WILKESBORO — The Wilkes Community College Board of Trustees has named Dr. Jeffrey Alan Cox as the next president of Wilkes Community College, contingent upon approval by the North Carolina State Board of Community Colleges on April 25.
Cox accepted the board’s offer on Tuesday, saying that he is proud to join Wilkes Community College and continue to build on the successes achieved by the faculty, staff and students over the college’s 50-year history.
Dr. Jeff Cox, superintendent of Alleghany County Schools since 2005, was elected president of WCC by the Board of Trustees during the board’s regular quarterly meeting on Tuesday. Cox will assume his new duties on July 1, succeeding Dr. Gordon Burns, who announced in December that he would be retiring after serving as president at WCC for 18 years. Because of the gap in time between Burns’ retirement on June 1 and Cox’s reporting on July 1, contingent upon SBCC approval, the board named Morgan Francis as “acting president” during the interim period.
“I am very excited and honored to be named president of Wilkes Community College,” said Cox. “Wilkes Community College is recognized as one of the leading community colleges in the state, if not the entire nation. Dr. Burns is a legend in this community and leaves some big shoes to fill! I look forward to working with the staff to make sure the college is serving our communities and helping rebuild the economies in all three of the counties we serve. Having lifelong ties in Alleghany County, I know how very important this college is to the citizens in Wilkes, Ashe and Alleghany. I am truly grateful for the trust placed in me by the board of trustees to lead the college into the future.”
In announcing the selection of Cox at the board meeting, Board Chairman Dick Johnston said, “Dr. Cox brings over two decades of academic and leadership experience to Wilkes Community College. He has experienced education at every level from being a teacher and coach to a superintendent in public schools. He is known for being a people-oriented leader with integrity, sound judgment and compassion. He is respected by those who work in the Alleghany County Schools as well as by his peers throughout the state. He demonstrates a commitment to community engagement, outreach and partnership. Dr. Cox is an effective leader who encourages critical thinking, collaboration and problem-solving, and he celebrates student success. Wilkes Community College will thrive under his leadership.”
A native of Alleghany County, Cox graduated from Appalachian State University in 1992 with a Bachelor of Science in English-secondary education; he received his Master’s of School Administration from ASU in 1998. He achieved the Doctorate in Education-Educational Leadership with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average from UNC-Charlotte.
Cox began his teaching career in 1992 at Dudley High School in Greensboro followed by Alleghany High School in Sparta from 1993-1998. He was awarded the North Carolina Principal Fellows Scholarship. He served as assistant principal at Indian Trail Elementary School in Indian Trail from 1998-2000 and then as principal at Benton Heights Elementary in Monroe from 2000-2003. Cox was one of three principals in Union County recognized for significantly reducing the achievement gap between black and white students. He also served in a leadership role in a successful $70 million school bond campaign.
Cox served as assistant superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction for Lee County Schools, in Sanford, from 2003-2005. During his tenure, he helped lead the district to its highest academic achievement in the district’s history.
Since 2005, Cox has been superintendent of Alleghany County Schools. He was a finalist for North Carolina superintendent of the year in 2011. During his leadership, the district’s graduation rate increased to 89.6 percent in 2012-2013. Cox is the only current superintendent in the state serving as a mentor/thought partner in the new Next Generation Superintendents Development Program and is one of only two superintendents in the state serving on the N.C. Association of School Administrators Board of Directors. He was appointed by Gov. Bev Perdue to serve on the North Carolina Professional Teaching Standards Commission in 2011 and appointed to the Governor’s School of North Carolina Board of Governors in 2013. Cox secured more than $3.7 million in competitive grants over the last five years, allowing the district schools to continue to make academic progress during the challenging economy.
Cox acknowledged that he considered himself a “non-traditional candidate” for the presidency of a community college. In fact, he said that he considered this point very strongly before making the final decision to apply for this position.
“What I ultimately determined was that being a superintendent in the K-12 setting would actually be very good preparation to take on this position. Much of the work of a school superintendent is very similar to that of a college president,” said Cox. “Both positions are ultimately responsible for creating positive learning environments where students are actively engaged in learning that is relevant to them. Both leaders are ultimately responsible for securing and managing the budget necessary to educate the students they serve. Both oversee operations of multiple school locations, each with their own challenges and opportunities. Both must work with political leaders at the local, state and national levels to advocate for their students and staff. Both are ultimately responsible for the supervision of their respective staffs. Finally, both are important leaders in their local communities and play significant roles in advancing the communities they serve.”
Cox said one of his biggest strengths is his ability to relate well to people from any race, ethnicity, educational level or socioeconomic background. “While I suppose having earned a doctoral degree means I am fairly well-educated, I am still just a regular Southern boy at heart who can relate very well to all the folks in Wilkes, Ashe and Alleghany counties. One of the most rewarding parts of this position is helping students understand how their educational attainment will not only change their lives but their children’s lives and their grandchildren’s lives.”
Besides his impressive accomplishments as a professional, Cox has been very involved in community organizations such as the Blue Ridge Business Development Center, the Miles JOB Fund, Boy Scouts and youth football. He enjoys spending time with his wife, Reba, and their three sons, Dylan, Evan and Zack. Other favorite pastimes include fishing, hiking, golfing, riding motorcycles with his sons, reading and learning.
Wilkes Community College, a member of the North Carolina Community College System, is a public, two-year, open-door institution serving the people of Wilkes, Ashe and Alleghany counties and beyond. Established in 1965, WCC continues to build on a strong history of meeting the educational needs and cultural interests of our students, community and workforce. WCC prepares learners for success in a dynamic world.