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Durham Chamber CEO, president joins Durham Tech board

Geoff Durham

Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce’s president and CEO Geoff Durham has been appointed to the Durham Tech Board of Trustees.

Durham was appointed by the Durham County Board of Commissioners in October and will be sworn in on Dec. 4. He will replace former board member Darcel Dillard who resigned earlier this year.

“For nearly 60 years, Durham Tech has been providing high-quality, affordable education programs to students that support long-term economic growth and a work-ready community. I am honored to serve an organization with a track record of improving workforce development and preparing citizens for long-term success,” Durham said.

Durham has been with the Chamber since 2016. Prior, he served as the President/CEO of the economic development organization, Downtown Durham, Inc. While at Downtown Durham, downtown experienced tremendous investment and growth across industry sectors. Geoff facilitated the development of new office, laboratory, and co-working spaces which provided new opportunities for existing businesses to expand and new businesses to relocate to Durham.

Geoff has 20 years of economic development experience. Prior to coming to Durham, Geoff served as the Director of Economic Development in Fairfax, Va., and worked for Montgomery County, Md., as the Urban District Manager of Downtown Silver Spring.

Durham graduated from Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va., and earned professional certification in economic development from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and in commercial finance from the Council of Development Finance Agencies.

“Geoff will bring a unique and appreciated perspective to the Board of Trustees. We believe his intricate knowledge of the community will help Durham Tech better serve our residents, and I look forward to working with him to continue supporting the College’s students, faculty, and staff,” said Dr. Bill Ingram, President of Durham Tech.

Durham’s term on the board will end June 30, 2020.

The Durham Tech Board of Trustees consists of 14 voting members and governs Durham Tech. Members are appointed by the North Carolina Governor, Durham County Board of Commissioners, Durham Public Schools Board of Education, and the Orange County Board of Commissioners.

The Trustees serve four-year terms and set local policy for the College. A representative of the Durham Tech Student Government Association serves as a non-voting trustee.

Durham Tech program director wins prestigious respiratory care educator award

Janemarie Baker

A Durham Technical Community College program director has been awarded the prestigious Gail Gane Educator of the Year Award.

Janemarie Baker, Director of the Respiratory Therapy program, was recognized at the North Carolina Society for Respiratory Care awards ceremony on Nov. 12.

The award is given to respiratory care educators who have demonstrated top-notch service and leadership in respiratory therapy education throughout the year, according to the award’s website.

“I was honored to receive this award as there are many smart and talented respiratory therapy instructors in North Carolina,” Baker said.

NCSRC members submit nominees for the award, and the society’s Awards and Scholarship Committee select the winner.

The awards ceremony was held during the society’s 40th annual symposium at the East Carolina Heart Institute in Greenville, N.C. Baker received a plaque to commemorate the accolade.

“The work that we do is so important to the community – not only the education that we provide but the qualified and competent therapists that our program at Durham Tech produces to provide care locally and nationwide,” Baker said. “I am very proud of the program we have and feel that this award is a reflection on the program as a whole, not just one person.”

Baker earned her associate’s degree in respiratory therapy from Delaware Technical Community College. She received her bachelor’s degree in health science from West Chester University and her master’s in business Administration with a focus on health care administration from Wilmington University.

She is a registered respiratory therapist whose background includes working in adult, pediatric, and neonatal respiratory care. Before coming to Durham Tech, she worked as a therapist, ECMO specialist, and manager at UNC Health Care.

Baker has been with Durham Tech since 2013 and took over the program in 2016. She also chairs NCARE, the North Carolina Association of Respiratory Educators.

“Janemarie is committed to the success of her students, ensuring that they are prepared to enter the respiratory care profession,” said Melissa Oakley Ockert, Dean and Department Head of Heath Technologies at Durham Tech.

“Her dedication to the profession, to the program, and to Durham Tech is an inspiration to all of us.”

Community leaders re-elected to top positions of Durham Tech Board of Trustees

Tara Fikes

John Burness

Longtime community leaders John F. Burness and Dr. Tara L. Fikes have been reelected as Chair and Vice Chair, respectively, of the Durham Technical Community College Board of Trustees.

