Longtime Vance-Granville Community College Child Care Specialist Deborah J. Harris was recently honored with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine from North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper as she prepared to retire. The award was presented to her on the governor’s behalf by the president of VGCC, Dr. Stelfanie Williams, at a holiday social in December, at which Harris and other recent retirees were recognized.
A resident of Oxford, Harris retired on Dec. 31 with a longer tenure than any retiree in the history of the college: 41 years and three months. Her entire tenure was spent teaching young children at the Child Care Center on VGCC’s Main Campus in Vance County.
Among the most prestigious awards presented by the Governor of North Carolina, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine recognizes recipients for exemplary service to the state and their communities. Recipients are awarded the ceremonial rank of “Ambassador Extraordinary.”
Harris said she was “surprised and very honored” to receive the award. “My time at Vance-Granville has been a pleasure, because I enjoyed what I was doing and I loved the children,” Harris reflected. “The years actually flew by. I can’t believe I worked there for 41 years. It was a joy getting to know the families of our children and serving the community.” Harris noted that in some cases, she taught two generations of the same families.
She added that she cherished her colleagues, marveling at the historically low turnover of staff at the child day care center. Harris was one of the original teachers at the center from its inception. She joined the staff on Sept. 30, 1976, shortly before the first children arrived in the new center on the newly constructed Main Campus. Harris and her fellow staff members have been instrumental in the center maintaining its status as a five-star licensed child-care facility for the entire time since the state of North Carolina began the current system of rating child care centers in 2000.
“We are delighted and proud that Deborah Harris received this well-deserved recognition for her lifetime of service to her community, and particularly to young children,” President Williams said. “She demonstrated dedication to helping our students at the Child Care Center prepare for success in Kindergarten and beyond, and in so doing, she has touched the lives of so many members of our college family and the community as a whole.”
Harris began her long association with VGCC as a student. After graduating from J.F. Webb High School in Oxford, she immediately enrolled in what was then Vance-Granville Technical Institute, earning her Associate in Applied Science degree in Early Childhood Education in 1975.
Harris is also active at Oak Grove Baptist Church in Oxford, where she volunteers in a variety of capacities.