A large crowd of well-wishers and local officials was on hand to witness the inauguration of Dr. John J. Rainone as the fourth president of Dabney S. Lancaster Community College during a ceremony held Sept. 19 in the Convocation Center on the DSLCC Clifton Forge campus. Officiating at the ceremony and investiture was Virginia Community College System Chancellor Dr. Glenn DuBois.
Choosing “Paving Pathways” as the theme for his inaugural speech, Dr. Rainone noted that in the past year that he has been president – Rainone took office July 8, 2013 – the college has instituted new academic programs, expanded dual enrollment efforts with area high schools, and was recognized by the Aspen Institute as one of the top 150 colleges in the nation. “I believe we are now at a critical moment that demands we meet the challenge of change in higher education in this country,” he said.
So, he asked, where does an already excellent institute go from here? “My vision for the future of DSLCC isn’t my vision alone which will guide the College – it is a collective vision,” he said. “Everyone has a role to play and our diversity is our strength. It is my hope that the practice at DSLCC is to dream big.”
Dr. Rainone outlined four areas on which he will focus for the future: Student access, student success, employee success and community success.
“Although we live in a time of declining public resources when more students than ever find themselves unable to afford tuition, I will make it my calling to have the scholarship funds available for every person in our service area who wishes to attend DSLCC,” he said. “Without this commitment, this perfect storm could result in more students being excluded from higher education than at any time in recent history. We simply cannot let that happen.
“DSLCC will expand our exceptional work in helping our students success, both academically and in training for jobs – as well as finding and keeping those jobs based on their skills,” he said.
Dr. Rainone said that the College will support the professional development of faculty and staff “so that we stay current within our disciplines and programs to provide the best education for our communities… I will ask all employees to have pride, passion and persistence.”
Finally, Dr. Rainone said that DSLCC will “serve a primary role in enhancing and enriching the quality of life for all who live and work in our service region and beyond.”
“The list of priorities may appear daunting, but we can and will achieve these pathways,” he concluded. “We need you on this journey. We need you to spread the good word. We need you to believe.”
Christie Hardbarger, director of Talent Search, a DSLCC alumna, and one of the speakers for the event, spoke for many of those in the audience and on the stage, saying, “we have a president who learns from and appreciates the past and the lessons it teaches; is firmly rooted in the present; but with a plan to take DSLCC into the future. But it is not a solo journey. He recognizes that it takes all of us to make this college successful. And that is the textbook definition of a transformational leader.
“My roots run deep in this part of the state and at this college,” Hardbarger continued. “I have been here as a student, a parent of a student, a staff member, and now as administrative faculty. I speak on behalf of many today, when I say that on this important day in the life of our college, on this important day in your own personal and professional life, we pledge… that we will work with you and for you and beside you as you take our college toward the future. We pledge to strive for excellence and to never stop growing and evolving ourselves. We pledge to support DSLCC and you, as you lead us in the work to continue our important mission to educate and empower our students.”
Tondalaya Van Lear, associate professor of English and Art, introduced the platform party and special guests, as well as making remarks.
Several officials and others connected to the College also addressed the audience: Robin Sullenberger, DSLCC’s liaison to the State Board for Community Colleges; Dan Collins, chair of DSLCC’s College Board; Donna Vaughn, vice-president of the DSLCC Educational Foundation; Dr. Charlie White, president of Wytheville Community College; David Shoftstal, 2014 DSLCC alumnus; John Jimenez and Lisa Colwin, both current DSLCC students.
Also attending were two former presidents, Dr. John Backels, who served from 1968-1995, and Dr. Richard Teaff, who served from 1995-2013. DSLCC’s first president was Dr. Donald Puyear, who served from 1964-68, but was unable to attend.
The invocation was given by Dr. Rob Sherrard, DSLCC adjunct faculty, and the benediction by Fr. Thomas Collins of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church of Clifton Forge and Sacred Heart Catholic Church of Covington. The national anthem was performed by Mahaley Reyns and VFW Posts 1033 and 4299 provided the color guard. Charles Bartocci, head of the Wind Turbine Service Technology program, served as marshal and led the procession of faculty, administration, delegates from colleges and universities and the College Board and Educational Foundation.
Twenty-eight institutions of higher learning, including several Virginia community colleges as well as Virginia Military Institute, the University of Virginia, Washington and Lee University, Mary Baldwin College, University of Richmond, Roanoke College and the Community College System of New Hampshire , were represented.
DSLCC staff and faculty who served on the Inauguration committee included: Rachael Thompson and Gail Johnson, co-chairs; and members Doris Baker, Phyllis Bartley, Cynthia Boteler, Joyce Broughman, Jodi Burgess, Angie Graham, Samantha Hale, Gary Keener, Ed Kenny, Tamra Lipscomb, Lynn McAllister, Darilyn McGraw, Matt McGraw, Dr. Chris Orem, Billy Ould, Julianne Rainone, Laura Rainone, Kathy Smestad, April Tolley, Tondalaya VanLear, Joe Walker, Nova Wright and Virginia Western Community College’s Media Geeks.
MeadWestvaco was a corporate sponsor; benefactors were the Armistead Group, B.A. Rupert Real Estate and Highlands Community Bank; patrons were BB&T, Scott and Stringfellow, and Spencer Home Center.