According to his students, when Eugene “Chip” Cross steps into the classroom at McDowell Tech, he brings his “A” game and then some. Chip’s “A” game is decidedly more than book knowledge, decidedly more than mechanical recitation of facts, statistics and business acumen. Among other things, they say that Chip brings real-world business experience, honed in local industries, passion for teaching and commitment to innovative and unique classroom learning experiences.
His tableside chats with successful entrepreneurs and business professionals has been a signature experience for students in almost all of his classes.
Those are just a few of the many reasons Cross was recently chosen to receive the 2022 Excellence in Teaching Award, also known at McDowell Tech as the Teacher of the Year Award. He was nominated for the award by very satisfied students who have been on the receiving end of his committed classroom experiences.
“Students told us,” said Judy Melton, Dean of Arts and Sciences and a member of the screening and selection committee, “that Chip goes above and beyond for his students, that they could tell by his words and actions that he is deeply committed to helping them be successful, both in the classroom and, later, as business professionals. Altogether, his unique model of bringing business professionals to the classroom, live or via zoom, has allowed students to engage and learn from more than 250 uniquely successful individuals, an experience that many have found more intriguing and motivating than reading chapters in a dry business textbook.”
Mr. Cross is known for promoting co-curricular activities in the classroom, as well as opportunities for civic and social engagement. He offers interested students an opportunity to participate in a “Business Book Club,” for example, and encourages student involvement in community service projects throughout the county. Recent students have volunteered at blood drives, the McDowell Fire, Rescue and EMS College and the McDowell Chamber of Commerce. They have also written letters of appreciation to healthcare professionals, served as judges for McDowell High School’s DECA business presentation competitions and tutored elementary school students. In Chip’s world view, successful business professionals give back to their communities, and he prepares students for that role during their educational program.
Successful students in Chip’s program have sometimes completed professional business internships and three recent interns were hired by the companies for whom they interned within three months of those internships.
Chip is a graduate of McDowell High School, Presbyterian College and holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from Clemson University. For 22 years, he held a number of managerial and supervisory positions at three different textile-related industries in McDowell County: Cross Cotton Mill, Marion Fabrics and Coats American. At one time or another, he held positions in those businesses as Supervisor, Department Manager, Plant Manager, Director of Training, and Human Resources Manager.
Later, Cross was Director of Leadership Development for Western Carolina Industries, a 500-member Employer’s Association in Western North Carolina, providing direct training opportunities to over 10,000 individuals in more than 250 companies.
In addition to serving as an instructor at the college for approximately 15 years, Cross served for three years as Director of the MTCC Foundation, a non-profit foundation providing financial support to the college. During his tenure, over $250,000 was raised through gifts, donations and other fundraising efforts.
Mr. Cross is an active leader in a variety of civic and charitable organizations throughout McDowell County. At various times, he has served on the board of directors for 17 community organizations, including McDowell Chamber of Commerce, McDowell County United Way, McDowell Hospital, South Mountain Children’s Home and Marion Rotary Club. Next year, he will serve as the membership chair for Rotary District 7670, and in 2023-2024, he will serve as President of the Marion Rotary Club.
Mr. Cross is a regular participant and volunteer recruiter for the Amazing Handshake Competition through Nebo Crossing Academy, a project that builds leadership and communications skills among students, as well as teaching professional etiquette for business.
He has also been a frequent speaker in over 150 church services through Gideon’s International, raising funds to support Bible distribution throughout the region and world. At his local church, he recently coordinated 4 “food-packing” days in partnership with “Servants with a Heart,” coordinating a team of 400 community members to pack more than 100,000 meals on each of the four packing days. Packages prepared by the local team have been distributed to the needy in both Nicaragua and Ukraine. He also organized an effort in the past year to distribute over 10,000 letters of appreciation to healthcare and emergency services personnel utilizing more than 50 community volunteers.
Chip is married to Dr. Penny Cross, Vice-President for Learning and Student Services at McDowell Tech. Together, they have completed almost 46 years of service to McDowell Tech. Chip and Penny have two adult children, Ben and Rachel. They enjoy hiking with their dog, Honey, as well as jogging, camping, traveling, reading and being involved in church, family and community activities.
“It is a distinct honor to work alongside such caring, compassionate and committed faculty members such as Chip Cross,” said Dr. Brian S. Merritt, MTCC President. “Our students’ academic, professional and social lives are richer for his teaching, leadership and mentoring skills, and we are lucky to count him as a member of our highly-qualified instructional staff. It is my pleasure to join Dean Judy Melton is congratulating Chip on his recognition as 2022 MTCC Excellence in Teaching Award Recipient.”