SCC's Alumni Spotlight Series
From the front lines of the emergency room to commanding a boardroom you can find successful Spartanburg Community College alums all over the world. The Spartanburg Community College Foundation, who supports SCC students, faculty and staff through scholarships, grants, and more, catches up with former students in the Alumni Spotlight series.
Ryan Thomas | January 2022
Ryan Thomas '05
Ryan Thomas’ fondest memory of his time at Spartanburg Community College was his first public speech.
“At the time, I had no idea that I would be giving speeches for a career. I was very nervous,” Ryan said. “I can remember standing in front of a class of about 30 students and my speech turned out to be really good. I actually felt comfortable, and my nervousness immediately went away as I started to talk. Today, I give speeches to crowds that sometimes number in the hundreds.”
Ryan, who graduated from SCC in 2005 with an Associate degree in Small Business Management and Marketing, went on to graduate Magna Cum Laude from Limestone University. In 2020, he ran for public office and was elected Treasurer of Cherokee County. In 2021, he was appointed Cherokee County Auditor by SC Gov. Henry McMaster, and at 37 years old, is the state’s youngest auditor.
“People see me and are amazed at how far I have gone in my career at such an early age,” Ryan said. “I am very grateful for my job; however, my biggest accomplishment was continuing my education after graduating from SCC.”
Ryan credits SCC Marketing Professor Peter Stone with teaching “outside the textbook,” sharing real-world advice that he received from his boss, former Carolina Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson.
“I learned the basics at SCC that would lay the foundation for the successful career that I have today by being heavily involved with campus activities and gaining all of the knowledge that I possibly could in the classroom,” Ryan said. “The way I approach every situation with my job stems from my SCC experience.”
When he’s not working, Ryan plays sports in various leagues around the Upstate and enjoys his passion for gardening. He also is a published poet and presently is writing a children’s book in his spare time.
Ryan also volunteers with Ambition in Motion, a mentorship program through Delta Mu Delta and serves on the Board of Directors for the United Way of the Piedmont’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program.
Kris Bridgeforth | December 2021
Kris Bridgeforth ’20 considers making the decision to go to college and landing a job that he loves as his biggest accomplishment.
Kris started working with Arrowhead Design Company while he was earning his Associate degree in Digital Design at Spartanburg Community College. Today, he serves as a graphic designer and Urban Development Coordinator at the Spartanburg-based company where he just celebrated his one-year anniversary.
“My experience at SCC prepared me for what it would be like to deal with a real client doing real work, Kris said. “I was exposed to the opportunity of handling such tasks during my time at SCC.”
Kris designs everything from logos to brochures to social media posts and works on branding projects for cities and towns. At Arrowhead, he’s considered the “Photoshop Wizard.”
He credits SCC Art Instructor John Hill for encouraging him and his fellow students to be more socially interactive and expressive, traits that he incorporates into his work.
“I say it all the time, but this is the best job I've ever had,” Kris said. “It really is like a family. It's close-knit and fun; we also have six of the coolest creatives you could imagine in one office.”
Born and raised in Indianapolis, IN, Kris now resides in Gaffney. A self-described homebody, he likes to relax and listen to music when he’s not working.
Scott McMahan | November 2021
Scott McMahan ' 96
After graduating from Wofford College in 1991, Scott McMahan ’96 still wasn’t sure what he wanted to do for a living. He heard about the Horticulture program at Spartanburg Community College, enrolling in the fall after his graduation from Wofford.
“The practical, hands-on knowledge I received while studying at SCC is what was most important to me,” Scott said. “Horticulture is not something you can learn just by reading about it. Jimmy Painter and Doug McAbee were passionate, experienced teachers who did an excellent job of preparing and placing their students in fulfilling careers.”
Speaking of a fulfilling career, the Decatur, GA native is again living in Decatur where is working his dream job as manager of the International Plant Exploration Program at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, a private non-profit garden which focuses on conservation, education and the ornamental display of plants.
Scott works with NGOs and governmental scientific academies on plant conservation and collection projects primarily in China, Vietnam and India. He also manages the program’s visiting scholar program which allows for personnel exchange between ABG and other international institutions.
Scott’s first stop after completing SCC’s Horticulture program was an internship at Gilbert’s Nursery in Chesnee that turned into a full-time job. From there, he went to work at the Atlanta Botanical Garden as the nursery manager, then opened a wholesale nursery in north Georgia and a retail nursery in downtown Atlanta. After nearly 16 years in the nursery business, Scott returned to Atlanta Botanical Garden to assume his current role.
“If it were not for Jimmy Painter placing me in an internship at Gilbert’s Nursery after I graduated, I would not have the position I have today,” Scott said. “I am very grateful that he saw the passion I was developing for plants and for putting me on just the right path. I should also credit Dr. Kevin Parris who was my boss at Gilbert’s Nursery and the person who really showed me the world of plant propagation and plant diversity. Kevin was the first real plant geek I ever met, and he and I still communicate and trade plants regularly.”
When he’s not working, Scott still has his hands in the dirt, tending his vegetable garden and spending time in his ornamental garden. He and his wife, Kristie, have two daughters, Lily, 15, and Olivia, 10.
Leron Rahynes | October 2021
Leron Rahynes '04
Leron M. Rahynes ’04 is a proud husband, father, educator, business owner and mentor in the Spartanburg community.
An assistant principal at Gaffney Middle School, Leron previously was an elementary school assistant principal and spent nine years in the classroom as a middle school social studies teacher.
Leron followed an atypical path into education. Prior to attending college, he could have been identified as an at-risk youth due to many of his early years being spent in the principal’s office. Although bright, he constantly insisted on being the class clown and having the last word.
While in high school, Leron was sent to the South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy at the Wil Lou Gray Opportunity School campus in West Columbia. While there, Leron was introduced to community service and camaraderie and earned his GED.
After attending Spartanburg Community College, Leron transferred and graduated from Winthrop University in Rock Hill with a B.A. in Psychology. He earned an M. Ed. in Administration and Leadership from Southern Wesleyan University.
In 2015, noticing a need for greater technology skills among educators, Leron founded the Ed-Tech based consulting group What the Tech?!? Consulting (WTT Consulting) to effectively share ideas with educators, businesspeople and clergy.