The two were first elected to their posts in the fall of 2017 for the 2017-18 academic year.

Burness, a former Vice Chair, has served on the board since 2009, when he was appointed by the Durham Public Schools Board of Education. He is the retired senior vice president for public affairs and government relations at Duke University and an adjunct professor in the Dewitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy.

Fikes, retired director of Housing, Human Rights, and Community Development for Orange County, was first appointed to the board by the Durham County Board of Commissioners in 2013 and then reappointed in 2015. In addition to being vice chair, she also chairs the Policies and Personnel Committee.

“The Board of Trustees will continue to benefit from the leadership of John Burness and Dr. Tara Fikes as they both return to their posts as Chair and Vice Chair. The Trustees are valuable and vital to the operations of the College, and we look forward to the upcoming year,” said Dr. Bill Ingram, President of Durham Tech.

Burness has demonstrated his commitment to education through numerous roles. His previous positions include founding chair of the board of directors of the Durham Communities in Schools dropout prevention program; director of the Durham Public Education Network; and interim president of Franklin and Marshall College, his alma mater, from 2010-11. He also has worked at Cornell University, University of Illinois, and Stony Brook University, headed the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership, and is on the board of Private College 529.

Fikes works as an adjunct instructor in the School of Government at UNC-Chapel Hill. She has chaired the Durham County Social Services Board and has been on the board of the North Carolina Social Services Board Association. She got her Master of Public Affairs from N.C. State and her Doctorate in Public Administration from the University of Southern California.

The Board of Trustees consists of 14 voting members and governs Durham Tech. Members are appointed by the North Carolina Governor, Durham County Board of Commissioners, Durham Public Schools Board of Education, and the Orange County Board of Commissioners.

The Trustees serve four-year terms and set local policy for the College. A representative of the Durham Tech Student Government Association serves as a non-voting trustee.

Local business leader joins Durham Tech Board of Trustees

Gracie Johnson-Lopez

Local corporate executive Gracie Johnson-Lopez is the newest member of the Durham Technical Community College Board of Trustees.

Johnson-Lopez is the Founder, President, and Principal Consultant of Diversity & HR Solutions based out of Raleigh. She was sworn in at a Board of Trustees meeting in October.

Johnson-Lopez previously chaired the Durham Tech Foundation Board of Directors from 2013 to 2017 and currently sits on the board of the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce. She has also served on the Board of Directors and chaired the Diversity Committee of the Triangle Society for Human Resource Management.

She received a Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration from North Carolina Central University and a Master of Arts degree in Liberal Studies from Duke University. She also has received certificates in executive leadership from the University of North Carolina and leadership from the Dartmouth School of Business Management.

Johnson-Lopez was appointed to the Durham Tech Board of Trustees by Gov. Roy Cooper. She took the place of former Board of Trustee member Stephen Barringer, whose term had ended.

John F. Burness and Dr. Tara L. Fikes also were reinstated to their positions of Chair and Vice Chair, respectively.

“We are grateful to Gov. Cooper for appointing Gracie Johnson-Lopez to the Durham Tech Board of Trustees,” Burness said.

“She brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, and commitment to Durham Tech’s unique role in advancing social progress and economic development for the residents of our community. Her colleagues on the Trustees look forward to working with her to support President Bill Ingram and the faculty and administrative leadership team and especially our students.”

The Board of Trustees consists of 14 voting members and governs Durham Tech. Members are appointed by the North Carolina Governor, Durham County Board of Commissioners, Durham Public Schools Board of Education, and the Orange County Board of Commissioners.

The Trustees serve four-year terms and set local policy for the College. A representative of the Durham Tech Student Government Association serves as a non-voting trustee.

Durham Public Schools, Durham Tech partner to prepare students for skilled trades field

Ben Lock, instructor in Construction Trades program at Durham Tech, helps student during first construction camp held at Durham Tech for high school students.

