Monthly Archives: July 2018

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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Little Free Libraries debut on three Durham Tech campuses, build community

Karen McPhaul, Senior Director of Instructional Technologies at Durham Tech, explores the first set of books donated to the new Little Free Library on main campus.

No library cards or late fees apply.

Students changing classes on three Durham Tech campuses may have noticed bright, new additions to their walk in recent weeks. In mid-June, Little Free Libraries opened their handcrafted doors to students, faculty, staff, and the community at large.

“Our hope is that everyone will be curious about the colorful libraries and the books within them,” said Julie Humphrey, Director of the Durham Tech Library. “Little Free Libraries promote the joy of reading, lifelong learning, and sharing.”

A unique facet to this project is that all three libraries were 100 percent built and designed by Durham Tech students. In March, students in Carpentry II were divided into three groups to design and build a little library to polish their woodworking skills and ultimately contribute to a sense of community on campus.

“I was so happy to hear about this project because it’s going to help the community as well as give us some skills,” said Ityra Robinson, student in Carpentry II. “I know my kids will be coming to Durham Tech one day so it’ll be great to point out the library and say, ‘Your mother helped make that!’”

After completing construction of the libraries, they were transferred across campus to the art studio where Durham Tech Fine Arts students donated their time between classes to paint three unique, original designs.

“I love that the libraries showcase our students’ talents and craftsmanship,” Humphrey said. “They are colorful, bright, cheerful, and welcoming — and celebrate creativity, the arts, and building trades.”

The Little Free Libraries movement began in 2009 when Todd Bol of Wisconsin built a wooden one room schoolhouse, filled it with books, and installed it in his front yard to pay tribute to his mother – a teacher who loved to read. The movement quickly grew and today there are more than 60,000 libraries worldwide.

“It’s very rewarding to be a part of a grassroots movement to encourage reading and literacy,” Humphrey said. “We hope members of the campus community take a book, read it, and pass it along to a family member, friend, or colleague, and eventually return it to the library.”

Funding from the Durham Tech Foundation helped offset the cost of supplies to make this project possible and book donations were collected from faculty and staff as starter books for each library. Donations will be accepted on an ongoing basis and can be dropped off at the library of each campus during normal operating hours.

The libraries are located on Durham Tech Main Campus, Orange County Campus, and Northern Durham Center.

“These libraries celebrate serendipity and the fun of discovering a new author, story, recipe, or idea,” Humphrey said. “You never know what you’ll find at the library on a particular day.”

Take a book, leave a book.

Enjoy these highlights of the little libraries from beginning to the end!

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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

July Farewells

Durham Tech bids farewell and best wishes to the following employees:

Cynthia Davis – Program Specialist, Continuing Education
Heather Aloor – Instructor/Coordinator, Biology Labs
Scott Vratarich – Director, Hospitality Management
Christine Dove – Instructor, Sociology

Let’s celebrate July anniversaries and birthdays!

July Anniversaries (Years)

Hyacinth Ingram (26); Cynthia Davis (19); Janice Stuart (19); Santosh Shonek (19); Sue Cheng (19); Melissa Ockert (18); Elizabeth Payne (13); Wanda Sutton (12); Patrick Hines (11); Tracy Bennett (10); Deidre Lancaster (8); Jacquelyn McKeithan-Foster (8); Karen Mosley-Lyon (8); Charles Farrow (8); Clara Hawley (8); Lynn Unsworth (7); Marshall Fuller (7); Heidi White (6); Jessica Vaughan (6); Pam Krakow (6); Toni Brown (5); Cecil Outlaw (3); Dawn Brittain (3); Justin Bordeaux (3); Leslie Scott (3); Tayonda Saunders (3); Jes Dormady (3); Patrick Morris (2); Christy Walker (2); Maryah Smith-Overman (2); Jessica Orio (1)

July Birthdays (Day)

Darlene Covington-Brown (1); Johanna Brown (2); Jonathan Cook (2); William Schuck (3); Tammy Nelson (4); Shavon Williams (5); Vickie Hickman (6); Nate Smith (7); Dorothy Wood (9); Sasha Afanador (9); Danyece Allen (12); Scott Stauble (13); Karin Abell (14); Patricia Gould (15); Steve Kerrigan (16); Naomi Feaste (18); Bonnie Tilson (18); Clara Hawley (18); Tim Postell (18); Theresa McLaurin (18); Margaret Memory (19); Herman Taylor (19); Melissa Mitchell (19); Thomas Magrinat (20); Burnice Parker (26); Jim DePalma (26); Gabby McCutchen (26); Stephanie Turner (26); Marina DelVecchio (27); Dawn Tevepaugh (28); JaNel Moore (28); Emma Borynski (30); Sherron McDonald (30); Ashley Hodges (30); Linda Chalmers (31); Meredith Lewis (31)