Leron also has taken on challenges outside of education. Upon his return to work in 2018 after the birth of his third child, a conversation about an increased use of on-demand services sparked the idea for an on-demand fuel delivery service. After nearly two years of planning, development and immersion into the world of everything gas, VuL Inc. was created and had its first truck on the road in October 2019. Since then, VuL has sold well over 100,000 gallons of fuel in the Spartanburg area.
Leron presently serves as President of the Xi Theta Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. seated in Spartanburg, leading the chapter in community- based initiatives such as the Annual MLK Candlelight Vigil, Annual 5K Gold Rush Fun Run benefiting March of Dimes, Little Miss Black and Gold Scholarship Pageant, voter registration and school supplies drives, and mentoring at Miracle Hill Boys Shelter. He also serves as a representative of the Spartanburg Divine 9 Council.
Leron has been married for 13 years. He and his wife have two sons and a daughter.
Cody Wheeler | September 2021
Cody Wheeler '15
Going to college was important to Cody Wheeler ’15, but staying close to home was, as well. So, Spartanburg Community College was the perfect fit for the Spartanburg native.
Cody earned an Associate degree in Automotive Technology and a Ford ASSET certification and upon graduation went to work for an independent diesel truck shop where he became foreman.
Today, Cody is the lead mechanic for Morgan Corp., a large contract company based in Spartanburg where he is responsible for diagnosing and repairing a wide variety of equipment from paving equipment to semi-trucks. With more than 800 employees and offices in Raleigh, NC, Charlotte, NC and Savannah, GA, Morgan Corp.’s earth moving, concrete paving and industrial divisions have more than 300 pieces of equipment.
Cody credits his SCC instructors for preparing him for the world of work and showing him the importance of industry relationships.
“My instructors were constantly in touch with key people within the automotive industry,” Cody said. “Having those relationships helped them be effective in focusing on the real life needs of the industry. I was able to start my first job with few surprises. The SCC program allowed me to do several weeks of on-the-job training each semester. This helped me ease into the workforce instead of being thrown in all at once.”
When he’s not working, Cody enjoys spending time with his wife and 16-month-old daughter. He also tries to get to the lake for some fishing. He stepped down as a volunteer fireman and medical first responder after eight years when his daughter was born but continues to assist are fire departments with equipment service and repair plans.
Alison Phelps | August 2021
Alison Phelps '19
Alison Phelps ’19 entered college at the age of 30. Married with a six-year-old, Alison was a hardworking and organized student in SCC’s Culinary program and was one of six students statewide to receive the South Carolina Tourism Student Award sponsored by the South Carolina Travel and Tourism Coalition.
Today, the mother of two boys, ages 10 and 3, owns Big Tasty Bakery, a cottage kitchen that offers an array of cupcake flavors, stuffed cookies and other baked goods. She sells her products at The Red Shed Market in Chesnee and Mama Sue’s in Spartanburg and hopes to open a brick-and-mortar bakery next year.
“The culinary experience at SCC taught me everything I need to know about food and pastries,” Alison said. “It taught me about kitchen communication, how to manage food costs, time management, how to run a kitchen, make menus, product purchasing, prep and execution.”
Alison also credits Chef Amy Byers with being an encouraging, kind and helpful, but tough mentor.
“She believes in her students and strives for them to do the same,” she said.
When asked about her biggest accomplishment, Alison points to her SCC experience.
“The whole experience was amazing, but I was proud to walk across the stage and graduate and to show my kids that anything is possible at any age and hold that degree at the end of it all,” she said.
When not baking, Alison enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, camping, going to the park and putt-putt with her husband, Andy, and two sons.
Neal Smith | July 2021
Neal Smith '75
It was 1975 and Paul Neal Smith had earned an Associate of Applied Science in Civil Engineering Technology that June from Spartanburg Community College. Unable to find a job in his field in the Spartanburg area, the stars began to align.
SCC, then known as Spartanburg Tech, had just received accreditation from the Engineers Council for Professional Development. Orville T. Boone, head of the school’s civil engineering technology department and Smith’s professor, communicated that key piece of information to his former colleagues at NASA. The rest, as they say, is history.
Smith and fellow SCC graduate, Freddy Willis, drove 600 miles to Cape Kennedy, FL for job interviews with NASA’s supervisor of Interface Control Drawings. Both were hired to start work the following Monday. Smith’s job included translating schematic drawings into plans for the Space Shuttle orbiter and other projects.
“We went down (for interviews) on a Wednesday, came home on Thursday, packed on Friday, arrived in Florida on Saturday and went to work on Monday,” Smith recalled. “I was very excited about working with the space program.”
During his time at NASA, Smith received awards for his work on the first International Co-operative Space Flight and the Apollo Soyuz Test Project, the first crewed international space mission carried out jointly by the United States and the Soviet Union in July 1975.
After leaving NASA in 1977, Smith went on to a longtime career at the Savannah River Site from 1978 until his retirement in 2005. He was an award winner there, as well, receiving the Westinghouse Signature Award of Excellence in 1989 and an award for Outstanding Contribution to Quality Improvement in 1990.
In his retirement, Smith is a member of the Savannah River Site Retiree Association Board and the Quadrigenta Investment Club. He also is active in the Bible Beaters Bible Study at Augusta Country Club and the Institute for the Certification of Engineering Technicians. And he continues work on his model train layout, an ongoing project of the past 40 years.
Smith is married to Spartanburg native Barbara Lamm Smith. They have a daughter and son-in-law, Kelly Smith Day and David L. Day. Grandson Davidson L. Day is a rising senior at USC-Aiken majoring in Business and Finance and granddaughter Katy Neal Day is a rising sophomore at Clemson University majoring in Philosophy.
Ame Camille Sandoval | June 2021
Ame Camille Sandoval '16
Horticulture field trips are what Ame Camille Sandoval ’16 remembers most about her time at Spartanburg Community College.
“We would all pile into a van or a bus like a big, wild family and take a long ride out to some place to meet people and look at plants. And we always stopped to eat somewhere really good,” recalled Sandoval, who earned an Associates degree in Horticulture from SCC.
