Community College is involved in as well as other community initiatives will have a positive impact on the population growth of our communities particularly in the younger demographic. In 15 years I see our school districts growing again, more restaurants and local shops opening and I see a growing student population at Mayland Community College.

     High Country Press: In a nutshell, what do you tell prospective students, employees, donors and other interested in Mayland Community College about its attributes?

     Boyd: Mayland Community College offers our citizens a high-quality, low-cost education provided by a top one percent community college in the country. We offer small class sizes taught by a caring and highly respected faculty in which our students are known by their name and not a seat number. Mayland Community College is making a difference in the lives of people who live in our three counties. Mayland Community College also presents one of the best opportunities for prosperity of our three counties.