Backlog of DWI cases in Guilford County (copy)

Judge Tom Jarrell, pictured in 2017, served on the District Court bench in Guilford County for 20 years and as chief District Court judge since 2016.

Part-time? Really?

You’d think that re-establishing firmer financial footing for Bennett College, maintaining its accreditation, shoring up its enrollment and healing any wounds created by the abrupt ouster of former President Phyllis Worthy Dawkins would be more than a full-time job.

But, according to a story in Diverse Issues in Higher Education, Bennett’s new president, Suzanne Walsh, began work on Aug. 1 on a part-time basis until January 2020.

“Her press office confirmed that during this critical first semester, the board (of trustees) approved time for Walsh to relocate from Seattle, Wash.,” the Aug. 8 article reports, “and wrap up ‘her existing contracts and commitments,’ which means travel and time away from the urgent issues facing campus.”

Walsh plans to work as part of “interim leadership team” with Gwendolyn O’Neal, who was named interim president on June 21. Given the circumstances, this seems like an odd arrangement.

Again, we affirm our support for Bennett, which is one of only two colleges for African American women in the nation. We believe in its heritage, its deep roots in Greensboro and its alumnae’s contributions to this city, this state and beyond.

But doesn’t the urgency of the school’s challenges demand a new president who is singularly focused on Bennett? And nothing else?

Modeling leadership

A chief District Court judge leads by example. No special powers come with the job. So, whatever standing he or she receives in the eyes of peers and the broader public is earned by what they see: integrity, fairness, respect for and knowledge of the law, toughness and compassion.

Tom Jarrell measured up well against those criteria. Beyond that, he simply was a good person — a fine father, husband and son. And now we’ve lost him.

Jarrell died suddenly at his home on Aug. 3 at the age of only 56.

As of this month, he had served as a District Court judge for 20 years.

When Jarrell was appointed in 2016 by then-N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin as Guilford County’s chief District Court judge, he seemed humbled by the honor. “Wendy made it look easy,” he said, in reference to his predecessor, Wendy Enochs, who was retiring after 25 years on the bench. He needn’t have worried.

The chief judge is like a player-coach who not only assigns other judges to the various courts but must hold court himself.

Jarrell, who also was a former president of the N.C. Association of District Court Judges and a member of the N.C. Governor’s Crime Commission, handled his responsibilities gracefully and effectively.

Ask anyone at the courthouse, and they will tell you right away: His absence will be felt.

GTCC’s new president

Anthony Clarke, 58, will bring impressive professional and life experiences to the job as GTCC’s eighth president.

An Army veteran with an extensive background in academia and the private sector, Clarke is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy. He has worked as a production engineer for General Mills, a business consultant and a quality-control manager for a General Electric subsidiary.

Since 2014, Clarke has been president of Southeastern Community College in Whiteville,which not only has bucked the trend of recent declines in community college enrollments in the state, but grown its enrollment.

He also knows what it’s like to reinvent yourself. After experiencing two layoffs in corporate jobs, Clarke decided to try a full-time teaching career. So, he can empathize with the sizeable number of GTCC students who are changing career paths.

Clarke will replace Randy Parker, who retired on July 31. Clarke was chosen by GTCC trustees from among a field of 70 that was winnowed to three.

We congratulate him and welcome him to the Triad. And we commend GTCC for the openness of the process. The names of the finalists were made public before Clarke’s selection.

We hope other institutions take note.

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