One of the true (and undeserved) pleasures of being a college president is hearing expressions of gratitude from successful students. Just before our recent commencement exercises, I received the following e-mail (Note: I’ve altered the student’s name for privacy):
“Dear Dr. Ingram:
I do not believe we have formally met in person, but my name is John Doe. I have been a student at Durham Tech for about three years. Today, I finished my last semester, and I will be transferring out. I wanted to take the opportunity to tell you that my experience at Durham Tech has been the best of my educational career. I have truly enjoyed the quality of instruction and the diversity of thought and opinion that I have found here at Durham Tech. I will always look back at my time here fondly, and I thank you for the leadership that you have given the college.”
And a couple days following our graduation, another student, Mary Roe, stopped by my office to thank me. Mary completed her adult high school diploma in December and participated in our spring graduation exercises.
Now although these two students went out of their way to thank me, I know they really weren’t thanking me. John was thanking his economics instructor, his geology instructor and the other faculty members who guided and challenged him while he’s been here. And he was thanking those instructors who saw him all the way from remedial mathematics to Calculus (where he earned an A). And I know Mary was thanking those faculty members in our Gateway to College program who taught, mentored, and guided her through the completion of her adult high school diploma.
But at the same time, they were also thanking the Director of our Teaching-Learning Center for providing professional development opportunities that enable our faculty to be so effective in the classroom. They were thanking our instructional technology team for providing reliable access to web-based materials that supplemented coursework both in and out of the classroom. And they were thanking our Human Resources Office for maintaining and nurturing a workplace environment that allows us to attract and retain talented and committed professionals who teach and who support instruction.
Mary was also thanking the Academic Advisor who took her under his wing as she contemplated enrolling in college courses. And John was thanking members of the Admissions Office staff for helping him register for his first classes at Durham Tech three years ago. John and Mary both received financial assistance, so they were thanking members of our Financial Aid Advisors office for helping work through the process of finding the resources they needed to pay for college. And while they may not have realized it, they were thanking members of our Business Office staff for making sure that their student accounts were managed properly so they could actually go to class. John and Mary were probably also thanking the administrative assistants who are at the front desks of our academic offices for being friendly and helpful day in and day out.
I’m sure John and Mary spent some time in the library, so they were thanking members of our Education Resources Center staff. They may have also been thanking the tutoring staff in the Center for Academic Excellence. They were thanking the officers in our Campus Police and Public Safety department for making the campus safe and secure. They were thanking our facilities services staff for making the campus comfortable and inviting.
John is transferring to a four-year institution, and once Mary completed her Adult High School degree she began taking classes in the Associate in Science program, so they were thanking members of our Student Records office for making sure their academic transcripts were accurate and in order. And in the process they were thanking members of our Information Technology department for making sure our Student Information System is operating smoothly. They’ve both taken courses in computer labs and used campus e-mail, so they thanked folks in our Desktop Support area for making sure our IT infrastructure is reliable and up to date.
Now Mary is thinking about a career in allied health, so she thanked administrators and instructors in our Corporate and Continuing Education Division for providing our health care continuing education programs. Many of our students complete these programs so they can begin working in an allied health field while they complete their associate’s degree. And John probably made use of the resources in the Transfer Center, so he’s said thank you to our staff in that area.
John was in Phi Theta Kappa, so he was thanking the faculty advisors to that honorary society. Mary came to the United States twenty years ago, so she was also thanking our English as a Second Language program who helped her learn English before she ever started her adult high school program.
I’m not sure how either of them found out about Durham Tech. They may have gone to our website, or contacted our call center, or learned about us from the newspaper, so they were thanking our webmaster, our call center coordinator, or our marketing staff. And without really knowing it, they were thanking our research and evaluation team for compiling data about all the things we do and turning that data into actionable information that enables us to continuously improve our programs, services and processes.
Mary and John were thanking all those folks, as well as anyone and everyone who had been a smiling face or given a helping hand while they were at Durham Tech. And not just Mary and John. At our commencement, as I had the honor of handing out three hundred diplomas to the class of 2016, the two words I heard from almost every graduate were “Thank You.”
Those two words—Thank You—may be the most gratifying words I can hear. And when I hear them from a student or a graduate of Durham Tech, I know that they were not really thanking me. They are thanking the 850 or so full-time and part-time employees of Durham Technical Community College, a faculty and staff who are diverse in backgrounds and skills and interests, but united in their commitment to carrying out our mission of being champions for learning and success, delivering outstanding teaching and service, and developing career skills for today and tomorrow. And so with this message, I say to those dedicated and talented colleagues—Thank You.