Grants from A.J. Fletcher Foundation will help fund new career pathway

Durham Public Schools and Durham Technical Community College are collaborating with local businesses to fulfill the need for skilled trade workers in the area.

The WayMakers: Durham’s Skilled Trades Pathway is funded through $450,000 in grants from the A.J. Fletcher Foundation. Durham Public Schools will receive $300,000 and Durham Tech will receive $150,000.

“Durham Tech and Durham Public Schools recognize the need for skilled trade employees in Durham and the rest of the Triangle,” said Dr. Bill Ingram, President of Durham Tech. “We are proud to partner with Durham Public Schools and area businesses to meet this community need by training high school and adult students to qualify for in-demand positions with livable wages.”

Durham Public Schools will apply their grant funds to establish a Skilled Trades Academy at Southern School of Energy & Sustainability, which will start in Fall 2019. The academy will be for juniors and seniors in the Durham Public Schools system and will feature courses in construction, electrical, HVAC, power line maintenance, and plumbing in addition to classes in leadership and entrepreneurship.

Durham Tech will provide the Pathway by doubling the number of instructional offerings in the College’s Core Construction Fundamentals Course; establishing new plumbing and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, or HVAC, apprenticeship opportunities; and expanding shared programming with Durham Public Schools.

“The future is about collaboration. Empowering our kids to excel in the 21st-century means they’re going to need real world experiences. Durham Tech and Durham Public Schools working together to make that happen is what Durham is all about,” said Damon Circosta, Executive Director and Vice President of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation.

Durham Tech will use its grant funds from A.J. Fletcher to build out and equip teaching spaces and help hire instructors for plumbing and HVAC courses.

Graduates from the Skilled Trades Academy can then choose whether they want to seek employment or apprenticeship opportunities or continue their education at Durham Tech or a four-year college.

“Our goal is to open up more options for students,” said Dr. Pascal Mubenga, Superintendent of Durham Public Schools. “By partnering with local companies to offer rigorous coursework and on-the-job learning, our students will be prepared to go directly to work or continue on to college if that’s part of their career plan.”

Students in both entities will have work-based learning opportunities.

The pathway’s strategic partners will assist in establishing a shared advisory committee, developing curriculum and project-based partnerships, providing and training instructors, sharing resources, and other matters. Partners include CT Wilson Construction, Duke Energy, Durham General Contractors Association, Rebuilding Together, and Habitat for Humanity of Durham.

“Durham General Contractors Association is pleased to partner with Durham Tech and Durham Public Schools on this exciting new Skilled Trades Pathway program. We believe this program will help the Construction Industry, Durham Tech, and most importantly, the people who are looking for a good paying, long-term employment opportunity,” said Tim Cothran of the Durham General Contractors Association.

The WayMakers program will officially launch with a celebration in January 2019.

Durham Tech program receives international accreditation

The English for Academic Purposes program at Durham Technical Community College has been recognized globally with a recent accreditation from the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation.

“We are advertised internationally now, so if someone is looking for a program in North Carolina or just on the East Coast, our name is going to come up for this area and the fact that we are accredited,” said Paula Wilder, the Director of the program and Continuing Education for Non-Native English Speakers.

Durham Tech is the only community college in North Carolina and one of only seven institutions in the state with the accreditation, according to the Commission’s website.

The program is accredited until August 2023.

Wilder said she’s been striving for such an accreditation since she came to Durham Tech in 2014. She also spearheaded the expansion of the English for Academic Purposes curriculum.

“Many universities around the world will not send their students to a language program unless it’s accredited through an internationally recognized organization,” she said.

The English for Academic Purposes program is designed to improve students’ skills in U.S. Academic English, specifically regarding college-level courses like reading, writing, research, grammar, listening, and speaking. The program is just one of the English as a Second Language programs offered at Durham Tech.

two students sitting next to each other in classroom smiling and looking foward

Two students participate in class discussion during EFL Composition II class during summer semester on Durham Tech’s main campus.

Q&A with UNC Health Care’s Jeff Strickler

Q: How is Durham Tech impacting health care in Orange County?