It was that hands-on experience that gave Sandoval the practical knowledge she uses every day as a project manager and landscape designer for Roebuck Wholesale Nursery and Landscaping in Roebuck where her duties include: Meeting with clients; planning, design and pricing of projects; leading crews; and overseeing projects to completion.
Her most memorable SCC experience was a trip to Plant Delights Nursery in Raleigh, NC.
“(Horticulturist and author) Tony Avent gave us a tour of his nursery and his trial gardens. When speaking about putting plants in conditions where they shouldn’t grow, he said, ‘plants don’t read books’ and I find myself repeating that quote to my clients, often.”
Sandoval adds that SCC’s Jay Moore, Jason Bagwell and Kevin Parris not only taught the technical side of horticulture, but also offered practical life and career advice. She also credits her public speaking teacher Allison Horrell with making her feel at home in a room full of strangers.
Sandoval said her biggest accomplish is building a life of financial independence as she continues to acquire valuable skills that broaden her horizons.
“My parents are very inspirational to me,” Sandoval said. “Neither of them graduated from college, but both built lucrative careers through continuing education in their respective fields. I get so much valuable career advice from my dad that he threatens to send me a bill for his time.”
When not working, Sandoval enjoys gardening – mostly ornamental and a few herbs. She also enjoys building origami models, taking her dog for walks, spending time with friends and family, reading, and traveling to the beach or in the mountains. When she doesn’t have the energy for all that, she enjoys binge-watching Netflix and eating ice cream.
Kerry Bowden | May 2021
Kerry Bowden '19
It appears that his instructors were right when they voted Kerry Bowden SCC’s Most Outstanding Culinary Student of 2019.
The owner and chef of Engine 41 BBQ Catering LLC, Bowen says his biggest accomplishment is taking his BBQ company from concept to a food truck and catering business in less than 45 days.
Based at 1800 Drayton in Spartanburg, Bowden handles cooking, scheduling, booking, purchasing – everything necessary to keep the doors to his business open. And he credits Spartanburg Community College with preparing him to be a chef and a business owner.
“I was known as a whole animal cook, but I knew I had gaps in my knowledge and that would affect my end product,” said Bowden, who worked full-time at Blue Moon Specialty Foods in Spartanburg while earning his degree in Applied Associate in Culinary Arts. “I can say those gaps did not exist when I graduated. I was properly trained by Chef Byers and Chef Bez for anything that will be thrown at me in the culinary world.”
Byers said she taught a pitmaster how to bake and he taught her about BBQ – something Bowden knows a thing or two about. Engine 41 BBQ Catering LLC focuses on BBQ cuisine, offering everything from traditional BBQ to live-fire events, and even taco bars, low country boils and oyster roasts.
“Our philosophy is that we have to give our customers an experience that they cannot get elsewhere else, or what I call the ‘Soiree effect,’” Bowden said.
When Bowden has free time, he enjoys spending it with loved ones and getting together with his chef friends to cook.
“One thing I learned from taking care of my parents before they died is to cherish the time you have and the people in your life,” Bowden said. “Too many people fret about what they should have done instead of living their life and learning from past mistakes.”
Dustin Guyton | April 2021
Dustin Guyton '10
Dustin Guyton ’10 credits the technical training he received at Spartanburg Community College and the hands-on instruction from the college’s Ford ASSET program for giving him the skills to succeed as an automotive technician.
Dustin holds an Associate Degree in Automotive Technology-Ford ASSET and presently serves as the Quick Lane Manager at D&D Motors in Greer where he oversees daily operations to ensure quality repairs and effective customer communication.
“SCC’s partnership with Ford Motor Company was extremely important because I was able to receive industry recognized credentials that are required of all Ford dealership technicians,” Dustin said. “Not only does the automotive program provide technical training, but I also I learned many soft skills such as effective communications, ethics, and professionalism. SCC gave me a well-rounded education that today’s automotive technicians need and allowed me to grow into a management position.”
Dustin presently serves on the SCC Ford ASSET/Automotive Advisory Committee and the J. Harley Bonds Career Center Automotive Advisory Committee. He also participates in the Ford Automotive Career Exploration (ACE) program through Greenville County Schools. He says he is grateful for his mentor, and the opportunity to now serve as a mentor himself.
“(SCC Automotive Technologies Program Director) Mark Smith was a major influence while I was a student at SCC,” Dustin said. “He always encouraged me to work hard, stay focused and do my very best. He is still a mentor for me today. Now, I have the opportunity to give back to the industry as a mentor, and help young men and women have a successful career.”
When he’s not working, Dustin enjoys spending time with his eight-year-old daughter, Kadence, and his fiancé, Bailey.
Edward & Ysante McDowell | March 2021
Edward & Ysante, '09
Edward and Ysante McDowell walked down graduation commencement aisle together in May 2009, earning HVAC and Administrative Specialist certificates, respectively, from Spartanburg Community College.
Ed worked as a driver for the City of Spartanburg, while Ysante was employed in the auto finance industry. Ed’s passion for cooking led him to create his own line of seasonings and rubs, and to establish Ed’s All Purpose Seasoning and Rub LLC in 2015.
The Chesnee residents say their greatest accomplishment is opening and owning their own business. And they credit SCC with giving them the tools to become entrepreneurs, especially the skills to interact with the public. They were able to hone their business skills as members of the inaugural Amplify African American Business Accelerator organization sponsored by the City of Spartanburg.
The creator and inventor of the first seasoning and rub in one jar, Ed produces a line of flavorings with special blends to enhance the taste of food and to replace salt and pepper as condiments. His products are low in sodium and contains no MSG.
Ed’s All Purpose Seasonings can be purchased at Bellew’s Produce and Garner’s Natural Foods in Spartanburg, New York Butcher Shoppe in Greenville, IGA in Pacolet and several other locations in South Carolina and North Carolina. They also can be found online at Amazon and Walmart.com.
When able to find leisure time, the McDowells enjoy traveling and writing. The couple have two children, a son, Shyheim, 23, and a daughter, Danielle, 20.
Heather Inman Sealy | February 2021
A non-traditional student, Heather Inman Sealy ’20 struggled in some areas and excelled in others. But the hands-on training she received at Spartanburg Community College most prepared her for what she would experience in the workplace.
