Putting the Community in Community College

Given the new focus on the library as a community and academic resource center, it was only fitting to name the center for Sharon P. Smith, MTCC’s longest-serving employee and retired Director of Library Services. During her years at the college, Smith was not only the “face” of the library, but she was the most consistent and persistent “face” of the college in the community.

Smith put the “community” in “community college” at McDowell Tech for 45 years. She helped fulfill the college’s mission of service and engagement in the community like no other. Her resume’ reads like a how-to-manual for good customer service:

  • Hospice of McDowell County- Board of Directors (5 years), Vice-President (4 years) and Fundraising Committee (8+ years).
  • McDowell Arts and Crafts Association- Board of Directors (9 years), President (3 years), Vice-President (5 years), Secretary (1 year), and Volunteer with Appalachian Potters Market and other events (multiple years).
  • Foothills Community Theatre- Board of Directors (3 years), Publicity Chair, Actor, Director and Volunteer (multiple years).
  • Project Christmas- Volunteer (multiple years).
  • McDowell Chamber of Commerce- Board of Directors (3 years), Chair of several committees.
  • United Way of McDowell County- Board of Directors (7 years), President (2 years), Special Gifts Chair (3 years) and Volunteer (multiple).
  • Mountain Glory Festival- Board (6 years), Chair (6 years) and volunteer (multiple years).
  • McDowell County Public Library Trustee- Board (6 years), President (2 years), and Vice-President (2 years).
  • Friends of McDowell County Library- Treasure (2 years), member and volunteer (multiple years).
  • McDowell County Dread Disease- Treasurer and Board Member (more than 25 years).
  • Delta Kappa Gamma (a professional organization for women educators)- Treasurer (almost 10 years).
  • McDowell Women’s Club- (over 40 years, including several as Treasurer, President and Secretary), numerous committees, multiple district and state level leadership positions and committees.

This short list of her community involvement doesn’t even begin to touch on her participation in volunteer and leadership positions at First United Methodist, and her service in United Methodist Women at multiple levels. Internally, at McDowell Tech, Smith served in leadership positions on at least 5 committees and was, for several years, Vice-President of the non-profit McDowell Technical Community College Foundation Board.

In fact, Smith’s engagement and service to the community has earned her multiple awards and honors over the years, from the Pilot Club’s Professional Woman of the Year (1985), McDowell Chamber of Commerce’s first Volunteer of the Year (1986), McDowell County Community Leadership Award (1983 and 1995), NC Federation of Women’s Clubs Awards (1987, 1995 and 1998), and Asheville Citizen Times’ Citizen of the Year, Southeast Regional Finalist (1993).

“Central to the vision of the Smith Academic Resource Center,” said Dr. Brian S. Merritt, MTCC President, “was our commitment that the new space would be more than just a repository of books and magazines and more than a traditional brick-and-mortar library. The changing nature of education, technology and the speed with which our knowledge base is evolving necessitated that we adapt the new space as more of an academic resource center—a place where students could come to access rapidly changing information from around the globe.

“More than that, the renovation planning committee envisioned the new ‘academic resource center’ as a more unifying element in the campus plan—a community center, if you will—a place where people could both access and share information, a place where people could meet, interact and study.”

When the Academic Resource Center opened a few months ago, that vision became a reality. While there are traditional books, shelving is low, open, and inviting. Technology abounds, from meeting rooms with computers, white boards and internet access, to study rooms where students can access interactive lessons and programs from around the world. One recent program, for example, allowed students to get answers to their questions from a Holocaust survivor utilizing artificial intelligence technology.

“We are very proud of Sharon for her dedication to the college and her commitment to serving McDowell County,” said Merritt. “Naming the Smith Academic Resource Center in her honor reinforces and renews our commitment to our students to be a 21st Century resource for them and for our community whenever we are needed.”