A: It’s a key provider of trained health care technicians such as EMTs and Surgical Techs as well as associate degree Registered Nurses. These roles enable the region’s health facilities to deliver the exceptional care which our communities are known for providing.

Q: Durham Tech is expanding its programs and adding a new Anesthesia Technology program in partnership with UNC Health Care this fall. How do you see Durham Tech impacting our health care institutions in coming years?

A: Perioperative services are a vital part of any hospital as the focus lessens on inpatient care and instead is focused on outpatient and procedural areas. The Anesthesia Technology program will support Anesthesiologists and CRNAs in providing safe and effective care. This partnership is a good example of where hospitals and community colleges can collaborate.

Q: Community colleges have a unique ability to respond to changing industry trends and needs. How do you see that dynamism benefiting health care?

A: Community colleges by their nature are nimble in responding to change. In fact, I’m a product of a community college education. A community college is a place where many of us start our careers.

Q: What is your impression of Durham Tech’s role in training health professionals?

A: The training students receive [at Durham Tech] enables local health organizations to provide better care by tapping into a pipeline of outstanding employees.

Q: How are Durham Tech and UNC partnering to provide clinical training?

A: UNC Hospitals Hillsborough Campus currently serves as a clinical site for a number of programs. For example, nursing students have clinical rotations on our inpatient units while our operating rooms provide opportunities for students in the surgical technology program, and EMTs do clinical rotations in our Emergency Department. UNC Hillsborough Campus is across the street from Durham Tech’s Orange County Campus, which is also convenient.

Jeff Strickler

Vice President at UNC Hospitals
Head Administrator of Hillsborough Hospital

Durham Tech students gain access to work-based learning scholarships thanks to Wells Fargo

The Wells Fargo Foundation recently granted $10,000 to the Durham Technical Community College Foundation to fund work-based learning scholarships.

The grant will provide 20 scholarships for students in the Career and Technical Education program for the fall 2018 and spring 2019 semesters.

“Work-based learning provides practical work experience and network connections for students. By extending classroom learning with real life experience, students will be more confident and capable as they move out of college and into employment,” said Melissa Chappell, Executive Director of the Durham Tech Foundation.

More than half of the 20 programs in the Career and Technical Education program require students to participate in work-based learning opportunities while other programs list work-based learning as an elective or as part of the individual program’s capstone requirements.

Students often find it difficult to complete work-based learning hours due to other obligations such as their own jobs, family, and course load, according to Chappell. The scholarships will provide stipends to their recipients to help ease any financial burden the recipient may face by trying to complete an unpaid internship while also working to support their schooling and families.

“Wells Fargo is proud to support students on their journey for higher education and professional development,” said Carla Addison, Regional Banking District Manager and Durham Market President for Wells Fargo. “Through continued support of Durham Tech and its students, Wells Fargo is ensuring the next generation of innovators and community leaders have access to the resources they need to be successful.”

To date, Wells Fargo has given Durham Tech $115,000 for work-based learning scholarships which have been awarded to more than 140 students.

More recently, Wells Fargo granted the College $10,000 in summer 2017 for 20 scholarships for the 2017-18 academic year. All scholarships were distributed, and all the recipients finished the required 160 hours of worked-based learning in programs such as Information Technology, Medical Office Administration, Web Development, Network Security, Accounting and Finance, and Biomedical Equipment Technology.

“The College is grateful for Wells Fargo’s commitment to our students,” Chappell said.

Former Durham Tech President Phail Wynn, a titan of higher education, dies Tuesday

Dr. Phail Wynn, Jr.

Editor’s Note: A funeral for Phail Wynn will be held at 11 a.m. Monday, July 30, in Duke Chapel, according to Duke. Doors to the chapel will open at 10 a.m. The service is open to members of the Duke community and the public, according to Duke. Details about parking and traffic can be found at

Former Durham Technical Community College President Phail Wynn, Jr., a titan of higher education in Durham and a lifelong advocate of the city, died suddenly of natural causes at his home Tuesday. He was 70.