“You can sit in class and listen to lectures and read chapters but being able to get in there and do things, that helped prepare me for what I would see and deal with as a nurse,” Sealy says.
Sealy also credits one of her instructors, Jennifer Hood, with giving her the tools she needs to succeed as a nurse.
“She was always there to listen when we had trouble understanding and could explain it to us so we could understand,” Sealy says of Hood. “You could tell that she genuinely wanted us to succeed and that she honestly cared for every one of us. How you treat someone leaves a lasting impression, and the care and compassion she showed will never be forgotten.”
After graduating from SCC with an Associate degree in Applied Science in Nursing, Sealy passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) on the first try and landed a job as a Registered Nurse at Union Medical Center, part of the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System. She has returned to school to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing at USC Upstate.
Sealy and her husband, Steven, have two children, Drake, 13 and Audrey, 11
Tamara Cook | January 2021
Tamara Cook ‘08
The classroom and hands-on instruction Tamara Cook ’08 received at Spartanburg Community College prepared her for the real-world experiences she would encounter as a registered nurse.
Now, Cook uses the passion for the profession and the work ethic she developed at SCC to teach others as an assistant professor at USC Upstate.
“The standards were set high at SCC in the nursing program and it has created such a passion for me to function at those standards throughout my career,” Cook said.
Since graduating from SCC with an Associate degree in Nursing, Cook has worked as a registered nurse, nursing instructor and nurse practitioner. As a faculty member in the Mary Black School of Nursing at USC Upstate, Cook teaches child health nursing and a freshman course, University 101. She credits SCC faculty members Angie Hall and Jayne Case for influencing her path to become a pediatric nurse and nursing instructor.
In 2013, Cook received the Palmetto Gold Award, a statewide nursing recognition award that showcases the valuable contributions nurses make to patient care in South Carolina.
“My biggest accomplishment has been growing in my nursing profession and education while balancing family and work,” Cook said. “I was awarded the Palmetto Gold award in 2013. That was a big deal to me.”
When not at work, Cook enjoys gardening, running, attending USC football games, and hanging with friends and family. She also serves on the board of First Steps Spartanburg and volunteers at Carolina Pregnancy Center providing education classes to new and expectant mothers.
Cook and her husband, Tim, have been married for 17 years and have a daughter, Marisa, who is in graduate school.
Grigoriy Klimovich| December 2020
Dr. Grigoriy “Greg” Klimovich ’08 spoke little English when he entered Spartanburg Community College. But hard work and professors willing to go the extra mile helped the Ukraine native earn an Associate of Sciences Degree and gain acceptance to a four-year university.
After 15 years of higher education, Dr. Kilmovich says SCC’s Dr. Chipley Bennett remains his favorite professor and role model.
“Dr. Chipley Bennett is an excellent professor and he is such a wonderful human being.” Kilmovich said. “I was privileged to learn under him. He always had the best interest of his students in mind.”
Today, Dr. Klimovich is a board-certified bariatric surgeon at Middlesex Health in Connecticut where he is a specialist in robotic and open abdominal wall reconstruction for complex hernias. He also performs gallbladder, colon and foregut surgeries.
Dr. Kilmovich earned his medical degree from the University of South Carolina. He completed his Minimally Invasive and Bariatric surgery fellowship at the Yale University after performing his General Surgery residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital, a teaching hospital of the University of Miami in Florida.
Before joining Middlesex Health, Dr. Klimovich served as clinical instructor at Yale University School of Medicine and was an attending surgeon at Yale New Haven Hospital.
For all his professional achievements, Dr. Kilmovich says his greatest accomplishment is his family. His wife is an assistant professor at Yale University. The couple have two boys, ages three and one.
When not in the operating room, Dr. Klimovich enjoys spending time with his family, running, biking, playing tennis and bird watching.
Lauren Honeycutt| November 2020
Lauren Honeycutt ’15 never made straight A’s in school, until she got to Spartanburg Community College where she made the Dean’s List every semester.
“I arrived at the school every morning at around 6:30 a.m., even though class didn’t start until 8 am.,” said Honeycutt, who graduated in 2015 with a certification in Surgical Technology. “I studied before class every morning and for about two hours when I got home from school. I also took advantage of the lab we had opened on Fridays and would stay in the lab for about five hours. All the hard work put me on the Dean’s List every semester.”
Since graduating from SCC, Honeycutt has worked as a Certified Surgical Technologist on the cardiovascular team at WakeMed in Raleigh, NC. It was the hands-on training during lab time at SCC that Honeycutt says most prepared her for work in the operating room, where her duties include setting up a sterile table with instruments needed for surgery, handing instruments to the surgeon, and sometimes assisting the surgeon by cutting sutures or holding the heart.
“The labs were all hands-on skills that I would be using in the operating room,” Honeycutt said. “Another experience that helped prepare me was having such amazing teachers. The way they taught the curriculum definitely helped me pass the surgical technologist certification exam that is required to get a job.”
When not in the OR, Honeycutt enjoys going to the beach, hiking and traveling. She also enters 5K fundraisers for various health organizations.
Meredith Gillette | October 2020
Meredith Gillette ’19 says her biggest accomplishment is saying “yes” to something new and going back to school.
That decision brought her to Spartanburg Community College where she earned an Associate degree in Massage Therapy and the skills to prepare her for the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination following graduation.
Today, Gillette is a licensed massage therapist at Atlas Chiropractic & Wellness on Southport Road in Spartanburg where she does clinical/deep tissue massage. A native of Watertown, SD, Gillette lives in Spartanburg while her husband completes medical school at VCOM.
Gillette says her SCC experience helped her hone her clinical skills and increased her confidence as a massage therapist.
“My fondest memory is getting to practice techniques on each other during lab. Who wouldn’t love going to class and getting a massage,” Gillette says.
When not at work, Gillette enjoys spending time with her husband, Ben, and their dog, Piper. A favorite activity is hiking, especially to the waterfalls in the Upstate. She also loves to cook, bake and garden.
Jeff Gibson | September 2020
Jeff Gibson ’92 learned skills at Spartanburg Community College that led to a successful career in the automotive industry. Now, Gibson is passing that knowledge along as an automotive instructor at Daniel Morgan Technology Center, a vocational center in Spartanburg.
