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Sandhills Community College President Set to Retire After 33 Years

After 33 years at the helm of Sandhills Community College, President John Dempsey, with the approval of the Board of Trustees, has decided to retire on December 31, 2022.

Since 1974, John R. Dempsey has devoted his life to education – as a professor and dean at The College of Charleston (SC), then as President of Belmont Abbey College (NC). In 1989, Dempsey was selected as Sandhills’ second President. He has served for more than three decades for the betterment of students, employees, and the community.

George Little, the long-serving SCC Board Chair notes, “When we hired John Dempsey in 1989, we quickly discovered that we had picked an extraordinary leader with amazing fundraising experience. In a college with only three board chairs and two presidents in its almost sixty-year existence, Dr. Dempsey has been led in his efforts by a Board of Trustees of exceptional quality. John was the man who led this college to new heights and national stature.”

Dempsey’s efforts have allowed SCC to grow from a seven-building campus to a twenty-building campus across two counties. Workforce training and university preparedness under his leadership now include nursing, engineering, childhood education, law enforcement, and training in a host of other professions.

Relationship-building is the hallmark of visionary leadership, and Dempsey has consistently inspired innovation through scholarship, philanthropy, and community engagement – all to promote lifelong learning and enriched human experience. His innovative approaches to fundraising have allowed SCC to achieve philanthropic support unprecedented in a community college – and to invest them at a pace that has consistently outperformed averages for community colleges and universities throughout the country.

With George Little as the Board’s Chair for the past forty years (recipient of The Association of Community College Trustee 2021 Southern Region Trustee Leadership Award), board members do not hesitate to provide leadership and vision to the college’s work without involving themselves in the internal workings of the college. It is the partnership between Dempsey and his Board that has made Sandhills the exceptional community college that it is. Little remarks, “John has been an exemplary leader for the college. We have worked so well together to see that this college is poised to continue to be a beacon of educational success in the decades to come.”

Dempsey often comments that the real work of the college is carried out by its faculty and staff. He has, therefore, worked tirelessly to help improve the economic circumstances of the faculty, staff, and the Hoke County and Moore County communities he has served. He and the college employees have created a range of educational and personal development opportunities perhaps unprecedented in American higher education—all while engaging the community the college serves. As Board Vice Chair Larry Caddell says, “Through constancy in Board commitment and Dr. Dempsey’s unwavering dedication to our citizens, Sandhills has grown to be a premier college – a model of both campus beauty and educational programs.”

Students at Sandhills enjoy access to scholarships and support programs, ensuring they can get a degree without incurring education-related debt. That has long been the dream of the college’s Trustees, and the Directors of the SCC Foundation have made it possible. Little notes, “Seldom has a man of Dr. Dempsey’s role achieved so much for the betterment of a community. He has left a living legacy of philanthropic fundraising that has provided an opportunity for countless individuals.”

Dempsey’s presidency has enriched the lives of students, faculty, staff, and community members of Moore County and Hoke County in innumerable ways. He will be missed by those who have worked for him, the Board of Trustees, and the community he has so faithfully served.

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