The first African American community college president in North Carolina, Dr. Wynn spent nearly three decades as the third president of Durham Tech. He significantly grew the College’s training and instruction in high-technology areas and provided customized training programs to most of the firms in Research Triangle Park.

Following his tenure at Durham Tech, Wynn went on to head a newly created office as the Vice President for Durham and Regional Affairs at Duke University in 2008. He retired in June.

After the news of Wynn’s passing on Tuesday, Durham Tech President Bill Ingram expressed his condolences and his appreciation for the tremendous impact Wynn had on the region.

“I am shocked and deeply saddened by the news of the unexpected passing of my mentor, colleague, and friend, Dr. Phail Wynn, Jr.  Dr. Wynn’s contributions to this community and state are broad and deep,” Dr. Ingram said. “He touched the lives of countless thousands of residents of Durham and the Triangle region through his 27 years as Durham Tech’s third president and over ten years as Duke’s first Vice President for Durham and Regional Affairs.  My thoughts and prayers are with Peggy, Rahsaan, and the Wynn family at this heartbreaking time.”

The flag at Durham Tech was lowered to half-staff on Wednesday in his memory.

Wynn kept close ties to the College and served as the 2018 Spring Commencement keynote speaker in May.

Current and former Durham Tech employees spoke Wednesday morning of Wynn’s great legacy of love for Durham and the surrounding communities.

Angela Perry, a longtime assistant to Wynn, said she was shocked by the news and remembered Wynn as not only a supervisor, but a friend.

Perry said she first started assisting Wynn more than 23 years ago as a student in the President’s Office, but later was hired full-time as executive secretary.

“I was honored. He was one of the greatest people to be around. When I first met him, he was of course very professional and very respectful,” Perry said. “He had that military background, but he was also very fun. He had a genuine concern for others. He had a genuine concern for the students and for what we did for the community.”

Tom Jaynes, Executive Vice President and Chief of Staff at Durham Tech, said Wynn played a profound role during his time at the College.

“Early in my career at Durham Tech, Dr. Wynn saw what I didn’t see in myself – potential for leadership,” Jaynes said. “In the midst of a difficult transition in student services, he asked me to take on my first director role at the college, which set me on a path that led to personal success and, more importantly, instilled a passion for equity and student success.  Dr. Wynn’s influence on my career was immeasurable. I am forever grateful.”

Dorothy Brower, a former colleague of Wynn at Durham Tech, said Wynn was a giant at the College when he took over as president in 1980.

“He was more of a brother than a boss. When he became president, it was really no surprise,” Brower said. “It was an opportunity for us as African Americans to see one of us in a leadership role with community colleges. To us, that was monumental.”

Brower, who was a part-time adult basic education instructor when she met Wynn, said he had a deep caring for the people he worked with on campus.

“We knew of his seriousness,” she said. “Being a Vietnam veteran and an Oklahoma cowboy, he was rough and tough on the edges, but deep down inside he was a big hearted person.”

Many on campus spoke Wednesday of Wynn’s passion for Durham Tech students and graduates.

During his keynote commencement speech in May, Wynn spoke often to the soon-to-be graduates seated inside the Durham Performing Arts Center.

“Each of you has vast amounts of untapped potential that has not been discovered or has not been developed simply because the circumstances of your life have never called them forth,” Wynn said. “You have barely scratched the surface of your deep reservoir of hidden talent.”

Early years

Wynn was born in Wewoka, Oklahoma, and was educated early on in Oklahoma and Wichita Falls, Texas. Wynn was a lifelong believer in higher education, earning his undergraduate at the University of Oklahoma and later a Master’s and doctorate from North Carolina State University.

But between his educational pursuits, Wynn joined the United States Army and honorably served with the 82nd Airborne Division based out of Fort Bragg. He was later assigned to the former John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg. He served a one-year combat tour in Vietnam.

After leaving the Army and completing advanced degrees from the College of Education and Psychology at NC State, Wynn accepted the position of Assistant to the President at then-Durham Technical Institute in 1977. Two years later, he was promoted to Vice President of Support Services at the College. In May 1980, he was appointed Interim President and was named President later that fall.

