Saturday, July 20, 2024

VPCC: Retiring Spencer Embodies Community Leadership

Dr. Turner Spencer and his wife, Delores, have been involved in many aspects of VPCC. (VPCC)

HAMPTON ROADS — Since the first moment students walked through the doors of Virginia Peninsula Community College (VPCC), Dr. Turner Spencer was there.

From its beginning in 1968, and while the college was known as Thomas Nelson, Spencer made educating students his mission, however, at 88 years of age, Spencer figures it’s about time to step back from any official role with VPCC., the college said.

In his 55 years at the college, Spencer served as a biology professor, department head, professor emeritus, a hiring committee member, and, most recently, as a member of the Educational Foundation at VPCC, which disperses more than $100,000 in scholarships each year.

VPCC said Spencer has tried to step away several times, only to be drawn back.

“Every time I get ready to give it up, someone tells me I’ve got to wait,” Spencer said.

Most recently, that had to do with finding a successor to College President Dr. John Dever. Spencer served on the review committee for current President Dr. Towuanna Porter Brannon, who took over in January 2021.

According to VPCC, Spencer realizes there’s always another project in the works, including new buildings, so if he waited until nothing was going on, he never would leave the college.

“It’s about time for me to give it up,” Spencer said of his role on the Educational Foundation board, which is holding its annual recognition dinner Tuesday, Nov. 14, at the Holiday Inn Newport News.

Brannon said it’s difficult to measure what Spencer, who officially retired from the College in 2001, has meant to VPCC and the community.

“He has impacted so many people’s lives,” Brannon said. “He is just so extraordinary.”

Spencer’s teaching career began in 1961 at Huntington High School in Newport News, where he stayed until joining the college when it opened. He was intrigued with the community college system from the start.

“We had junior colleges and we had institutes, but Virginia started a system called a community college that was new.” Spencer continued, “I got fascinated with the whole idea of what a community college is all about.”

That fascination never waned, in part because he said his teaching role extended beyond the classroom.

“We had to somewhat educate the community and the state as to what a community college is all about,” Spencer said. “When I was an undergrad, there was no such thing as a community college. (The system) wasn’t even developed.”

He said VPCC’s Education Foundation has been his backbone for some years, but he realizes it’s time for one era to end and another to begin.

Dr. Brannon said she is appreciative of what Spencer and his family have done for the college and for her.

“They [the Spencer Family] are incredible. They have given me so much advice and guidance since I’ve been here,” Brannon said. “They are wonderful contributors to the College.”

For more information on the College’s Educational Foundation, visit vpcc.edu.

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