Merton H. Branson (1922-1992) and J. W. “Willie” Plummer (1918-1997)
Merton H. Branson
Merton H. Branson became the first associate director of the Randolph Industrial Education Center on May 31, 1962. A native of Ramseur, N.C., he was a World War II veteran, having served in the U.S. Army, and graduated from Asheboro High School in 1947. After two years at High Point College and one year in the Law School at UNC Chapel-Hill, he transferred to the School of Education and received his A.B. degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his M.Ed. in Industrial Education from North Carolina State University. He was a member of the Asheboro Rotary Club and Lions Club.
He taught social studies, coached baseball and junior varsity football, and was the coordinator of vocational education at Asheboro High School from 1951-1962. As the Diversified Occupations coordinator, Branson was given the task of conducting the initial survey of area businesses and industries to document the need for an Industrial Education Center in 1958-1959.
As the associate director, Branson helped to hire instructors, interview students, and publicize the school in its early years. He became director of the center on January 1, 1964, and his title was changed to president in 1965, a title he retained until his retirement on July 1, 1988.
During Branson's tenure, the school went through four name changes: Randolph Industrial Education Center, Randolph Technical Institute, Randolph Technical College, and Randolph Community College. During Branson's presidency, enrollment increased from fewer than 200 curriculum students to more than 1,700 in curriculum programs each year and another 7,700 in continuing education, adult education and industry training programs. The Randolph Industrial Education Center also became the first school in the N.C. Community College System to intiate a Learning Lab in 1964. Branson expanded the curriculum during his tenure and many, many programs were added during his 24 years as president. Some of those many programs which are still offered are Interior Design, Photography, Advertising and Graphic Design, Associate Degree Nursing, Business Administration, and Autobody Repair. The College's Adult Basic Education and Continuing Education divisions were developed during Branson's presidency. In addition, the first college transfer courses were offered in June 1970 through the UNC-G Extension program.
The school received its charter from the State Board of Education and was accredited by the State Board and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The college's Foundation was also established during his tenure and Branson served on the Foundation Board of Directors for 9 years. Six major facilities were constructed during Branson's presidency. The original Administration/Education Center was expanded significantly in 1968 and 1974. In 1978, a bond issue (2.5 million dollars) was approved by the voters of Randolph County and a Vocational-Technical Center, Learning Resources Center and Student Services Center were constructed. A former industrial building became the College's Design Center in 1984. The M. H. Branson scholarship was established by Eveready Battery Company and Asheboro Builders’ Supply in 1986 through the RCC Foundation. This scholarship was fully funded through donations received, in his honor, from fellow educators and friends when he retired from RCC. This scholarship still honors him annually by awarding a scholarship to a deserving student at RCC.
A Business Education Center, which was named in Branson's memory in February 1996, was completed just before he retired in 1988. And the College also opened a Small Business Center within the Asheboro Chamber of Commerce in 1985 and an Archdale Extension office on Trindale Road in 1984.
When the school opened for students on September 4, 1962, 75 students were enrolled. Branson's leadership transitioned the school from an Industrial Education Center to a comprehensive community college.
J. W. “Willie” Plummer
There are very few individuals who have done more for RCC than J. W. Plummer, an Asheboro building contractor and civic leader. As a public servant who volunteered 33 years of his life to serve on the Board of Trustees, he had a deep passion and love for the college and was loyal to it for many, many years. His strong interest in the College’s mission and interest in student success were his hallmarks.
J. W. Plummer served his country in World War II in the U.S. Navy as a Seabee and was a charter member and the first chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Randolph Industrial Education Center (Randolph Community College) when the board was organized in October 1963. He served as chairman from 1963-1968 and 1973-1996 before his health forced him to step down from the board in early 1997. He served a total of 33 years on the board, led the Board through the College’s period of immense growth, and has been the longest serving chairman to date with 28 years of service as chair. In 1983, the College honored him by renaming the Vocational/Technical Center the J. W. “Willie” Plummer Vocational/Technical Center. He donated 84 books to the RCC library between the years of 1981-1997 in memory of well-known people in the community. Upon Plummer’s death in 1997, Richard Pugh stated, "He was probably as dedicated to doing something for Randolph County as anyone I've ever known. He did a lot of things for people that nobody knows about."
In reference to J. W. Plummer receiving the Distinguished Service Award, then Board of Trustees Chairman Jerry Tillman referred to both Plummer and retired president Merton Branson and said, “Both of these men were leaders of the College and worked together to promote the College during its formative years as well as during its many years of growth.” Plummer was a 12-year member of the Randolph County Board of Commissioners on which he served as vice chairman and was a 12-year member of the Asheboro City School Board. He was on the Selective Service Draft Board, a member of the Asheboro Lion's Club, and on the board of directors of Farmers Mutual Insurance. In 1979, he also helped to establish the RCC Foundation and served as a charter member of the RCC Foundation Board of Directors and served on the board from 1980-1997. Upon his death, the J.W. “Willie” & Frances Plummer scholarship was established with the Randolph Community College Foundation to provide scholarship funds for students.