June 12, 2012. The Reich College of Education at Appalachian State University introduced the 2012 class of Rhododendron Society inductees at a breakfast ceremony on Saturday, June 9. This year’s honorees were Samuel Houston of Raleigh, Bill Campbell of Mocksville, and Colon Nifong of Lexington.
The Rhododendron Society, established in 1999, was created to recognize graduates of Appalachian whose service as teachers, librarians, human service professionals or administrators has reflected great credit on themselves, the field of education and the university. Induction is the highest honor given by the Reich College of Education.
The induction breakfast was held in the Bryce and Izoria Gordon Gathering Hall located in the new Reich College of Education Building during Appalachian’s annual Alumni Reunion Weekend, June 8-9.
Dr. Samuel Houston of Raleigh, N.C., graduated from Appalachian State University in 1965 with a B.S. in physical education and in 1966 with a M.A. in health and physical education. He later received an educational specialist degree from East Carolina University and a doctorate in education from UNC Greensboro.
Currently, Houston is president and chief executive officer of the North Carolina Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Center. The center is dedicated to the advancement of science, mathematics, and technology in the schools of North Carolina and around the nation.
Having started as an elementary school teacher, he spent most of his career in administration, serving as an assistant principal and principal at the junior high and high school levels. From 1983-1993, he served as superintendent of the Mooresville City Schools. He also has taught as an adjunct professor at Appalachian and UNC-Chapel Hill.
He has served as vice president for Program Policy of EdGate Inc. and was the first executive director of the UNC Center for School Leadership Development. At the invitation of Gov. James B. Hunt Jr., Houston served as executive director of the North Carolina Education Standards and Accountability Commission. He has written and lectured widely on strategic planning, student performance and accountability, skills for the 21st- century work force and educational partnerships. He also has served on a number of advisory boards related to education and science resources.
For his contributions to statewide public K-12 education, Houston was awarded the Jay Robinson Leadership Award as an exemplary educator. He also received the RJR-Nabisco Foundation’s China Breaker Award and a Distinguished Career Award from the UNC Greensboro School of Education.
For 36 years, Bill Campbell of Mocksville, N.C., worked as a teacher, an assistant principal, and a principal before retiring in 2006. He credits Appalachian State University for being the foundation for his life’s work.
Campbell received his B.S. in elementary education from Appalachian in 1972, his M.A. in education administration in 1980, and his Ed.S. in educational administration in 1988. His wife, Pat, also graduated from Appalachian in 1972 and is a retired middle school teacher. Their fondness for Appalachian inspired their children to attend the university also. Son Brent, who works for Fox 8 News in High Point, graduated in 1995 and daughter Sara, who works for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System, graduated in 1999.
After retirement, Campbell worked with the North Carolina Community College system for a year helping students find financial assistance. He was asked to come back to work for Davie County Schools as the public relations director, a position which he held for two years.
Recently, he volunteered in the school system reading to a first-grade class and substitute teaching. He is involved in the community through his church, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the Rotary Club. He serves on the local State Employees Credit Union Board. During the Christmas season, he is well known for dressing up as Santa and the conductor from the book “The Polar Express” and reading to children.
Colon Nifong of Lexington, N.C., is a retired teacher and coach. He earned his B.S. in mathematics from Appalachian State University in 1955 and his M.A. in elementary education in 1956. His wife, Marjorie, graduated in 1955 and is a retired teacher in Forsyth County Schools.
Nifong taught mathematics in Forsyth County for 30 years. He also coached football at Northwest High School for seven years and at North Forsyth High School for eight years, and in 1971 won the state 4-A football championship. He served as the athletic director at North Forsyth High School for 23 years.
He received the honor of Forsyth County coach of the year three times and also won the District 8 conference coach of the year award. He was inducted into the North Forsyth High School and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Sports Hall of Fame. The football stadium at North Forsyth High School is named after him.
He was a graduate assistant football coach at Appalachian for a year and served on the board of directors of Appalachian’s Former Athletes Association for two years.
Nifong was one of the Duggins Boys, a group of students who played football under Coach E.C. Duggins in the 1940s and ’50s. They are known for their lasting friendships and annual reunions, but most importantly their generosity. They have created numerous endowments on campus to fund scholarships and athletics program support for today’s students.
For more information about the Reich College of Education, visit www.ced.appstate.edu.