February 7, 2018 – Dr Mary Rittling, president of Davidson County Community College (DCCC) since 2003, will retire at the end of 2018, the college board of trustees has announced. She is only the third president in DCCC’s 55-year history.
Rittling’s 15-year tenure has been a period of remarkable growth for DCCC, ranging from program expansion and physical growth to a variety of national accomplishments and accolades.
“Mary Rittling is a leader like I’ve never seen before,” said Ken White, chair of the college board of trustees. “DCCC has soared to incredible heights under her leadership, and I know I speak for the entire board of trustees when I say we will miss her tremendously. But her legacy won’t fade … she’s taught everyone connected to DCCC how to think, dream, and pursue opportunities in new ways, and DCCC will forever benefit.”
In a note to campus on Wednesday morning, Rittling called her time at DCCC the highlight of her career and shared her wish that she could be president forever. However, she went on, now is the time to dedicate her life to her daughters, grandchildren, and husband of forty-five years, Jim.
During her time at DCCC, Rittling has been known for her focus on students and her efforts to shape initiatives around what is best for them, with regular reminders to faculty and staff to keep students at the center of all they do. As a result, students comment regularly on DCCC’s supportive employees and their commitment to helping all students succeed. From being called a “home away from home” to “one of the best decisions I ever made,” DCCC has gained a reputation for its student-centered approach and high student satisfaction.
Life outside the classroom has been one of Rittling’s priorities because of her belief in the importance of the whole college experience. She brought back athletics in the form of men’s basketball and women’s volleyball while at the same time promoting student clubs and other extracurricular opportunities.
Since 2003, academic programs also have evolved to ensure that students enter the workforce with 21st-century knowledge. In addition to building a robust transfer program, Rittling has overseen the addition of programs in advanced manufacturing and allied health. DCCC also is one of the few community colleges nationally to have a zoo and aquarium science program. Dental assisting will make its debut next year. Both the Davidson and Davie campuses are home to a successful Early College high school program; DCCC also partners with the Yadkin Valley Career Academy. Recent federal grant initiatives by DCCC have led to the establishment of Talent Search and Upward Bound programs within local K-12 systems.
DCCC has become a leader locally, regionally, across the state, and nationwide, participating in prestigious national initiatives such as Achieving the Dream and Completion by Design. Rittling herself has served on the national boards for the American Association of Community Colleges and Community Colleges for International Development while also being involved with the Aspen Institute, Jobs for the Future, and various initiatives with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Rittling has prioritized international education during her time at DCCC. Each year, visiting international scholars and students bring new perspectives to campus and offer local students a lens to view the larger world. Study abroad opportunities allow students to travel beyond the United States. In 2017, DCCC was named a national leader by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for its success with the Fulbright Scholar program. That same year, Rittling herself was named a Fulbright Scholar, traveling to India to learn about the country’s educational system and then sharing her experiences upon her return home.
The physical footprint of DCCC has seen tremendous growth since Rittling took the helm. The Uptown Lexington Education Center opened in 2004, the Thomasville Education Center in 2005, and the Davie Education Center in Bermuda Run in 2008. On the Davidson Campus, the Conference Center opened in 2009, the Transportation Technology Building in 2010, and the East Carolina University dental clinic in 2014; the new Sarah and Edward Smith Health Sciences Center will open later this year. On the Davie Campus, major expansion and renovation took place in 2008, and in 2012, an addition to the Gantt Building completed the Davie County Early College building project. Starting in 2015, through a partnership with Wake Forest Baptist Health and Davie County, DCCC began using the former Davie County Hospital for new programs in the health sciences, becoming one of the only community colleges to have access to real-life hospital space for daily classroom experiences.
Rittling also has been a champion of planning for future development. A gift of 183 acres of land to DCCC’s Foundation in 2009 led Rittling and Foundation leaders to begin conversations about physical expansion in the future. The highway improvement project that is critical to these efforts is underway now through the N.C. Dept. of Transportation. The assets of the DCCC Foundation have quadrupled under Rittling’s leadership of DCCC, driven in part by a 2011 estate gift believed to be the largest ever made to a North Carolina community college.
During the college’s yearlong 50th Anniversary celebration in 2013, DCCC’s conference center was named for Rittling. Trustee Beth Parrott noted at the time that it was fitting to name the center — which routinely draws members of the community to various events and gatherings — after a person “who has always said community is the most important word in the college’s name.”
DCCC’s board of trustees will lead the national search for the college’s next president.
Dr. Mary E. Rittling