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Dr. James “J.W.” Kelley To Become New MTCC President

The McDowell Technical Community College Board of Trustees announced today that Dr. James “J.W.” Kelley of Wendell, NC has been selected to become the college’s next president, succeeding Dr. Brian S. Merritt who resigned last summer to accept a position as Senior Vice President and Chief Academic Officer at the NC Community College System Office in Raleigh.

Kelley’s appointment was approved Friday morning by the NC State Board of Community Colleges. He will assume his duties on July 1, 2024.

“I am enormously grateful to the McDowell Technical Community College Board of Trustees and to members of the State Board of Community Colleges for giving me this opportunity to serve the citizens of McDowell County and Foothills Region of Western North Carolina as seventh president of McDowell Tech,” said Dr. Kelley. “The trust board members had in selecting me is an honor that I do not take lightly, and I look forward to earning their respect as I work with the wonderful faculty and staff at the college to continue our role as servant leaders in the place I will soon call ‘home.'”

Who is Dr. Kelley?

Dr. Kelley currently serves as Associate Vice-President for Student Services at the North Carolina Community System Office in Raleigh, setting the direction of Student Services programs and activities across the 58 community colleges in the NC Community College System.

Prior to his current position, he served as Vice-President for Student Services at Randolph Community College in Asheboro, NC and Division Chair in Humanities and Social Sciences, Director of Admissions and Counselor at Fayetteville Technical Community College in Fayetteville, NC.

Previously, Kelley also served as Associate Minister of Education and Counseling at Fayetteville Christian Church, Professor of Counseling at Winston-Salem Bible College, Counselor at Lighthouse Youth Crisis Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Sergeant/Squad Leader in the U.S. Quartermaster Corps, United States Army, Fort Bragg, NC.

He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Bible from Johnson University (Knoxville, TN), a Master of Arts in Counseling from Cincinnati Christian University (Cincinnati, OH), and a Doctor of Education in Management of Programs for Children, Youth and Families from Nova Southeastern University (Fort Lauderdale, FL).

JW Kelley

He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Bible from Johnson University (Knoxville, TN), a Master of Arts in Counseling from Cincinnati Christian University (Cincinnati, OH), and a Doctor of Education in Management of Programs for Children, Youth and Families from Nova Southeastern University (Fort Lauderdale, FL).

Dr. Kelley also completed the “Future Presidents Institute” with both the American Association of Community Colleges and Hockaday & Hunter, a presidential search and recruiting firm. In 1990 and 1995, respectively, he completed the U.S. Army’s “Primary Leadership Development Course,” and “Basic Non-Commissioned Officer Course.”

In 2010, he was the recipient of the NCCCS Staff Member of the Year Award and in 2008-2009, he received Fayetteville Technical Community College President’s Distinguished Staff Award.

Dr. Kelley and his wife Kathy are eager to make a new home in McDowell County. “Kathy and I anticipate building friendships as we find a home and get involved in the community,” he said.

Kathy is a high school math teacher and a graduate of Appalachian State University. They have two sons, Freddy and Will, who are both students at NC State University. Freddy is a junior majoring in biochemistry and sociology, while Will is a freshman hoping to major in business administration. Both are involved in the marching band.

What Lies Ahead for the College?

In a recent conversation about his new job, Dr. Kelley described the role of a community college president as being somewhat like a conduit, bringing the college together with local partners to serve the needs of not only individual students, but the larger community as well. He referenced several partnerships that he believes are key to growing a vibrant, responsive and dynamic institution at McDowell Tech:

  • Public and Private Schools: “The role of the McDowell Tech in providing affordable and cost-effective opportunities in higher education has never been greater,” he said. “I look forward to collaborating with our public and private school partners to identify and address areas where we can more efficiently meet the academic and vocational needs of our students and promote their success.”
  • Business and Industry: “McDowell Tech embraces the motto, “Learning for Life,” and has been very creative in responding to the concerns of Workforce Pipeline members with a renewed focus on apprenticeship programs, short-term academies and workforce training programs, said Dr. Kelley. I look forward to joining these efforts and identifying more innovative ways to address these training needs.”
  • State and Local Government: Hearing about the college’s plans for a new Health Science and Public Safety Building partially funded by the NC General Assembly, Kelley described the funding as a rare gift, shifting a significant portion of the cost of construction away from county commissioners. “We have a unique opportunity to partner with local government officials in the construction of a building that adequately addresses specific college, early college, workforce and related community needs. McDowell Tech’s enrollment numbers and graduate performance in Nursing, Emergency Medical Services and Public Safety clearly demonstrate that the college is consistently striving to meet McDowell County’s greatest training needs. I look forward to collaborating with county commissioners and the county manager to maximize our efforts to serve our community.”

“We are excited to have someone of Dr. Kelley’s stature to join us in leading McDowell Tech into the future and building on the excellent work that has been taking place at the college over the last several years,” said Gary Stroud, MTCC Board Chair. “The board and I appreciate the support, encouragement and feedback we received from our faculty, staff and others during the presidential search process. As I have said before, the selection of a new president is one of the most consequential tasks delegated to community college trustees. Now we begin our next chapter together, and I am confident and hopeful that it will be a chapter filled with great promise and many successes for our students and our community.”

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