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May 22, 2022

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SCC Graduate Lee Crites Challenges Fellow Alumni

Lee Crites (center), a 2010 graduate of SCC’s Physical Therapist program, recently set up an endowed scholarship fund at his alma mater. Standing with Crites are Brett Woods (left), Director of the SCC Foundation, and Dr. Don Tomas, SCC President.

When Lee Crites was trying to pick up the pieces from a particularly challenging season in his life, he enrolled in the Physical Therapist Assistant program at Southwestern Community College.

He’s never looked back.

Crites went on to earn his associate degree in 2010, and he’s enjoyed a fulfilling encore career in the therapy field – including a five-year travel stint in Northern California.

His educational experience was so transformative and meaningful that he decided recently to take another first step at Southwestern by setting up an endowed fund through the SCC Foundation – marking the first time an SCC graduate has done so.

The “SCC Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award” has two primary objectives: 1) Inspire instructors to continue changing the trajectory of students’ lives, and 2) spark a spirit of philanthropy among SCC alumni and community members who – like Crites – are in a position to give back.

“Back when I first enrolled, I was immediately welcomed here,” said Crites, who’d previously earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Tennessee and Western Carolina University, respectively, in the 1970s. “The instructors took extra time because I was an older student, 20 years older than anyone else in my class, and I just thrived under their care.

“It warms my heart to think about SCC,” Crites added. “My hope is that this gift is a catalyst for other graduates.”

Crites made an initial gift of $5,000 and has pledged to match every dollar raised – up to another $5,000 – to meet the minimum endowed fund threshold of $15,000.

Once endowed, the fund will generate earnings that will be used to recognize and celebrate SCC faculty members for their impact on students, to support their continued ability to deliver outstanding instruction and to encourage their retention as valued faculty members.

“The faculty members at SCC are experts at meeting students where they are and helping them achieve their career goals,” said Dr. Don Tomas, SCC’s President. “In Mr. Crites’ case as a returning student, they helped him in his unique situation to gain the training to succeed as a physical therapist assistant. Our faculty do this every day with every student. I applaud Mr. Crites’ recognition of our outstanding faculty and his desire to support teaching excellence.”

For more information about the “SCC Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award” – or to make a donation – call 828.339.4227 or email k_posey@souhwesterncc.edu.

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