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SBA district directer Thomas Stith to lead NC community colleges
Charlottean's background in business and education
Published Monday, December 14, 2020 11:00 am
by Herbert L. White

Thomas Stith III of Charlotte is president-elect of the North Carolina Community College system. The Durham native and North Carolina Central University graduate is currently district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The president-elect of North Carolina’s community college system is from Charlotte.

Thomas Stith III, who has two decades of experience in public service and business, will lead the state’s 58 community college system after his election Monday by the State Board of Community Colleges. Stith, 57, is currently district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration, where he has led the federal agency’s response to COVID-19 in North Carolina. Those initiatives have resulted in more than $16 billion in support for small businesses in the state.

Stith, a Durham native and North Carolina Central University graduate, said his goal is to support the colleges’ mission of workforce development and extend affordable education to the state’s residents.

“My vision for the North Carolina Community College System is guided by the principle that education translates into opportunity,” he said in a statement. “The North Carolina Community College System will lead our state’s economic recovery by providing education and training for our diverse population. The system will become a national model for educational excellence.”

Breeden Blackwell, chair of the community college board, cited Stith’s background in business and government will serve the community colleges well when he starts on Jan. 11. Stith succeeds Interim President Dr. William Carver and former President Peter Hans, who became president of the University of North Carolina System in August.

“Thomas Stith is a proven leader with a broad network of relationships in business, education and government in North Carolina,” Blackwell said. “He has the skills and talents to lead our great community college system at a critical time. The colleges will play an essential role in North Carolina’s economic recovery from the pandemic.”

Stith has an extensive background as chief executive of several businesses and consulting firms, including the Michael Thomas Group in Durham, which he founded, and LJP Lab, a toxicology lab and health care consulting company in Kernersville. He was chief of staff to former Gov. Pat McCrory from 2013-17, where he spearheaded initiatives on historically black colleges and universities and Hurricane Matthew recovery. Stith also has experience in electoral politics as a three-term Durham City Council member from 1999-2007.

“Thomas Stith will be a strong leader for North Carolina’s community colleges,” Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said. “His unique business experience and love of all things North Carolina will bring a fresh perspective to the system. The pandemic has shone a bright light on the need for educational opportunities and workforce development — two things our community colleges excel at. I believe Thomas is the right leader to build upon those fundamentals and help mold the next generation of North Carolina’s workforce.”

Stith’s higher education credentials include five years as economic development program director at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the Kenan-Flagler Business School from 2008-13, where he focused on improving economies in eastern North Carolina, securing grants and managing renewable energy projects.

“On behalf of the North Carolina Association of Community College Presidents, I extend our sincere congratulations to Thomas Stith, said Central Piedmont Community College President Kandi Deitemeyer, president of North Carolina Association of Community College Presidents. “We welcome Mr. Stith to the North Carolina Community College System, the best in the country, and look forward to working with him to ensure all 58 colleges continue to thrive and meet their local community workforce needs. He is joining the system at a critical and important time and we look forward to his leadership.”

North Carolina’s community colleges enroll nearly 700,000 students in programs that include associate degrees, four-year university transfers, short-term workforce training, high school dual enrollment, career and technical education and adult basic education.


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