The Pacolet, SC native and resident earned his automotive technology degree from SCC’s Ford ASSET program, then worked for 23 years as a service technician at Vic Bailey Ford in Spartanburg. For the past seven years, Gibson has been a high school automotive instructor.
“Both of my Ford ASSET instructors, Robbie Kinion and Jeff Hunt, took extra time during breaks and after class to keep me up to pace in the classroom,” Gibson said. “Now, I teach young students a skill they can take anywhere in the world and be successful.”
When not teaching, Gibson enjoys spending time with his wife of 24 years and his 16-year-old daughter. He also spends his leisure time fishing, hunting, and not surprisingly, attending cars shows and auto racing.
Gibson is also a fishing coach at Broome High School and a member of the SCC Automotive Advisory Committee.
Reyes Gutierrez | August 2020
2017 Assoc. Automotive Technology
Reyes is originally from Chicago but moved to Spartanburg with his family at a young age. Not a fan of attending high school, he earned his GED early to enter the work force. With a passion for automobiles, he attended SCC and graduated with an associate degree in Automotive Technology in 2017.
While in school he started his career in the automotive industry at Vic Bailey Volkswagen on Reidville Road. He really enjoys the team work environment and ability to learn something new everyday. He prides himself as being able to diagnose a problem in any vehicle no matter the make or model. He enjoys working on cars so much he also works part-time at Auto Zone.
William Gardner was his favorite instructor at SCC. Mr. Gardner took the time to make sure you understood the material and the course of action to fix the car was correct. He really cared about each and every student in the program. Reyes has been at Vic Bailey for five years and has a goal of one day being the head technician. “I don’t see myself working anywhere but here”
James Self | July 2020
James Self ’19 says his instructors would describe him as a dedicated, dependable student. You’d have to be to maintain a 4.0 GPA and win a Trio Director’s Award. But James describes himself as an anxious student who developed the confidence to succeed while attending Spartanburg Community College.
“My instructors gave me an excellent foundation and toolkit to solve most of the problems I face,” said Self. “But where SCC prepared me most was teaching me how to be an adult. SCC taught me how to handle the stress of deadlines, how organization is my friend and not a chore, how to communicate in a professional manner, and most important of all, how to learn.”
A native of Charlotte, NC and a resident of Blacksburg, SC since that age of 12, Self-earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Mechatronics Engineering Technology and a Kuka Robotics Kore technician certification. After graduating, he went to work for Par Terra Packaging, a food packaging company in White Stone, SC, where he serves as a maintenance technician for the company’s electrical, mechanical and hydraulic equipment.
He also is responsible for maintaining packaging machines leased by his company.
“About every other month I travel around America to work on our machines,” Self explains. “I have machines in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Connecticut, and I just built a machine for a new customer in Texas. Since the company I work for is small, I’m involved with the business side of it as well. I never thought I would be in meetings with presidents of large companies.”
When he’s not working, Self enjoys reading, studying philosophy and history, and working on his property.
“Our yard is pretty much a small farm. We have plants everywhere and a whole lot of animals that need to be taken care of,” he says.
He also enjoys spending time with his wife, Casey, and their children, Olivia, Noah and Ben.
Roy McBee Smith | June 2020
Roy M. Smith ’94 returned to college after working 10 years in various industries. A nontraditional student, the Spartanburg native took classes at Spartanburg Community College that opened his eyes to different professions.
“Spartanburg Community College has a program through the Learning Center that helped people like me, that have been away from the classroom for a while, catch up,” Smith said. “Their assistance in tutoring mathematics, language arts and other academic skills, was most helpful in my return to college.”
Smith graduated from SCC with an Associates of Arts Degree in 1994, then transferred to Wofford College to complete his BA, earning a four-year degree in three years. He landed a job as Information Technologies Services Manager for Converse College, served as Systems Administrator for Spartanburg School District 4 and Network Administrator for USC Upstate, and even owning his own IT services business before joining SCC.
Today, Smith is the IT Operations Manager of SCC’s Information Technologies Department where he supervises 12 immediate employees and manages client services support for all five SCC campuses. As second in line to the Director of IT, he is responsible for the daily and long-term successes of the department.
Additionally, Smith chairs several committees that focus on the continuous development of quality end user support services, and manages major projects related to technology life cycles. As a member of the Technology Committee for the Spartanburg County Foundation, for example, Smith oversees the direction of the organization’s web presence and the selection of a technical services provider.
Smith sees his biggest impact is the knowledge and experience he brings to the College, in the development of quality focused teams, the management of multi-campus projects involving many different players, or the cultivation of end user knowledge of new technology through personalized training techniques.
“I have developed, and continue to redevelop, my departmental processes and procedures, goals, and directions. I continue to maximize the availability of the most affordable and up-to-date technologies, maximize the awareness and use of these technologies through training, all while maintaining a minimum of under-utilized technologies throughout multiple campuses.”
With all of that, you wouldn’t think Smith has much time for leisure activities, but that’s when he shows off his creative side. He is an emerging musician/songwriter and an exhibiting artist of two and three-dimensional works in the Upstate area.
Smith is married to Bea Walters Smith, Executive Director of the SCC Foundation. Their son, Hunter, is a rising junior at Spartanburg High School.
Erin Edwards | May 2020
Every workday offers a new challenge for Erin Edwards ‘17, some of them lifesaving. As an E Shift paramedic at Spartanburg EMS, Edwards believes that managing advanced life support care in a dynamic field is her biggest accomplishment.
“I was involved with a patient who had gone into cardiac arrest at work with two other employees,” Edwards recalls. “We worked on scene for a few minutes, each of us doing our jobs perfectly, and we got a pulse back. One week later, I got to watch the patient walk across the floor in the hospital and give me a hug. That one moment made every day in school worth it.”
A native of Inman SC, Edwards graduated from Spartanburg Community College in 2017 with an Associate in Emergency Medicine and a Paramedic Certificate. Most of her internship experience while at SCC involved Spartanburg EMS, which prepared her for the world of work and specifically the world of Spartanburg EMS. She now works full-time as a paramedic for Spartanburg EMS and as a paramedic on an as-needed basis for Spartanburg Regional Transport.