At 33 years old, he took over leadership at the College. Wynn championed innovations to enhance accessibility of all educational opportunities offered at Durham Tech.  As a result, Durham Tech now serves more than 18,000 area residents each year through a variety of credit and non-credit offerings.

Wynn received a Master of Business Administration from the Kenan-Flagler School of Business at the University of Chapel Hill and was an inductee of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and Betta Gamma Sigma, the national business honor society.


Some of Wynn’s most significant community and professional activities included: Former Chair of the Board of Directors and interim president/CEO of the Triangle Community Foundation, member of the Board of Governors of RTI International, and member of the Corporate Board of Directors of SunTrust Banks, Inc. and N.C. Mutual Life Insurance Company.

He was a founding Trustee of the Kenan Institute for Engineering, Technology and Science at North Carolina State University and also served on the Board of Directors of the Research Triangle Park Foundation of North Carolina. He was the former Chairman of the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce and formerly served on the North Carolina Board of Nursing, the University of North Carolina Health Care System Board of Directors, the North Carolina Education Standards and Accountability Commission, and the Governor’s Task Force on Science and Technology.

Wynn was named by the North Carolina State University Alumni Association as 1981’s Outstanding Young Alumnus. He was honored as one of the country’s outstanding community college presidents in a University of Texas national study of “Transformational” Presidents in American Community Colleges.

The Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce named him as the recipient of its 1995 Civic Honor Award. Governor James B. Hunt, Jr. awarded him The Order of the Long Leaf Pine on November 9, 2000. Wynn received the Meritorious Service Award from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools at the 2000 Annual Meeting. He received the M.B.A. Alumni Merit Award for 2004 from the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC Chapel Hill. He retired as President of Durham Technical Community College on December 31, 2007 and was named President Emeritus by the Board of Trustees. In 2012, the North Carolina Board of Community Colleges presented him with the I. E. Ready Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest distinction bestowed by the State Board.

Wynn is survived by his mother, Valree Fletcher Wynn, his wife, Peggy, and son, Rahsaan.

This article will be updated as new information becomes available.

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Strowd Roses awards Durham Tech $4,000 to support English as a Second Language classes

Strowd Roses, Inc., has granted $4,000 to the Durham Technical Community College Foundation to support English as a Second Language (ESL) courses in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

Durham Tech ESL courses serve adult learners who need to improve their English language skills for daily life and career advancement.

The new funding will help purchase school supplies and books for students who can’t afford these items and instructional materials such as posters and visual aids. The grant was awarded in June.

“We are honored to partner with Strowd Roses to serve and assist students in achieving their academic and professional goals and become active members of the larger community,” said Melissa Chappell, Durham Tech Foundation Executive Director.

Strowd Roses previously provided grant funding to the Durham Tech ESL program in 2015.

“Students and instructors still use supplies purchased from our first grant from Strowd Roses, so we know this year’s funding will have an impact for years to come,” said ESL Program Director Karin Abell.

The ESL classes at Durham Tech are free for the program’s enrolled students.

More than 50 classes are offered in Chapel Hill and Carrboro each year. Students, on average, take between four to 19 course hours a week, according to Abell.

In 2017, 440 residents of Chapel Hill and Carrboro –– hailing from 50 different countries –– attended classes in the ESL program, Abell said.

“Our focus is giving students a welcoming and supportive environment,” Abell said. “While providing crucial linguistic and cultural training, our classes also function as places of multinational friendship and dialogue. This grant helps our students not only advance their own personal aspirations but also cultivate and develop meaningful ties within the community.”

The Durham Tech Foundation is a charitable organization that promotes the current and long-term success of Durham Tech by inspiring charitable investment in its students, faculty, and staff.

For more information about Durham Tech, visit

Strowd Roses is a private charitable foundation that funds local nonprofits and projects that benefit residents of Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Strowd Roses also provides for the ongoing maintenance and care of the Gene Strowd Community Rose Garden, a free and public space in Chapel Hill.

To learn more about Strowd Roses, visit