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In the time leading up to her inauguration as the sixth and first female president of Halifax Community College, Patrena B. Elliott was showered with accolades, songs and gifts.

Ervin B. Griffin Sr., HCC president emeritus, said, “We salute you and honor all the persons who founded our illustrious institution. We continue to stand on their shoulders to carry out the vision and the work they started 56 years ago.”

He said the academic and workforce development programs provided by HCC are drivers for success, both academically and in the economic development arena.

“I’m honored to be here as you make history in a number of ways at today’s Founders Day celebration and ultimately with your inauguration as the first woman to serve as president of Halifax Community College,” Griffin said. “I salute you and stand with you now and in the future when the decisions you have to make may not be as happy as the celebration we’re having today.”

Griffin said he had his greatest success when he was surrounded by individuals who challenged him to grow. “My mentors and … my haters would not allow me to be satisfied with mediocrity … concerning Halifax Community College.”

Shirley Carraway, a member of the North Carolina State Board of Community College Systems, said, “Being a native of eastern North Carolina myself, I am well aware of the value a community college brings to the communities it serves and that is exactly what Halifax Community College does for this community and for this region.”

Carraway told the audience, “I can attest to the fact that you could not have chosen a more capable, committed, compassionate leader to continue to grow this institution in all the ways of growth that might be possible.”

Jeff Cox, president of the North Carolina State Board of Community College Systems, told Elliott, “We’re all exceedingly proud of you and happy for you and happy for all of you all. I shared with some of the trustees backstage they’ve chosen wisely. The more I’m around Dr. Elliott, the more confident I am in that decision. You picked a winner.”

Greg Richardson, executive director of the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs, told Elliott, “I know you bring a wealth of knowledge to this institution about North Carolina American Indians because you worked in a setting in Robeson County where over a third of the population is American Indian.”

Richardson praised the college for setting the stage by practicing “some things here at this institution that’s very meaningful to American Indians. In November you always hold Indian Heritage Month celebrations here. You actually bring crafts in here and dancers to showcase the talents of American Indians for your student body, your board of trustees and your staff. To me, Halifax Community College has a tremendous program already started as far as inclusion and diversity. We want to continue that and my pledge to you is that we stand fast, stand ready to work with you and your team in terms of improving that relationship.”

Richardson said the commission runs a workforce development program. “Workforce development is a large part of our community college system here in our state — a very good program in terms of helping our disadvantaged students get to a place where they can come to a community college with less expense, get a degree, get a certificate and be able to move on through life.”

North Carolina Representative Michael Wray said, “Dr. Elliott, I am just emotional, very excited for you, very excited for the staff here, very excited for the students here. You are the first lady, you are the first Northampton County individual.”

Community colleges are fixture across the state, Wray said. “You will be amazed from the time they started to today about how many people they have given a second chance, they have given a first chance and now with our early college program it has been a great success.”

Said Wray on the appointment of Elliott to the president’s position: “I think they did an excellent job. Instead of the buddy system, they vetted and did the right thing and I think you are the beacon, I think you are the hope for Halifax Community College to make us thrive and make us all that we can be.”

State Senator Bobby Hanig said, “It’s an exciting day for Halifax County. It’s an exciting day for the northeast.”

Hanig pledged his support to Elliott and the college. “I know myself and Representative Wray are going to be right there with you. We’re going to be there to support you … You absolutely fit the definition of what community service is. You live your motto — to who much is given, much is required. You are the epitome of our state motto esse quam videri, meaning to be rather than to seem.”

KImberly Mack, district director for Congressman Don Davis, said, “It was important to us to take time out today to share this milestone with Halifax Community College and Dr. Elliott.”

Mack said, “Dr. Elliott’s connection to our First Congressional District makes this event truly remarkable, particularly her roots in Northampton County. She’s a homegrown woman.”

Elliott’s journey, Mack said, epitomizes the American dream. “She realized that she could indeed live that dream right here in the Roanoke Valley, a testimony to the opportunities our great nation offers to those with determination and ambition.”

Trey Lewis, northeast regional representative for United States Senator Thom Tillis, offered congratulations to Ellliott. “The guests you have to witness this, it really shows your impact. I hope this community will wrap their arms around you like they have me. The people of Northampton and Halifax counties have treated me like family.”

As the speakers closed out, the college presented Founders Day tributes and videos  while Northampton County Early College student Christopher Creecy serenaded the president. Presentations were made to Elliott on behalf of the Beta Lambda Sigma Chapter of the Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority and the Durham and Lake Gaston Chapters of The Links.

Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Brenda Branch, who administered the oath of office to Elliott, said, “It gives me great pleasure to call for Dr. Elliott on this, her special installation day and on this special installation day for our community.”