“When I got my paramedic and went to work for Spartanburg EMS, I knew exactly what was expected of me and was very comfortable in my surroundings,” Edwards said. “SCC prepares people to enter the work force directly into the Spartanburg area. They are educating people and preparing them for specialized jobs that are needed in this community.”
When she’s not working, Edwards enjoys hiking with her husband. She also rides horses and occasionally goes barrel racing. But now that she’s back in school at SCC, most of her leisure time is study time.
Rev George Sims, Sr. | April 2020
Union resident George Sims Sr. '14 moved to New York City in 1963 for an accounting job. He returned to Union in the 1970s and made a career working for companies like Sonoco and Paragon holding such positions as extruder operator and quality control supervisor.
In 1984, Sims added pastor to his resume, serving Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in Pauline, Lockhart Baptist and now Mt. Prospect Baptist Church in Chester. During his 30 years as a pastor, Sims has seen first-hand the needs of senior citizens in the community.
Encouraged by his daughter, an admissions counselor at Spartanburg Community College, Sims enrolled at SCC to learn HVAC repair so he could help older homeowners who could not afford to get their units fixed.
In 2014, at the age of 69, Sims earned his certificate in HVAC repair and the distinction of being SCC's oldest graduate.
Sims says he wants to be an example to young people in his church and in the community.
"My motto is if a 70-year-old man can do it, you can too."
Pastor Michael N. Freyta | March 2020
Michael Freyta ’10 hadn’t been in a classroom for more than 25 years, so he was astounded when he achieved a 100 percent average in his prerequisite math classes at Spartanburg Community College’s Cherokee County Campus.“My math teacher told me that because of my life experiences and the fact that I had grown up learning to solve life problems, that helped me understand the basics principals of mathematics.” Freyta said. “That experience was probably the foundational moment that helped me realize my true potential.”Freyta went on to earn an Associate degree in Business Management and found the Mission of Grace Training Center in Gaffney SC, a church with an emphasis on disciple leadership training for community involvement. Freyta, who serves as the pastor at Mission of Grace, is using his education to help others achieve theirs. “We have a transportation ministry that helps Gaffney residents get back to school and get their education,” says the Colorado native who moved to Gaffney in 2002. “We transport students to and from adult education classes to get their GED. We also help transport student to and from SCC’s Cherokee Campus and to the Spartanburg Campus when funds are available.”Mission of Grace exists with an Apostolic mandate to use Kingdom principles to help change lifestyles, and to heal, equip and change the culture, according to Freyta. “We are here to repair the breach and restore the streets.”
Freyta’s ministry extends to his nonprofit work in the Gaffney community, including membership in Cherokee County United Lions and a board member of the United Way of the Piedmont. When not working or volunteering, he spends time with his wife, Lois, his co-pastor at Mission of Grace, and their seven children and 10 grandchildren.
Miranda Sanders | February 2020
Miranda Sanders ’15 knew at a young age that she wanted to work in the healthcare field.
“My Dad was a paramedic turned nurse when I was growing up, so this is all I’ve ever known,” Sanders explains.
After earning a certificate for Emergency Medical Technician – Paramedic from Spartanburg Community College, the Rutherford County, NC native and resident began her career as an EMT and Paramedic at Wellford, SC Rescue 21. She also served with Rutherford County EMS and Spartanburg Regional Ambulance Service, and today is a Senior Paramedic for Spartanburg EMS.
“Not only did my time at Spartanburg Community College teach me how to help people and how to use what I was being taught, but I also was able to make networking connections and do my clinical hours with different services and find the EMS service I wanted to work for.”
As a Senior Paramedic, Sanders is responsible for her ambulance each shift, ensuring that all equipment is working properly and that necessary medications are on board. A busy system with more than 200 employees, Spartanburg EMS averages 150-175 calls each day. Sanders also is part of the Community Relations Team that educates children and adults about EMS and its role in the community.
“Who doesn’t love to watch an ambulance or fire truck going down the road with the flashing lights and sirens,” Sanders said. “I have an amazing job that allows me to share my passion with others and inspire someone else to do what I love.”
Sanders continues to do what she loves with her volunteer hours, running first response calls for the Cherokee Creek Fire Department in Gaffney. But when its time for leisure time and hobbies, she’s all in.
“I love to go fishing, spend time with my dogs, and go on adventures with my family and friends,” Sanders explains. “Doing this job makes you realize how precious life is and how fast things can change, so I live life to the fullest and spend time with those I love most.”
Glenn Gann Jr. | January 2020
Glenn Gann Jr. ’16 was destined to be a first responder. His father was a police officer with the New York Police Department who became a nurse after moving to South Carolina – a career move that helped steer the younger Gann into healthcare. Working as an EMT at Spartanburg EMS while in school at Spartanburg Community College, Gann went to work as a paramedic with Spartanburg EMS after earning his certification in Emergency Medical Services. Now a senior paramedic, Gann is responsible for an advanced life support ambulance that handles everything from a single patient to multiple patients with medical or trauma-related issues. And he often has students on board doing their clinical rotations or new hires in field training.“There are so many different variables that go into being in EMS – many patient conditions and just the ever-changing dynamic of the job,” Gann said. “SCC gave me a very good foundation of knowledge and the skills to start a career as a paramedic. I’m able to pass that on to the new hires I get to work with.”Gann credits EMS Program Director Doug Paris with the solid foundation of skills and knowledge he acquired while at Spartanburg Community College.“Doug Paris was a uniquely dedicated instructor,” Gann said. “He knew exactly how much effort was possible from you as a student without pushing so far as to make you feel unmotivated or overwhelmed. He has a wealth of knowledge that he shares with you as a student, and even after graduation he is always available to you for questions.”When not working, Gann said he spends time trying to be a good husband and father. “I have a wonderful wife at home who supports me even though I’m working for 24-48 hours at a time,” Gann said. “My kids don’t know exactly what I do but they know I work on an ambulance and that I help people, so when I’m home I really try to live up to their expectations of a super-hero dad.”
Karen Willis | December 2019
Karen Willis’ great grandfather was the town physician in Landrum, SC and her grandmother was a nurse. But it wasn’t until she took a medical terminology class at Spartanburg Community College that Karen fell in love with the healthcare profession.
