Western Piedmont Community College has had five presidents during its history. We invite you to learn more about each president and their service to the college.
Dr. Stallworth began his duties as President of Western Piedmont Community College on October 5, 1964. He stated “It would be my purpose and expectation to build a community college of distinction, which would merit the attention and approval of the higher education community.” Born January 1, 1923 in Alabama, Dr. Stallworth served in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II, and received his B.A., Master’s, and Doctorate (1951) in Education from the University of Florida. He then served as a supervising principal in public schools, associate professor of government and history, coordinator of student recruitment at Jacksonville Junior College, and Dean of Administration at the then newly established Dade County Junior College. Dr. Stallworth had also previously served on numerous Florida State advisory committees focusing on adult education, public secondary and higher education, and continuing studies. He had responsibility for coordinating implementation of the Higher Education Facilities Act of 1963 in Florida. He was serving as assistant director of the Florida Board of Control, which administers that state’s university system when he answered the call to serve as the first President of Western Piedmont Community College. Dr. Stallworth was at the helm when Western Piedmont offered its first classes at the old Central High School building, in the basement of A&P Food store, and at the old First Baptist Church Building. After establishing a strong foundation of academic integrity, student engagement, and community involvement for the fledgling community college, Dr. Herbert F. Stallworth left Western Piedmont in 1967 to accept a Presidential appointment at College of the Mainland in Texas.
Dr. Blank was confirmed President of Western Piedmont Community College in August of 1967, after serving as acting President, following the resignation of Dr. Herbert F. Stallworth, in March of the same year. Gordon Blank began his tenure at Western Piedmont as Dean of Instruction, in February 1965. He was previously a professor at Indiana State University. Dr. Blank was born in Baltimore, MD, and received his Bachelor of Science degree from Towson State College in 1952, after which he served as a naval officer in the Far East during the Korean War. He next taught in the Baltimore school system, after which he went to the University of Miami, receiving his Masters degree in 1956. He taught a year with the American Dependent School program in Mildenhall, England and from 1958 to 1962 worked as instructor and program supervisor at Indiana University, from which he received his doctoral degree in Education, in 1962. Dr. Blank authored a number of professional journal articles and publications and was a member of various national- level committees and commissions. Under his watch, Western Piedmont relocated to its new 132 acre campus adjacent to I-40, awarded its first degrees, and, in June, 1968, achieved full accreditation status from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Dr. Gordon Blank left Western Piedmont in 1978 to become President of Adirondack Community College in Glen Falls, NY.
Dr. Droze assumed the presidency of Western Piedmont Community College on July 1, 1979, previously having served as provost of Texas Woman’s University. After serving in the Army in WWII, from 1943 – 1946, he received his B.S. degree in secondary education (1949) and M.S. degree in American History (1950) from North Texas State University. A Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University followed in 1960. Dr. Droze had previously served as the state librarian and archivist of Tennessee, resident scholar for the Board of Engineers for Rivers and Harbors, Washington, DC, associate professor at state universities in Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma, and as an assistant professor of History at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. In addition to his career as an educator, Wilmon Droze, a Charleston, SC native (b. 1924), was also a historical researcher and writer, author of such books as “Essays on the New Deal.” and “Trees, Prairies, and People.” He published a number of books and articles about his research on resource management and conservation activities of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Board of Engineers for Rivers and Harbors, and the U.S. Forest Service. He held numerous professional memberships and honors, as well as a number of community and professional leadership positions. Dr. Droze, serving as president of WPCC from 1979 to 1981, expanded educational programs, including those for the hearing-impaired and the handicapped, increased enrollment, and established an athletic program.
Dr. Wilmon H. Droze died on January 17, 1994, in Watkinsville, Ga., at the age of 69.
Dr. Richardson was hired in August 1980 as Vice President for Academic Affairs for Western Piedmont Community College. He was appointed acting President, in June 1981, after the resignation of Dr. Wilmon H. Droze, and was officially named President in September 1981. Dr. Richardson previously worked for the N.C. Department of Community Colleges as coordinator for institutional evaluation. In this capacity, he had visited WPCC three times on accreditation visits. Born in North Wilkesboro, Dr. Richardson attended Appalachian State University on a basketball scholarship and then returned to North Wilkesboro to teach. He later coached basketball at Isothermal Community College, taught in Naples, FL, and taught at Peay State University in Clarksville, TN. He earned his Master’s degree at East Tennessee State and Doctoral degree at Duke University. During his presidency at WPCC, from 1981 to retirement in 2005, Dr. Richardson expanded curriculum programs, developed strategic planning in all divisions, expanded the campus facilities, hosted several dignitaries, including three North Carolina governors, and helped celebrate the college’s twentieth and twenty-fifth anniversaries.
Dr. Jim W. Burnett became the fifth president of Western Piedmont Community College in January 2006. He previously served as the college’s Vice President for Academic Affairs for six years. Burnett joined the college’s staff in 1973 as the Coordinator of Veterans Affairs and went on to serve in various positions within the college, including Dean of Student Services, Registrar, and adjunct business instructor.
Faculty, staff, students, and trustees are proud that Dr. Burnett is an alumnus of Western Piedmont.
He graduated from WPCC in 1974 with an associate degree in business administration after serving in the United States Army during the Vietnam War. Burnett was honored as Alumnus of the Year in 2001.
As President, Dr. Burnett focused on leading the college’s efforts to be student learning centered, fundraising for new facilities and programs, and partnering with various community agencies to strengthen Burke County’s economy.
Dr. Burnett earned a Doctorate of Education from East Tennessee State University in Education Leadership and Policy Analysis. He earned the degrees of Education Specialist in Community College Administration, Master of Arts in Education, and Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Western Carolina University.
Dr. Burnett is married to June Burnett, who works for Bank of America. The couple has one daughter, Jennifer Garrison, who resides with her husband James in Clemmons, and two grandsons.
Upon his retirement, Dr. Burnett was bestowed President Emeritus status at the College as well as the NC Governor’s Order of the Long Leaf Pine award.
The second of four children from a military family, Dr. Helmick lived in four states and three different countries by the time his family settled permanently in central Florida while he was in the second grade. Dr. Helmick graduated from Lakeland High School in Lakeland, Florida and earned his Associate’s Degree from the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida. After earning his AA degree he transferred to the University of West Florida where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Industrial Arts Education. He spent several years in the workforce, then went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Technology and a Doctorate in Higher Education and Policy Analysis from East Tennessee State University. His teaching background in K-12 settings, coupled with his experience in industry and small business have prepared him for the various positions he has held in community colleges for the past 18 years. These positions run the gamut from instructor, to industrial training coordinator, to Dean, to Vice President and finally President.
Dr. Helmick is married to Dr. Melinda Davis, a college professor who teaches education courses at the under graduate and graduate level. Dr. Davis and Dr. Helmick have three grown children, Whitney, Arielle, and Lydia, as well as two grandchildren, Hannah and Amelia. Dr. Helmick and Dr. Davis live in Morganton, NC. Hobbies for the couple include woodworking and water sports for Dr. Helmick, and painting and music for Dr. Davis.
Dr. Helmick feels that education is for everyone and feels that the community college is the best place for students who are seeking a relevant and meaningful higher education experience. Having previously served as the Vice President for Academic Affairs at WPCC, Dr. Helmick is thrilled to return to Western North Carolina. He plans to help the College grow by exploring innovative programming, and increasing the College’s efforts to help educate a local workforce that will serve the needs of the community.