WINTERVILLE—Nearly 100 of the Pitt Community College Foundation’s most ardent supporters came out to campus Wednesday night for the fundraising organization’s annual Distinguished Donor Reception.
Held in the Craig F. Goess Student Center’s Davenport Multipurpose Room, the program was a chance for the PCC Foundation to thank the individuals and businesses whose contributions and backing led to a successful 2017-18 academic year for the organization.
“As our donors and our friends, we appreciate everything that you do to support our students and our college,” said Susan Nobles, PCC Vice President of Institutional Advancement. “Every gift that you have provided is deeply appreciated.”
Nobles said that within the past year, the PCC Foundation had awarded more than $350,000 in scholarships and mini-grants to support Pitt students and educational activities at the college. She then recognized donors who have made contributions to name campus facilities and develop scholarships.
“Our college’s mission is to educate and empower people for success,” Nobles said. “The PCC Foundation provides financial support for scholarships, educational activities and facilities to help our students succeed.”
One of those former students, Zachary Cleghorn, was the event’s featured speaker. Now working as Industrial Instructor/Coordinator with PCC’s Continuing Education Division, Cleghorn helps local business and industry identify training needs and develops customized instruction for their employees.
But work responsibilities weren’t the focus of Cleghorn’s remarks. Instead, he discussed what he called “a life-changing experience” made possible by individuals who have donated to the PCC Foundation.
A Texas native, Cleghorn served six years with the Marine Corps, including deployment to Afghanistan’s notorious Helmand Province. When he was released from active duty in 2012, he battled post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
“I was homeless, lost, scared and had no clue how to function in society,” he said. “I struggled for that year, and it got to the point that I tried to take my own life in the spring of 2013.”
After deciding to get his life in order, Cleghorn sought professional mental health treatment and reached out to a fellow Marine in Greenville, who ended up wiring him $40 for a bus ticket and giving him a place to sleep for the next few weeks. Figuring he had nothing to lose, Cleghorn began taking University Transfer courses at PCC during the 2013 Fall Semester.
“This college immediately transformed my outlook on life,” Cleghorn said. “The feeling of being damaged and hopeless was replaced by inspiration and determination.
“Sure, I stumbled, but I never quit,” he continued. “I kept stepping forward, and I was encouraged every step by this institution, even after progressing to East Carolina University. Looking back, those small steps every day took me miles from where I started.”
Cleghorn, who said PCC taught him that he didn’t have to forget his past while starting his future, went on to complete a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Technology at ECU in 2016. He finished a master’s in Technology Management there last month.
“Everyone in this room has played a pivotal role in the success not only of my life but the lives of many others like me,” Cleghorn told PCC Foundation supporters. “Your donations and support to our college ensure students like myself receive the highest quality of education, are taught the newest technology being established (by) industry, and some of you hire our students for employment within your organizations.”
Cleghorn concluded his remarks by saying that the support of PCC Foundation donors has allowed him to “be the person I needed years ago.” In addition to earning a college education and landing a good job, he’s bought a house and is leading a life of purpose in tribute to fallen Marines.
“I’m now able to honor my friends that didn’t get to come back home, because I had the support [at PCC] to not give up,” he said. “This is all because of you.”
In welcoming attendees to the reception, PCC President G. Dennis Massey reminded them that many of the college’s accomplishments, including enrollment growth and facility expansions, have been made possible by donors’ financial support and advocacy.
PCC Foundation Board Chair Miles Minges thanked donors for their contributions and asked them to support the foundation’s capital campaign to build the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Center for Student Advancement, which will include special service centers for veterans, men, women, scholarships, and the VISIONS Career Development and Scholarship Program.
“On behalf of the Pitt Community College Foundation Board, I would like to thank each of you for your support for the college and your contributions to support our students’ success,” Minges said. “… Your support, your contributions, and your generous spirit have helped us provide more support for Pitt Community College than ever before.”