PENDLETON --- Tri-County Technical College Commissioner John Powell learned today (June 1) that he is the recipient of the 2020 South Carolina Association of Technical College Commissioners (SCATCC) Trustee Leadership Award. The award honors an individual who has made significant contributions to promote the technical or community college concept.
Commission Chair Al Young surprised Powell when he made the announcement at the beginning of the June 1 virtual meeting.
Powell is a champion and role model for technical college education. A 1972 graduate of Tri-County, he is the second alumnus in the College’s history to serve on its governing board. He has represented Oconee County since 2010 and served as chairman from 2017 until this year.
“If John Powell had not come to Tri-County Technical College, our college may not be what it is today,” said Young. “He truly lives our vision.”
Garvin Barker, a member of the State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education, echoed Young’s sentiments during a zoom call. “The impact you have had on Tri-County and the impact that has had on so many students’ lives is something you should be proud of. This is a well-deserved recognition,” said Barker.
The College has nominated Powell for the American Association of Community College (AACC) Trustees Leadership award. ACCT’s awards program is designed to recognize and honor outstanding community college trustees, equity programs, presidents, faculty members and professional board staff members at regional and national levels.
“Tri-County Technical College has been a vehicle not only for me, but all graduates, to excel in our lives and our workplaces. Tri-County helps people to understand what their potential in life is and to achieve it. The College believes in the future of its students and is dedicated to helping them to reach their goals in life,” said Powell.
Powell unselfishly gives his time, efforts, and expertise to support initiatives that promote student success, said Young. A founder and longtime member of the College’s Business Technology Advisory Committee, he provides input into the curriculum to ensure relevancy in today's ever-changing work environment.
A longtime activist in his community, as well as state and local government affairs, Powell says his goal is to change lives. He is most proud of his work with the Education Foundation of Oconee County to establish a Backpack Lunch Program that addresses an educational barrier -- child poverty. The Backpack Lunch Program provides elementary school children from low-income families with nutritious food to take home over the weekend for the days they do not have access to free and reduced-price breakfasts and lunches.
Powell served as co-chair for Oconee County’s capital campaign committee to raise money for the Safe Harbor home, a domestic violence shelter for battered women and children. As a local realtor in Oconee County, he spearheaded the fundraising drive in 2012 that raised $1.3 million in 16 months, leaving them with remaining funds for about three more years of operating expenses. Powell helped the group to secure the house and presided over the ceremony when the house opened in 2014.
He also chaired a capital campaign to build a homeless shelter for the growing population of temporary homeless individuals in Oconee County. Our Daily Rest, a transitional home for the homeless, opened in summer 2009 and continues to help individuals transition to successful independent living.
Giving back to the community is key to Powell so he never hesitates to step forward. “I believe that you’ve got to be involved in everything if you want to make a difference,” he says.
In 2012 the Oconee Chamber of Commerce honored him with the Duke Energy Citizenship and Service Award.
He currently serves on the Business Education Industry Partnership Organization in Oconee County. Other past and present public service affiliations include: Salvation Army Advisory Board (2011); member of Oconee Alliance (current); Board of Directors, Table Rock Retreat Center (2009); appointed to State Disabilities and Special Needs Board (2008); elected to the Oconee Medical Center Board of Directors in 1992 and served as chairman from 1995 – 1998 and chaired the Hospital’s Building Committee; former chairman of Oconee County School Task Force which resulted in $46 million in school improvements (1995); past president of Seneca Sertoma Club; past president of Walhalla Chamber of Commerce; past president of Tri-County Board of Realtors and was named Realtor of the Year in 1989; served two terms on Walhalla City Council; served on Oconee County School Task Force and was chairman of the Walhalla High School Advisory Committee; and president of Subways of the Upstate, which supports the Terrific Kids program; Ministry Men of Oconee County.
One of the Tri-County Commission’s strategic goals is to focus on creating a transformative experience for each student at the College. Powell can often be found telling the Tri-County story to legislators as well as people in his own community.
As an alumnus of Tri-County, Powell is one of the College’s biggest cheerleaders – he says he loves to tell his Tri-County story of how he went from an apathetic college student who dropped out of a local private university to enroll at Tri-County, where he was motivated by a caring instructor and consequently became interested in and energized by learning. He served as president of the student government body and by age 20 was known as an effective student leader. Powell graduated in 1972 with a degree in business technology/marketing and a strong desire to spread the word about a college which gave him career direction.
“That’s what makes Tri-County special. Instructors care about their students and are interested in helping them to get good jobs. It’s no different than when I was a student in the early 1970’s. You’re a name, not a number,” said Powell, who owns and operates Powell Real Estate in Oconee County.
Since joining the Commission, he has served two terms as vice chair and has been active on various board committees, including the Strategic Planning, Building, and Finance Committees.
For as long as he can remember, Powell says he had a vision for a community campus for the citizens of Oconee County. Acknowledging that driving a half hour or more to the main campus can be a deterrent to enrollment, locating a campus in the heart of Oconee County became more important than ever.
As past chair of the Commission’s Building Committee, he worked tirelessly with legislators and local county council representatives to make the Oconee Campus a reality.
It was one of Powell’s proudest moment as a commissioner and an alumnus when in August 2018, he joined college officials and local dignitaries in cutting a ribbon to celebrate the opening of the long-awaited Oconee Campus. He and commissioners worked with College administration and Oconee County partners to co-locate an Oconee Campus of Tri-County Technical College, a new Career Center for high school students set to open this fall, and industry. The result was a unique center for technical education, work-based learning and economic development. The project is a partnership between Tri-County Technical College, the School District of Oconee County and Oconee County
In 2009 Powell received the College’s Distinguished Alumni Award, which highlights his dedication to his alma mater. The recipient of this award must have been awarded a degree, diploma or certificate from Tri-County; must have graduated at least one year ago; and must have made significant contributions to the College, the Alumni Association or the community.
During his tenure as president of the Alumni Association, he helped to organize the first annual golf tournament in 1987 which continued for years with proceeds from tournaments enabling the Alumni Association to endow two scholarships through the College's Foundation, to make professional development opportunities available to faculty and staff, to name a room at the Anderson Campus and to award scholarships to students.
Since graduating, Powell has maintained a close connection to the College and continuing to spread the word about a college that offered exactly what he was interested in – practical experience combined with classroom knowledge.
He was the first alumnus to serve on the College’s Foundation Board (1987 – 94) and currently serves as an ex-officio member. He was the Alumni Association’s second president, and is a longtime member of the Business Technology Advisory Committee (since 1980).
“Had I not gone to Tri-County, my life would have been very different,” he says.
About Tri-County Technical College
Tri-County Technical College, a public two-year community and technical college serving Anderson, Oconee and Pickens Counties in South Carolina, enrolls more than 9,000 students annually and offers more than 70 major fields of study,