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Brown leaving VGCC for senior job with N.C. Community Colleges
  • Updated

HENDERSON — One of Vance-Granville Community College’s top administrators is leaving the school to take up a senior position with the N.C. Community Colleges.

On Jan. 18, VGCC Vice President of Learning, Student Engagement and Success Levy Brown will become the senior vice president and chief academic officer for the statewide, 58-college system.

N.C. Community Colleges board members approved the hire just before the holiday.

Brown has “really prepared himself for that next level of leadership,” system President Thomas Stith said, adding that he had distinguished himself in his previous jobs at VGCC and other colleges in the system.

Along with keeping watch over the Community Colleges’ academic programs, Brown’s tasks will include helping the system counter a dropoff in enrollment associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, Stith said.

A briefing presented in November to the system board’s Planning Committee indicated that enrollment in North Carolina’s community colleges had declined by about 11% in 2020, to a level lower than in any year since at least 2006.

Community college enrollment generally runs counter to the economic cycle, as people look to boost their skills and credentials when times are tight so they can better compete for the available jobs. In North Carolina, the system’s recent peak enrollment came in 2010, as the economy was still recovering from the Wall Street crash two years before.

Brown — who holds degrees from East Carolina University and N.C. Central University — will replace Kimberly Gold, who in November was named Stith’s chief of staff.

In seeking a new chief academic officer, officials were “looking for someone who not only had a good grasp of the community college system, but could be an innovator,” Stith said. “We feel Dr. Brown has the experience and expertise to provide that leadership throughout our 58-college system to do just that.”

He has worked at Vance-Granville Community College since 2017, taking on a portfolio that initially focused on student services but that quickly expanded to include the vice presidency of academic affairs, a post that oversees the work of the college’s faculty.

Before coming to Henderson, he was dean of arts and sciences at Lenoir Community College, associate vice president of student services and enrollment at Brunswick Community College, and dean of student services at Lenoir.

The preparation Stith mentioned has also included working with community and national groups.

He is on a student-success committee for the American Association of Community Colleges. And in the summer, he became one of 40 people selected for the 2021-22 class of the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program’s Rising Presidents Fellowship, an honor signaling that his peers thought he was destined for a higher-level position in their business.

“I am grateful to have had the opportunity to lead and serve alongside these individuals during my time at” Vance-Granville, Brown said, as quoted in a statement the college released. “Looking ahead, I am humbled by the opportunity to partner with my colleagues to make a difference at the system level. We have a myriad of opportunities to make a tremendous impact on students, faculty and staff across the Great 58.”

VGCC officials said Cecilia Wheeler, the college’s dean of arts and sciences, will fill in as vice president of learning, student engagement and success in 2022 while they conduct a national search for Brown’s replacement.

Wheeler is delaying her retirement because the school is working on its 10-year reaccreditation. Officials want the permanent replacement for Brown on board by January 2023.

“Dr. Brown’s focus on building student supports and investing in faculty development has put our college on a transformational path for student success,” VGCC President Rachel Desmarais said. “I look forward to working with Dr. Brown in a new capacity as he leads academics for North Carolina community colleges.”

Contact Ray Gronberg at or by phone at 252-436-2850.

Townsville’s ‘Happy Place’
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TOWNSVILLE — There might not have been much going on in Townsville’s modern history away from the shores of Kerr Lake, but visitors and locals alike have long been able to count on stopping by the dairy bar alongside N.C. 39, across the road from the old school.

Husband and wife Thomas and Kelly Guill of Hicksboro aim to keep it that way. They officially opened The Happy Place Grill and Creamery in the place of Pegram’s Dairy Bar in 2020, although COVID-19 disrupted their chances of a true grand opening.

On Monday, Thomas continued renovation efforts on the dining room, which he hopes will open by mid to late January. So far, only the classic walk-up windows have been open for service.

“We’re trying to go with an old-school look with the metal ceiling and woodwork on the walls, just trying to have a nice, country feel versus your modern-day things,” Thomas Guill said. “We’re trying to put it back like it would have been years ago, like an old-school feel. Just make you feel comfortable when you sit down versus everything being modernized.”

He wants visitors to think, “Wow, I remember that place when it was open many years ago, and they have the same setup going on.”

While going for an old-school vibe in The Happy Place Grill and Creamery, Thomas Guill happens to own part of what remains from the old Townsville and Kerr Lake school buildings across the road. Now, that’s old school.

