Alumnus of the Month: Bill Cole ’55

May 14, 2015

What is your favorite memory from Lees-McRae College?

I have three favorite memories. The first was my initial arrival on campus. My mom and sister accompanied me to the campus. I went in the bookstore to ask for directions where I was to go for housing as I arrived ten days early on campus for football practice. I went to the office where I met Trula Bennett. She directed me to the old gym where I lived for about ten days until formal classes started.

My first contact with Lees-McRae College was College Day at Durham High School in the spring of 1953. High School classmates had told me about Lees-McRae and I visited with the Lees-McRae table that was staffed by Mr. Paul McEwen. Other than the College Registrar, he was a history instructor and assistant football coach. Mr. McEwen told me that if I wanted to attend Lees-McRae he would find a place for me.

Several months later during a history class in which I was enrolled and taught by Mr. McEwen, I was sitting in a rear seat in the old auditorium. Prior to the end of one class session, Mr. McEwen called to me and said to see him. He said that he wanted me to relocate my seat in his class to the front of the auditorium. He added that I would probably do better by sitting in the front. I moved to the front row of seats for the next class. I recalled making a grade of “B” in his class.

My college relationship with Mr. McEwen continued for about twenty-four years. In the late 1970’s, he sent a letter to me informing me that he planned to retire from his position as Superintendent of the Johnson County (TN) Public Schools. He requested that I do not forget my financial support of the college.

I worked a couple of jobs while at LMC. I worked one school year in the cafeteria. I worked 6 to 8 p.m. My second job was as a leader for a physical education class. At the conclusion of my second year and graduation, I went to the business office to pick up my check. It was for about $250. I remember one of the faculty members present when I received the check that I was a “capitalist." I smiled and departed to my Mom’s car and we departed for Durham.

Can you attribute any of your current success to your time at Lees-McRae College?

The overall experience at LMC gave me a foundation on which to build my personal and professional life. Instructors who had an influence on me were Miss Agnes Stokes, Mr. Paul McEwen, Mr. Clyde Day and Coach Dickerson. LMC gave me the support that I needed to focus on the future.

Why do you feel it is important to give back to LMC?

The importance of giving back to the College is not always realized until one or more decades have passed after graduation. Many students forget that they may have received a scholarship on grant-in-aid. Opportunities may have been available to work part-time on campus. Many of these opportunities or gifts are not initially recognized. As we grow older, we ask where would we be without attending LMC?

What are you currently doing?  

I have started my sixth year of retirement. I worked twenty-six years as a Public Health Advisor for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. My second career was for twenty-five years as a Health Management Consultant. I served two years in the Navy aboard the Aircraft Carrier ‘The USS Lake Champlain’ (CVA-39). I am an avid traveler as I have visited all of the fifty states, five Canadian provinces and over twenty-five foreign countries. I live in my hometown of Durham, NC. In retirement, I have written a book about my thirteen years of federal work experiences. The book “Recollections” is available via the link I am a fifty year member of the Masons, Shriners and Kiwanis Club.

What advice would you give to current LMC students?

Pursue your dreams so that you will not have any regrets late in life. Coupled with following your dreams is completing your education at LMC and beyond. Developing a vision about achieving personal and profession goals is paramount. Be the best that you can be. Developing a balance in family, professional life and as a spiritual being should be a goal. Do not stray or trade what you want to achieve. Do not squander your life and be happy about your achievements.    

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