A member of the 2006 inaugural class of SCC’s Associate Degree in Nursing program, Karen went on to earn a Bachelor of Nursing degree from the University of Texas, Arlington in 2014 and became a certified Nurse Executive (NE-BC) in 2018. She now serves as Nurse Manager for the Rapid Treatment Unit at Spartanburg Medical Center where she hires and manages more than 60 RNs, cardiac care associates and unit ambassadors that are medically trained and prepared for all types of acutely ill patients.
“As a nurse manager, I have hired multiple nursing graduates from SCC, and they all are well prepared for the ever-changing world of healthcare,” Karen says. “SCC is one of the greatest treasures for undergraduate students in the entire state of South Carolina.”
Karen counts among her greatest achievements the accomplishments of those she has had the opportunity to lead. Her passion for helping others attain their goals and preparing them to lead with a servant’s heart was born from the strong bonds that developed between classmates and instructors during that inaugural ADN class at Spartanburg Community College.
“Several of my nursing instructors and classmates are now my colleagues and I am so grateful for the foundations that were laid when we met at SCC,” Karen said. “We struggled and survived the journey of designing and creating a new undergraduate program and that experience created strong bonds that still exist between many of us to this day.”
Karen’s own servant’s heart extends beyond her work life into the leisure activities she enjoys. She serves in the children’s ministry at her church, assists the Greater Spartanburg Ministries foodbank several times each year and works with the disaster relief team at Church at The Mill. Karen is a member of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses and a past member of the Young Leaders division for the United Way of the Piedmont.
A resident of Roebuck, Karen is married to Barrett Willis. The couple have two children, Austin, 11, and Lauren, 9.
Clysta Clark | November 2019
As the owner of ANEW Massage, LLC, Clysta Clark, LMBT, class of 2011 does much more than therapeutic massage. And it was her time at Spartanburg Community College earning an Associate Degree in Applied Science Management with Marketing that gave her the skills to run her own business.
“My experience at SCC prepared me for my career in instrumental ways,” Clark said. “It gave me the skills that I utilize in my business today and prepared me for setting goals, planning, implementing and achieving success.”
Clark credits SCC and especially faculty member Peter Stone for the instruction, motivation and support that has helped her run a small business, handling everything from marketing and promotion to accounting and scheduling.
A native of Swanton, Vermont, Clark moved to the Upstate 28 years ago, settling in Inman, SC, a community similar in size and character to her hometown.
“My company is a local small business and I live in the community I serve, which is very important to me,” Clark said. “I have several clients that have referred every member of their family to me for treatment. It’s so very rewarding.”
Clark specializes in therapeutic massage services from goal-orientated sessions to relaxation therapy and Oncology massage. Sessions are customized, integrating various modalities designed to increase range of motion, remove trigger points, reduce stress or achieve other goals.
Clark not only serves her community professionally, but also as a volunteer with organizations such as the Greater Inman Area Chamber of Commerce, Habitat for Humanity and Spartanburg County Parks and Recreation. She is a member of the American Massage Therapy Association, Society of Oncology Massage and Oncology of the Carolinas.
When not working, Clark enjoys photography and being in nature. But her favorite job is being Mimi to grandchildren Gavin, Liam and Emma.
Ray Gilpin | October 2019
After a 28-year stint in the wastewater management industry, Ray Gilpin 09 was looking for a second career.
Gilpin barely survived a companywide layoff after 20 years on the job when his employer was acquired by another company. While relieved he was able to keep his job under the new management, the near miss made Gilpin think about finding a more secure future in another field.
I entered college at the age of 49 and graduated at 51 with honors, Gilpin said. I was given a full grant by my employer to obtain my Bachelor s in Respiratory Care Advanced Clinical Practice, and at the age of 56, I graduated Summa Cum Laude. During this journey, a business was created and is continuing to grow into its ninth year.
Recalling his time at Spartanburg Community College, Gilpin said that everything he learned was put to practical use when he entered the field.
Sometimes you think a program is too hard or strenuous, until it s your time in real life, Gilpin said. But the time you save someone s life, that s when it all becomes very real.
As a respiratory therapist, Gilpin knows about saving lives. He earned his Associates of Science in Respiratory Care at SCC, and before graduating was offered a job at one of the college s clinical rotation sites. Today, Gilpin is Chief Executive Officer of Specialized Respiratory Services, LLC in Wellford, SC handling everything from patient assessments and oxygenation setups to contractor recruitment and new business development
Established in 2011, Specialized Respiratory Services (SRS) began as a trach care and changing service at a single facility in Shelby, NC. Today, the company has 24 respiratory therapists serving more than 30 skilled nursing facilities in nine states, with four new facilities in four additional states soon to follow.
In 2013, SRS became the Respiratory Service provider for Mountain Medical Supply (MMS), a Durable Medical Equipment supplier based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Solely a government provider for the U.S. Departments of Labor and Energy, MMS primarily serves patients who are nuclear power plant employees.
The association with MMS allowed SRS to expand throughout SC and into Kentucky, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Idaho
A hands-on executive, Gilpin handles day-to-day respiratory services for the facilities in and around the Charlotte, NC area that are under contract with SRS. He also provides back-up for the three registered respiratory therapists that cover those areas.
When not working, Glipin enjoys kayak fishing and being outdoors. His two classic Porsches also get a good bit of pampering and time on the road. Ray Gilpin is class of 2009, BSRT, RRT, RCP
Gilpin is married to Geannie Gilpin, a 29-year employee of Spartanburg School District 5. Their daughter, Jessica Yath, is a graduate of SCC s nursing program.
James Fortner | September 2019
The real-world experience of his instructors prepared James Fortner 88 to immediately begin his career after earning an Associates in Industrial Electronics Technology at Spartanburg Community College.
The experienced instructors who had worked in the field prepared me to go straight to work, Fortner said. Ron Towery, who was an instructor at the time then became the head of the industrial department, really cared for his students and ended up getting me my first job.
That first job was a 16-year stint with McNaughton-McKay Electrical Company in Greenville, SC where Fortner began as a trainee then moved into account management. Since that time, he has served as business development manager for Tegron Southeast in Greenville and as vice president of sales and engineering for Cynergi Systems, a multi-million-dollar technology company based in Spartanburg.