Charles Robinson, who also owns nearby Steele Creek Marina, owns the adjacent gym, which now houses a few boats.

Guill and Robinson each said they wanted to bring some life back to Townsville, a place in which most regular travelers to Henderson Point and Hibernia campgrounds are well familiar.

“We’re trying to get things back nice down here,” Robinson said.

“Back years ago, you had gas stations,” Guill said. “You had little grills here and there. Of course the post office is still there. The older local people tell me everything down here [has been] dead other than the post office.”

Late December is what you would call the “offseason” for most lake outfits, but The Happy Place Grill and Creamery is open year-round. Their winter hours are Wednesday through Sunday; On Wednesday through Saturday, they’re open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Sunday, it’s 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

They’ll stay open a little later on Fridays and Saturdays once the busy season rolls back around, beginning in the spring.

Prior to the Guills reopening the dairy bar building, it had been vacant for about four years.

Why reopen?

It just felt “right,” Guill said.

“It’s nice down here to have a place that you can come to and come get your food items that you want,” he added. “And you can get ice cream. You’re at the lake. It’s summertime. What do you want? You’re eating burgers, hot dogs and then your ice cream to go with it.”

Patrons can still eat outdoors on picnic tables, and outdoor dining is another area he plans on upgrading further, with a fire pit in the works.

Guill knows Hicksboro best, but said Townsville has become like his second home. He wants to serve the locals that are here year-round, but also rekindle fond memories of trips to the lake for visitors.

Trips that went through Townsville.

“Now, we’re bringing stuff back,” he said. “Old places that died — we’re trying to bring them back to life.”

Raffle winner gives back
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HENDERSON — What do you do with all that money when you win $10,000 in a raffle?

You might invest part of it in the community that promoted the raffle.

That’s what Lt. Gen. Peter Kind (U.S. Army, retired) did after he won the Henderson Rotary Club’s raffle in October.

Kind was the guest speaker at the Rotary Club’s Dec. 7 meeting. At the conclusion of his presentation, he announced what he will do with his $10,000 raffle prize.

He handed a check for $1,000 to Rotary Club President Greg Etheridge. He said the other recipients of his “community investments” were:

• Boys and Girls Club of North Central North Carolina — $500.

• Edmonds Tennis and Education Foundation — $500. Edmonds uses tennis to provide academic and athletic opportunities for under-resourced youth

• Community Partners of Hope Inc. — $500. The organization provides temporary shelter for homeless men and assistance in becoming self-supporting.

• Gang Free Inc.— $500. Gang Free helps at-risk youth and ex-offenders move toward productive citizenship and participates in other activities to make the community healthier and safer.

• McGregor Hall Performing Arts Center — $250.

• Vance County unit of the Salvation Army — $250.

Etheridge said members of the Rotary Club sold raffle tickets totaling $24,400. The club will use the proceeds for education-related purposes. Each year the club sends students to the Rotary Youth Leadership Camp, hosts a banquet for local North Carolina Scholars winners and provides scholarships to local youths.

Rotary Club member Archie Taylor, who sold Kind the winning raffle ticket, introduced Kind and gave a brief biography of the general. Kind served in Vietnam, South Korea, Germany and several posts in the United States. During his career, he served as head of NATO’s communication system and as the Army’s chief information officer at the Pentagon.

Kind holds a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin and master of business administration from Harvard University. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the U.S. Army War College.

He is a member of Pohick Episcopal Church in Fairfax County, Virginia, which was George Washington’s home church. Kind said he intends to make a contribution to his church out of his remaining raffle winnings.

Saturday night wreck leaves one dead
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MANSON — A Saturday night traffic accident claimed the life of a man from Manson.

N.C. Highway Patrol officials said the victim, Jeffrey Nelson Bullock, 40, died after his car ran off Drewry-Virginia Line Road about 5.1 miles north of Manson.

His vehicle was traveling south when it crossed the centerline and overcorrected, said Sgt. Elliot Fuller. It ran off the right side of the road near Wilson Brothers Road, struck a ditch, rolled over, hit several trees and ended up its roof in the woods.

Bullock was alone in the vehicle. Investigators have cited erratic, aggressive and reckless driving as a contributing factor in the crash, but as of Monday didn’t know whether or not alcohol was involved because they were awaiting the results of a toxicology screen.

The accident happened at about 10:05 p.m.

Contact Ray Gronberg at or by phone at 252-436-2850.