BOONE—Three Appalachian State University graduates whose careers have helped change the lives of countless students were inducted into the Reich College of Education’s Rhododendron Society during ceremonies held July 12 at the college.
Honorees for 2014 are Dr. Jerry E. McGee of Monroe, president of Wingate University, Dr. Michael H. Palmer of Durham, a retired Louisburg College educator, and J. Warren Taylor of Sparta retired Alleghany High School teacher and community servant.
Established in 1999, the Rhododendron Society recognizes exemplary service to education and community. It is the highest honor awarded by Appalachian’s Reich College of Education.
Jerry E. McGee
The longest-tenured president in Wingate University’s history, Jerry McGee is credited with transforming the university campus during his tenure and helping expand Union County’s economy.
McGee earned a Master of Arts degree from Appalachian in 1974 and an Ed.D. in 1979 from Nova Southeastern University. His undergraduate degree is from East Carolina University.
He entered the field of higher education in 1975 as executive assistant to the president at Gardner-Webb University. He was vice president of institutional advancement at Meredith College from 1980-87 and vice president for development at Furman University from 1987-92 before being named president of Wingate. McGee will retire from Wingate in May 2015.
Under his leadership, Wingate achieved university status, student enrollment nearly tripled, and academic programs were added in pharmacy, nursing, physician assistant studies and physical therapy. The university began offering three doctoral-level degrees in pharmacy, physical therapy and education.
The campus added more than $75 million in new facilities on its main campus and expanded its academic reach by opening campuses in Charlotte and Hendersonville.
Other highlights including the 2011 opening of the Levine College of Health Sciences building, which houses the School of Pharmacy and Department of Physician Assistants Studies, and the 1999 opening of the 44,000-square foot George A. Batte Jr. Fine Arts Center, which provides two venues for cultural arts performances and other presentations on campus. Irwin Belk Stadium, completed in fall 1998, and Irwin Belk Track, dedicated in 2013, provide an enhanced experience for student-athletes and fans of Bulldogs athletics.
An accomplished fundraiser, McGee established the Office of Planned Giving and has helped lead the university’s $100 million capital campaign.
McGee is a recipient of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the state’s most prestigious award presented to individuals who have rendered exemplary service to the citizens of North Carolina. He also is a member of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.
Michael H. Palmer
Michael H. Palmer epitomizes the life-long learner, and during his career he nurtured others’ love for education and learning.
Palmer earned a bachelor’s degree in English from UNC Chapel Hill in 1954. While teaching at Gamewell High School in Lenoir, he enrolled at Appalachian and earned a master’s degree in English and American literature in 1960. The degree gave him access to teaching at the collegiate level, first at Gardner Webb College, now Gardner Webb University, where he taught for two years.
Palmer’s love for education and teaching spurred him to continue his educational development, earning graduate credits at Duke University, N.C. State University and UNC Chapel Hill.
After serving for two years as director of the academically talented program in English at Northern High School in Durham, he joined the faculty in Louisburg College’s Department of English in 1965, serving as department chair from 1978-86. He retired from the college in 1997.
While at Louisburg, he enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education, graduating in 1975.
During his career, Palmer was awarded two Fulbright scholarships – one for study in India and one for study in Mexico and Central America. He also received two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
A prolific researcher, Palmer has presented or published more than 100 scholarly papers, chaired sessions at professional conferences, and served on more than 20 professional organizations, including the American Culture Association, Conference on College Composition and Communication, and Popular Culture Association in the South.
Following retirement from Louisburg, Palmer taught inmates at Butner Federal Correctional Complex for 15 years.
Palmer also served as an adjunct instructor at N.C. Wesleyan College, Pfeiffer University, Campbell University, Hardbarger Junior College of Business, community colleges in Nash, Wake, Vance and Granville counties, and has served as a consultant to and conducted workshops for public school language arts groups.
He received the Teacher of the Year Award from Louisburg College in 1978 and 1979. He was inducted into the Caldwell County Schools Hall of Fame in 2011.
J. Warren Taylor
J. Warren Taylor has devoted his life to serving others through education and community involvement.
After graduating from Appalachian in 1971, he began a 31-year career at Alleghany High School where he taught mathematics and physics. He continued his education by earning a master’s degree in mathematics from Appalachian in 1983. He was named Alleghany County Teacher of the Year in 1987.
While at Alleghany High School, Taylor initiated advanced math and computer technology programs for calculus students. He also served as the safety director for the Alleghany County School System from 1975-93.
A consummate educator and valued colleague, Taylor helped advance his skills by participating in summer programs and conferences focused on mathematics and other topics and sharing his newfound knowledge with others.
Taylor’s community service has touched the lives of many in Alleghany County. He was elected county commissioner in 1986, a seat he held until 1992, and was elected to serve again from 2000-08. As commissioner, he also served on the board of the Appalachian District Health Department.
In 1985 he was appointed to the Blue Ridge Electric Aware Committee, a post he held until 1999. He has been a member of the Alleghany Memorial Hospital Board of Directors since 1998 and currently chairs the board. He also has been a member of the Northwest Regional Educational Services Alliance since 1998, and the Blue Ridge Energies Community Leaders Council, which he currently chairs, and the BB&T Alleghany Advisory Board, both since 1999. He currently serves on the Alleghany Educational Foundation.
Warren participated in the Emerging Issues Conference in Raleigh in 1990, and in 1994 he helped design a learning-centered assessment for the N.C. Department of Education Standards and Accountability Commission. He is a former president of the Alleghany County N.C. Association of Educators and is active with the North Carolina Retired School Personnel.
Taylor has taught at the Wilkes Community College satellite campus since 2002.