With the retiring of two professors, Sandhills Community College will lose almost a century of teaching experience. Bill Harris and Barbara Cole bid a final farewell to staff, faculty, and students during the 2017 Commencement Ceremony on May 13.

2017 marks Barbara Cole’s fiftieth year as an instructor. Bill Harris began teaching 45 years ago.

Both professors have made a positive impact on the thousands of students they have influenced, and their passion for knowledge and love of humankind has been evident to all.

In 1984, a contest was issued amongst the faculty to solicit innovative instructional concepts for their classes. The Administration was seeking ideas for things never carried out that would prove beneficial to SCC students. Funding would be for two years.

Cole and Harris felt that travel could be a significant teaching method when they made their submission. What they could not have known was how that idea would grow into such a meaningful, life-changing experience for hundreds of students throughout the years.

“The Meaning and Value of the City” as a humanities class was submitted. Instruction would include a trip to New York City. The Administration chose the proposal.

The class and trip proved successful, grew in popularity, and continued beyond the initial two-year plan. Three decades later students are still reaping the benefits of that single concept.

Harris and Cole’s trip to NYC was soon expanded to include a stop in our nation’s capitol, since Washington, D.C. was a logical half-way point that could break-up the long trip and add additional instruction.

For an English professor who loves British Literature, a dream was realized when President Dempsey suggested Cole lead a class to London. In 2000, she and Harris took the first group of students to London and Paris was later added to the class.

In March, knowing that it would be their final trip with Sandhills students, the London/Paris trip was bittersweet. To recognize both instructor’s influence over the last three decades, President Dempsey joined the group in Paris and treated them to a special dinner at Le Club, which overlooks the Eiffel Tower.

Over the years, the pair took several on their first trip outside the state of North Carolina. Many students made life-long friends by traveling together, and one couple became such good friends that they wed.

“Students don’t always remember all the content they were given in the class,” said Harris, “but they remember what the trip did for them.”

Cole is one of the few people who can say she always knew what she wanted to be when she grew up. It was before she even started school that she proclaimed she was going to be an English teacher. For the last 50 years, she has helped students find their direction at Sandhills as well as opened their eyes to the world beyond Moore County.

Recognizing Cole and Harris at Graduation

“The heart of any college rests in its faculty, and the heart of any college faculty rests in its English department,” said SCC President Dempsey as he recognized Cole during the graduation ceremony. “For half a century Barbara Cole has inspired generations of Sandhills students and imparted to them a love of literature and poetry as well as an appreciation of well-crafted paragraphs.”

Professor Cole addressed the graduates, “There is a difference between wishing for a thing, and being ready to receive it. No one is ready for a goal until he believes he can acquire it. The state of mind must be believed, not mere hope or a wish. No more effort is required to aim high in life, to demand abundance and prosperity than is required to accept misery and poverty.

“Remember, the secret is within you. No one else can dance your dance. No one else can write your story. Who you are and what you do begins now.”

Professor Bill Harris was called forward to join Cole where the two were awarded Doctor of Humane Letters Honoris Causa and presented with hoods. President Dempsey pointed out that the two have taught at Sandhills for a total of 95 years.

“Bill Harris has helped students to find their intellectual way in some of the most complicated subjects higher education and the humanities asks us to consider,” said Dempsey.

“His courses in Religion and Philosophy are legendary; requiring students to think very deeply about extremely important questions.”


*photo courtesy of SCC

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