When Sandra Ayers opened her biggest Christmas present last December, she cried. Her surprise and delight were completely understandable.
After a lifetime dedicated to teaching mathematics to thousands of college students, young and old, who came to McDowell Technical Community College in search of a better future for themselves and their families, Sandra’s husband, Robert, and her children, Andy, Jeff, Woody and LeeMarie, had pooled their money to leave a lasting legacy in her honor at McDowell Tech.
They obviously knew her well—it was the perfect gift!
Sandra had taught at McDowell Tech 27 years—and was Dean of Curriculum for several years—before retiring in 2007. But retirement did not quell her passion for education. She returned to the college the very next year to teach on a part-time basis whenever she was needed, and she continued to do so for 7 years after that. In the process, McDowell Tech became a second home to her, having spent so much of her life moving from classroom to classroom teaching students in every discipline—nursing, welding, machining, college transfer and so many more.
So for her gift, Robert, and the Ayers’ children, made a substantial donation to the McDowell Technical Community College Foundation and requested that a room be dedicated in her honor—specifically the small auditorium in Building 4, the room she had most frequently taught in during her career. Their request was approved, first by the Foundation Board, and then the McDowell Tech Board of Trustees, who approved the request at their last monthly board meeting.
On April 28th, members of the McDowell Tech family came together to dedicate the auditorium in her honor.
“This was the place God meant me to be,” said Sandra. She told the crowd who gathered outside the classroom how she had been encouraged to apply for an instructor position, although she had intended to teach high school after she got her master’s degree. She came to the college to talk to senior administrators about their open position, and it sounded like a good fit to her. The rest, as they say, is history. She applied, interviewed, was hired and has never regretted her decision.
A Look Back
Sandra graduated from Pleasant Gardens High School in 1964. It was there that she met Robert, who, shortly after graduation, was drafted into the United States Army and sent to Vietnam. While he was there, Sandra completed her bachelor’s degree in math and education at Western Carolina University and taught fourth grade at Pleasant Gardens before a short stint as a teacher at Old Fort High School. In 1974, she completed her master’s degree in math education.
Sandra stayed at home to care for the couple’s young children for a few years while Robert pursued his career in the food service industry. Eventually, Robert would become Director of Child Nutrition, and later, Chief Financial Officer, for McDowell County Schools.
But in 1980, Sandra joined the faculty at McDowell Tech, and her teaching ability and care and concern for students were evident from the start. When McDowell Tech decided to initiate an annual “Excellence in Teaching Award,” Sandra was the first recipient. At her retirement in 2007, John Rountree, who was photography instructor at the time, referred to Sandra as, “A Class Act,” and truer words have never been spoken.
The MTCC Foundation
Robert Ayers is also well-known to folks at McDowell Tech. He has served on both the college’s Board of Trustees and Foundation Board for many years. He knew all-too-well how important his family’s gift would be in supporting special projects, scholarships and other educational needs at the college—in addition to what it would mean to his wife to leave the lasting legacy of a wall plaque outside a classroom dedicated in her honor.
“We are honored when friends like Robert, Andy, Jeff, Woody and LeeMarie donate to our Foundation so that we can continue to provide MTCC students more and greater opportunities for success and to build capacity in our local workforce,” said Dr. Brian S. Merritt, MTCC President. “People often donate to the Foundation because they are inspired to do so by others, and we hope that the Ayers’ donation will inspire others to consider a gift in support of quality educational programs and student scholarships.”
To learn more about the MTCC Foundation and various giving opportunities, visit https://mcdowelltech.edu/mtcc-foundation.