Dr. Carraway’s column, as published in the September 24th edition of The Duplin Times.
You may have once heard this famous quote, spoken centuries ago by Sir William Wallace, “every man dies, but not every man truly lives.” One man that will truly live forever in our hearts and minds, especially here in Duplin County and throughout North Carolina, is Dr. Dallas W. Herring. Dr. Herring was born and raised in Rose Hill, he was a Duplin County native whose ideas were not limited to county lines. He was an inspiration to leaders – past, present, and future. He was a visionary in preparing North Carolina for the future needs of healthcare, construction, technology, and other industry training. He was a champion for technical education and a fighter for expanding opportunities for all North Carolinians.
Dr. Herring was surprised at the success of the community college system, and he often said it was because the colleges spoke to the needs of the people and started as a grassroots effort.
His forward-thinking approach to education has helped reach millions throughout North Carolina. That is why he is known as the “Father of the North Carolina Community College System.” The work he did in establishing early technical institutes, which later became community colleges, provided essential training for those who may have never otherwise walked through the doors of a college.
The only valid philosophy for North Carolina, Dr. Herring would say, “is the philosophy of total education; a belief in the incomparable worth of all human beings. … We must take people where they are and carry them as far as they can go.”
Dr. Herring believed the strength of community colleges is that people were afforded an opportunity they had never been offered before.
He would often say, “If they cannot read, then we will teach them to read. If they did not finish high school, then we will offer (it) at a time and in a place convenient to them and at a price within their reach. If their talent is technical or vocational, then we will offer them instruction, whatever the field, that will provide them with the knowledge and the skill they can sell in the marketplaces of our state, and thereby contribute to its scientific and industrial growth. If their needs are in liberal education, then we will provide them instruction which will enable them to go on to the university or senior college and on into life. If their needs are for cultural achievement, intellectual growth, or civic understanding, then we will make available to them the wisdom of the ages and the enlightenment of our times and help them to maturity.”
Dr. Herring believed it was okay to teach auto mechanics next to an English class, and that community colleges should be a friendly place and that no student, regardless of race, creed, color, or age should feel unwelcome. He believed in creating equal opportunity for all people, whether they wanted to become a carpenter, a teacher, a doctor, or a salesperson, saying, “That’s the goal, that’s what it should be. Recognize the right of people to have a different life, as long as it’s decent and it’s constructive, why look down on someone because they don’t do what students at the university can do.”
He had an appreciation for those who worked in trades and said that we should admire the work that they do. He owned a casket factory in Rose Hill and understood the need for craftsmen.
“We are too quick to judge people who are not equal to us in our abilities,” Dr. Herring once said. “Many, many thousands of people are more capable than I am in many things. I think a man that can lay a brick wall, and it be straight, that is a wonderful achievement. I don’t think that society pays enough attention to expressing the quality of work.”
Born in 1916, Dr. Herring understood the lack of opportunity that existed in North Carolina. It is his belief that the North Carolina Community College System has helped to lift the state out of the poverty that citizens, such as himself, once knew.
Dr. Herring was eager to lead North Carolina to higher ground and progress to higher achievement.
If you look around, I believe Dr. Herring accomplished his mission.
North Carolina’s Community College System is now the third-largest body of education in the United States. What started as a handful of technical institutes offering trade classes, has grown to a state-of-the-art education system, driving economic development and growth. The NCCCS has changed the trajectory of Duplin County and North Carolina.
Imagine what Duplin County would be like without trained medical professionals, diesel mechanics, computer technicians, graphic designers, barbers and cosmetologists, electricians, or welders. We take for granted those people who serve us every day, directly and indirectly, many of which were trained at a community college.
James Sprunt Community College continues to grow each semester and continues to expand its training, offering more opportunities for students to obtain degrees, diplomas, and certificates, as well as engage in short-term workforce courses to earn post-secondary credentials. It all started with Dallas Herring’s vision – and we all owe him a great debt of gratitude for his service, his leadership, and his courage to not accept the status quo when it came to education.
Dr. Herring made history and he made Duplin County proud. He is a man whose memory will never die, but will forever live on throughout the State of North Carolina and the world.
– Dr. Jay Carraway, President, James Sprunt Community College