Industrial Education Centers historical marker

Industrial Education Centers (J-113)

As forerunners of state community colleges, 1958-1963, boosted vocational training. First in N.C. operated 200 yards E.

Location: North Pierce Street in Eden
County: Rockingham
Original Date Cast: 2011

After World War II, and with industrial expansion in North Carolina, the need developed for technical and vocational training. Under the administrations of Governors Luther Hodges and Terry Sanford, a statewide system of community colleges took root, first as a system of seven Industrial Education Centers. The legislature laid the groundwork in June 1957 with the appropriation of a half million dollars.

The seven Industrial Education Centers opened in Burlington, Durham, Goldsboro, Jamestown, Wilmington, Wilson, and Leaksville (present-day Eden). Sites were selected by the State Board of Education, chaired by Dallas Herring, based on consideration of pressing needs.

Leaksville was the home county of Governor Hodges and Fieldcrest Mills, his former employer. Under its original name, Marshall Fields and Company, the Rockingham County company in 1919 pioneered technical training for its employees. In 1937 the company turned the vocational building, known as Nantucket Mill, and equipment over to the Leaksville school system which, during the summer of 1957, transferred the training to a new vocational building on the campus of Morehead High School.

Thus, Leaksville was well-positioned to host the first Industrial Education Center, beginning in May 1958. Other cities, beginning with Jamestown, where an old sanatorium was rehabbed for the purpose, were not far behind. Twenty Industrial Education Centers were operating in 1963, when they formed the core of the new North Carolina Community College system.

The center remained in operation at Morehead High School until 1966 when Rockingham Community College opened in nearby Wentworth. The community college system today is fifty-eight campuses strong and serves 800,000 North Carolinians each year.

North Carolina Community Colleges website:
James W. Patton, ed., Messages, Addresses, and Public Papers of Luther Hartwell Hodges, Governor of North Carolina, 1954-1961, III (1963)
Winston-Salem Journal and Winston-Salem Sentinel, May 1958 issues
(Raleigh) News and Observer, March 2, 1958

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