Currently, Fortner is director of business development for Renfrow Industrial Inc. in Spartanburg where he works to bridge the gap between sales and operations, enhancing the customer experience to increase revenue.
When he s not working, Fortner enjoys spending time with family, running, mountain biking and being outside. He s also involved in the community, serving as a board member of Urban Hope, an advisory board member at Daniel Morgan Technology Center and a member of the SC Christian Chamber of Commerce.
Sam Arrowood | August 2019
We ve heard the saying, Do what you love, and you ll never work another day in your life. For Sam Arrowood 08, turning his passion into a profession is still hard work but also his greatest accomplishment.
After earning an associate degree in technology at Spartanburg Community College, the Rutherford County, NC native worked as a diesel technician with Ford, then opened his own business almost five years ago. Arrowood believes that the hands-on training he received at SCC gave him a leg up in his field of study coming out of college
There is no substitute for hands on experience through the automotive industry, Arrowood said. SCC allowed me to start the journey of my hobby leading to a job, which led to a career, which led to business ownership.
As owner of SMA Diesel Service, LLC, a Power Stroke specific diesel repair facility in Chesnee, SC, Arrowood has duties that range from technician and customer service to janitor and everything else involved in owning your own business. And while being a business owner doesn't allow a lot of down time, Arrowood still enjoy a few hobbies like spending time with wife, Paige, hiking and being outdoors. And, of course, drag racing.
Nicole T. Baker | July 2019
Opportunity comes to mind when Nicole T. Baker, CPA, recalls her time at Spartanburg Community College. Not only an opportunity to make up for a not-so-impressive start to her college career, but an opportunity to grow and to succeed
I was actually an excellent student (at SCC), Baker said. This was probably more due to the fact that I was paying for school because of a less-than-stellar freshman year.
At SCC, Baker s path became clear and she went on to earn Bachelor of Science and Master of Accountancy degrees. She joined Elliott & Painter LLP in 2003, and today is a Certified Public Accountant and a Partner at the Spartanburg, SC-based accounting firm.
Baker is a member of the South Carolina Association of CPAs, the American Institute of CPAs and serves on the board of First Citizens Bank. And this fall, she will have the chance to be on the giving end of opportunity by promoting the mission and vision of the Spartanburg Community College Foundation as a member of the board.
Kathryn Lawson | June 2019
From manufacturing and banking to corporations and nonprofits, Kathryn Lawson 84 has applied her Associate Degree in Accounting in a variety of industries. And it was her time at Spartanburg Community College that prepared her for the wide range of real-life situations she has encountered throughout her career.
As we grow and change jobs or careers, we are faced with different business needs and companies that are very different, Lawson explains. My SCC training was extremely valuable in my preparation for some of these situations. One thing that comes to my mind on a frequent basis is the different approaches we were taught on how to turn challenges into opportunities.
A self-described extrovert focused on grades and academic achievement, Lawson recalls her involvement in several clubs and organizations while at SCC. But it was the classroom of Professor Russell Hardin that made a lasting impression on her.
Mr. Hardin was great at motivating his students and had developed just the right methods for teaching, leading, coaching and making Accounting and Tax interesting, Lawson said. Not once was I ever bored in his classroom.
As staff accountant at The Spartanburg County Foundation, Lawson is again a student focused on achievement this time in the Grass Roots Leadership Development Institute. The seven-month program is designed to equip participants with the knowledge, skillset and resources to be effective in leading positive change throughout Spartanburg County.
Rhonda Anderson | May 2019
My fondest memory of Spartanburg Community College is going on an overnight field trip to Athens, Georgia and meeting Dr. Michael Dirr and playing checkers with him, Anderson said. Recognized as the number one academic contributor to the landscape industry by Landscape Management magazine, Dr. Dirr s lifelong passion for horticulture has influenced a generation of students, gardeners and professional horticulturists. But it was SCC s Doug McAbee that made a lasting impression on Anderson.
Doug was so passionate about all aspects of landscaping, Anderson explains. I took a homeowner interest course that was not a graded course with Doug, and that really sparked my interest in pursuing the landscape management certificate courses.
Anderson s Landscape Management Certificate from SCC took her from a management position at an area hospital to owner of Motlow Creek Gardens in Campobello, SC. A small retail business when Anderson and her mother purchased it 20 years ago, Motlow Creek Gardens today includes landscape maintenance, design and installation, multiple greenhouses and a gift shop.
The classes I took at SCC gave me confidence to talk with clients with ease, and the plant material courses definitely helped me make interesting plant choices for customers looking for something unique to set their landscape apart from their neighbors.
Trang Thu Pitts | April 2019
Lab days filled with cooking and creating were Trang Thu Pitts favorite while at Spartanburg Community College. Now every day is lab day for the Boston, MA native who serves as Executive Sous Chef at the Spartanburg Marriott and as owner/operator of BAK D, a baking company specializing in cakes, cookies and confectioners.
A 2015 SCC graduate with an Associate of Applied Science degree with a Culinary Certificate, Trang Thu found both the training and the support network she needed to be successful in the Upstate culinary scene.
I m so grateful to Chef Byers and the other chef instructors who were so patient and understanding, Trang Thu said. They truly supported me and my aspirations.
When not at work, Trang Thu spends time in her own kitchen teaching daughters Sokthea and Sokthi how to prepare some of the Vietnamese foods she grew up eating. She also spends time with future chefs judging culinary competitions at area high schools and at SCC s Restaurant Capstone.
Ryan Collins | March 2019
Ryan (SC native) graduated in July 2017 with honors, obtaining his Associates in Applied Science in Mechatronics. He was an SCC Technical Scholar at AWL Automation and is now employed there as a Documentation Engineer.
As a non-traditional student, finding a work/life/school balance was difficult at times. "My advisors and instructors offered, in addition to an excellent education, plenty of practical advice for how to adjust myself to the expectations of the industry into which I was attempting to enter. The courses that offered a good balance of classroom lectures and hands-on labs were particularly useful."
Jeannette Bull Robison | January 2019
Jeannette Bull Robison earned her Certificate in Landscape Management and AS in Horticulture Technology here at SCC. She now owns her own Landscaping consulting business, The Yardisan.