Johnson retiring after 34 years in community college system
Apr. 30, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Dr. Myra Johnson's presidential office at Isothermal Community College is empty of her things, the desks are dusted and the carpet is cleaned. The office is ready for the next president.

Today is Johnson's last day at Isothermal after a 30-year career. Her past six years have been as president.

She will spend the day finishing last-minute tasks and spending time with staff before Walter Dalton takes the helm Wednesday morning. 

Although she didn't come to Isothermal expecting to be named president , she admitted she began her career with the North Carolina Community College System 34 years ago with a dream of being the president.

"When I first started at Craven (Community College) I said I was going to be the youngest female community college president in history," Johnson said Monday afternoon.

But when she and husband Bill's daughters, Whitney and Ryan were born, her priorities changed. Being president was not her "major focus . . . but later the doors just opened up for me here," she said.

Ryan of Greenville, S.C., and Whitney and granddaughter, Charlea Abrams, of New Bern, were in the audience Monday when she bid goodbye to the Isothermal staff, colleagues, friends and the board of trustees.

She said for the first time since she was 12 years old she will not have a responsible job after today. Her first job was organist at a church before she was a teenager. 

She is looking forward to relaxation and spending time with her children, grandchildren and family.

She told the board and staff although they didn't always agree on every issue, there was cooperation after decisions were made.

"We continued to focus on the mission of Isothermal, the students and learning and we all moved forward," Johnson said.

Johnson said there is not a particular accomplishment that comes to her mind since her presidency, but during the tough budget years, she was proud of how the college faired.

"Because of good budget management, unlike a lot of other colleges, we didn't have to reduce personnel. That's has been around a long time and it's something we sustained for a long time," she said.

Johnson said she shared some thoughts with Dalton. "I told him that it's the entire team at Isothermal that has been successful. . .It's not the president. Though it is very important, but you have to have people who are committed to the mission at the college. You have to have a team that is knowledgeable and committed."

Johnson said she has helped build a great team that has been empowered and has learned details about the operation of the college.

"There is absolutely minimal things that I know that someone on the team doesn't know also. I have had them involved in local and state issues and they are empowered to do their work," Johnson said.

"I told him I couldn't take responsibility for the accomplishments, but I can for helping build the team." 

Johnson, a Cleveland County native and a 34-year veteran of the North Carolina Community College System, climbed the ladder from part-time instructor to dean of Business Sciences to vice president of Academic and Student services.