Article originally published on Pitt County Community College’s Website
Pitt Community College administrators took time during Thursday’s graduation ceremony to show their appreciation to three Board of Trustees members for outstanding service to the college and community.
Before nearly 700 graduates turned their tassels in East Carolina University’s Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum, Distinguished Service Awards were presented to former trustees Virginia Hardy and Jimmy Nelson and current trustee Walter Williams.
Hardy, a Greenville native, is ECU’s Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. She served as a PCC Trustee from 2008 to 2016, after being appointed to the board by Pitt County Commissioners. As a trustee, she chaired the college’s Personnel Committee for two years and served on numerous other committees.
In presenting Hardy with her award, PCC Trustee Patti Sanders-Smith noted that Hardy utilized the student affairs and employee leadership experience she gained at ECU to provide trustees and college administrative staff with welcomed insight throughout her eight years of service.
When she first joined PCC’s governing board, Hardy called it a chance to serve the community. She praised the college for its versatility in meeting the training needs of local business and industry and for giving people “choices to better their lives.”
The youngest of eight children, Hardy earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She later received a master’s in counseling from ECU and a Ph.D. in counseling from N.C. State University.
“Education has always been important to both my family and me,” she said. “My parents expected that each of us would attain postsecondary education so that we would be afforded opportunities that weren’t available to them.”
A Bethel native, Nelson was appointed to the board by former Gov. Mike Easley in 2004. In 12 years as a trustee, he served on several committees and chaired the Building and Grounds Committee during the planning stages of the Science and Technology Center now under construction and scheduled to open later this year.
Nelson’s first encounter with PCC came as a high school student, when he enrolled in several college courses before graduating from North Pitt. He went on to enroll at UNC-Chapel Hill as a Morehead Scholar and earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1977.
As a UNC student, Nelson participated in student government and varsity athletics. As a member of the Tar Heels track team, he was named to the All-Atlantic Coast Conference Academic Honor Roll.
Nelson continued his studies at Campbell University School of Law and received a law degree in 1980. He joined the firm of Mark W. Owens Jr., where he was named a partner in 1983 and continues to practice to this day.
The son of Frances Nelson and the late Jimmy Nelson Sr., Jimmy Nelson Jr. and his wife, Beth, have three adult children – Jay, Suzanne and McKenna.
Williams, who has been a PCC Trustee since 2005, is an ECU alumnus and the founder of Trade Oil Company. A Pitt County Commissioners appointee, he has referred to PCC as “an investment in the area’s future” and has served on numerous college committees, including Building and Grounds, Finance and Audit, and Personnel.
“Mr. Williams has frequently served as the legislative liaison with elected officials of the North Carolina General Assembly for the Board of Trustees,” PCC Trustee Don Mills said in presenting Williams with his award. “His counsel has been invaluable in advocating for community college budget priorities.”
Mills noted that it was rather appropriate for Williams to receive his Distinguished Service Award during a PCC graduation ceremony taking place in a facility that bears his name.
Raised on a tobacco farm just south of Greenville, Williams has long given back to his community, both financially and through volunteer service.
In 2007, the Council for the Support and Advancement of Education named him its southeast regional winner of the Bill Franklin Volunteer of the Year Award in recognition of his dedicated service to his alma mater. A year later, he served as co-chair of the PCC Foundation’s Futures First Campaign Committee, helping raise $8 million to fund new technology, student scholarships and construction of a 34,000-square-foot addition to the college’s health sciences facilities.
“You can go through life coasting or floating along, or you can be aggressive,” Williams said of the campaign. “If the leadership and citizens of Pitt County want Pitt Community College to be on the cutting edge, then we need to move forward, and the capital campaign is just part of moving forward.”
PCC has presented Distinguished Service Awards each spring during graduation since the honor was created by trustees in 1989 to recognize individuals for their efforts to enhance the college’s mission and services.