Merton Haywood Branson

Merton Haywood Branson

Associate Director (5/31/1962-1/1/1964)
President (1/1/1964-6/30/1988)

Merton H. Branson became the first associate director of the Randolph Industrial Education Center on May 31, 1962. A native of Ramseur, North Carolina, he was a World War II veteran 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 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 in 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 NC 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 established 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. 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 the the mid-1980s. A Business Education Center which bears Branson's name was completed just before he retired in 1988. And the College also opened a Small Business Center within the Asheboro Chamber of Commerce and an Archdale Extension office on Trindale Road.

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.