SCC’s John Dempsey has considered himself among the world’s luckiest people since he stepped into the president’s office in 1989. Though he didn’t know much about community colleges at the time, Dempsey quickly fell in love with SCC’s community relationship, faculty, and students who allowed him the chance to make a difference. Case in point: the Sandhills Promise, which allows area high school grads (who meet set criteria) to attend the college for free.
“Many of the folks who come here are folks upon whom the fates have not always smiled,” he says. “You learn just how important the work you do is, because the community college is about 70 percent education and 30 percent social work.”
Dempsey’s opinions, from support of allowing admission of undocumented immigrants to digging in his heels when the state implemented the HB2 “bathroom bill,” are as notorious as his campus-wide April Fool’s jokes. Both are gutsy considering he works at the pleasure of the SCC Board of Trustees, whose chair George Little is a staunch Republican and one of Dempsey’s best friends.
“We don’t let partisan politics, of any sort, ever interfere with the mission of this college, which is to help make people’s lives better,” Dempsey says. “I think if you demonize people who feel differently than you do, then you kind of miss the point. The things that divide us are not as important as the things that unite us.”