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Why I Give: ‘I Believe in the Continuing Education of Adults and NC State Does a Lot to Support Our Community College System,’ Says C. Neill McLeod ‘72MS, ’74EDD

C. Neill McLeod

Editor’s Note: This is part of a monthly “Why I Give” series in which NC State College of Education alumni, students, faculty and staff share why they support the college.

When C. Neill McLeod ‘72MS, ’74EDD graduated from college with her sociology degree, she moved to New York City with her friends. It was there where she landed a job with the Girl Scouts of Greater New York and learned how to work with and train adults. 

Through the girl scout training program, McLeod learned how to be a community change agent. As someone who was in the service club in high school, served wherever needed and knew the importance of service at a young age, being a change agent was the perfect fit. 

She returned to Raleigh as director of personnel and public relations for the Pines of Carolina Girl Scout Council, where she became training director. It was in that role where she discovered her passion for education. 

McLeod eventually developed an interest in continuing education for adults, which allowed her to merge her interests into a career. She spent 32 years with the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS), where she broke down barriers. McLeod served as North Carolina’s first female community college president at Martin Community College, first female director of student activities, first female dean of continuing education, first female vice president of instruction and student development, and first woman associate executive vice president of the NCCCS office. She always believed she could do anything and she knew she would need to prove it. 

McLeod credits her success as a leader in the community college system to her role with the Girl Scout Council, where she was given the skills to be a good administrator, and to her experiences as a student in the NC State College of Education, where she learned the research and reasons why. And was able to increase her understanding of the ways to improve her skills.

The impact that Dallas Herring, founder of the state’s community college system and chairman of the State Board of Education, and Edgar Boone, professor and head of the Department of Adult and Community College Education, had on her life inspires her to give back to the college in their honor, supporting the William Dallas Herring Professorship Endowment and the Edgar J. and Ethel B. Boone Adult and Community College Leadership Award Endowment. 

McLeod, who has been supporting NC State and the college for 40 years, also gives to the College of Education Excellence Fund. 

“I believe in the continuing education of adults and NC State does a lot to support our community college system,” said McLeod. “And I give because I am grateful for the valuable assistance Dr. Herring and Dr. Boone gave me.”

The Raleigh native worked at five different community colleges within the system, including holding several leadership roles at Wake Technical Community College before retiring in 2005.

In the Q&A below, she talks about why she pursued a career in community college education, why she has supported the college for 40 years and how she hopes her support will help prepare future community college leaders. The following is edited for length and clarity. 

What attracted you to a career in community colleges?

My training program with the Girl Scouts of the USA helped me become a believer in continuing education. Our community college system is designed for adults who are continuing their education. They may have been high school dropouts. They may have gone to college and dropped out, but most, if not all of them have come back to gain marketable skills. Because there is that aspect of the community college system, I knew that was the place where I fit. Being service-oriented, it was a way for me to help a lot of breadwinners and their families succeed and their communities improve because of the continuing education our system offers.

After a 32-year career in community college education, why did you stay in the field of community college administration for so long?

I believe in the continuing education of adults and it was a way for me to provide a service and make contributions to families, their communities and the state. The Girl Scouts of the USA trained me to be a community change agent and an administrator. I made it my business to understand the processes required to work with stakeholders in various communities in which I served. And because of my experiences in the Girl Scout Council and at NC State, I became a better administrator.

As the first female president of a community college in the North Carolina Community College System, what is your advice to women who aspire to lead at the community college level? 

Be prepared. You better know what you’re doing because you’re going up against a whole lot of other people who have their own agendas and their strong wills, and you have to be able to make your case. Be able to be supportive and bring people together to figure out how you are going to make the impacts that are needed. I preferred a collaborative approach, but if you make a decision and some people aren’t happy with it, be able to explain why.

As a long-time donor for over 40 years, why did you start giving to the College of Education? Why have you continued this support?

I started giving to the College of Education to establish a chair in the name of Dallas Herring, Ph.D., who was the founder of our system. And I give what I can every year. Dr. Herring had a big impact on my experience at NC State as well as in the system. He controlled the fellowships which helped me continue my education to receive a doctorate so I could interview for positions for which I was qualified. I also give to help emphasize community college support. I believe in the continuing education of adults and NC State does a lot to support our community college system.

Photography Credit: Portraits by Yolanda