I met with Jean Ellen and her artist husband, Don, at their home in the Fairview neighborhood of Sylva where they live in a house they built themselves amid a fabulous garden full of flowering plants and late summer vegetables.
After a full career of teaching and college administration, many people would be content to retire to this comfortable haven and relax, but Jean Ellen likes to stay involved in her community and she was happy to accept the appointment as a Trustee at Southwestern Community College.
Jean Ellen will be the only retiree from SCC to serve on the Board. She is eager to tackle the goals of the Board to maintain a quality administration and support the needs of the student body. She is a strong proponent of the community college system in North Carolina, exclaiming, “When I was first at SCC, I had some of the most wonderful students!” Having retired from active teaching in 1999, she is also curious to see how the school has changed since then.
Jean Ellen was born in Southern Mississippi, but her mother’s family is from Western North Carolina. In fact, she says, “I owe my existence to Franklin Roosevelt because my Dad was in the C.C.C. and was sent here to work.” Her parents met and married here, but during World War II, the family returned to Mississippi, where Jean Ellen grew up and received her education. After early teaching jobs in New Orleans and at two community colleges in Florida, she moved to Sylva, where she began by teaching at the high school. She then took a part-time teaching job at SCC in 1984 and, by her second year there, was a fulltime employee. Somewhat to her surprise, she was recruited to work in administration, first as Director of Admission for 7 years and then another 5 years as the head of General Education. In her final 3 years at SCC, she was able to return to teaching English full-time.
The Board of Trustees is the governing body of the college. There are 14 trustees who are appointed by different elected officials in the community and the state: Five are appointed by the county commissioners, four by the Board of Education, four by the Governor of North Carolina and the Student Leadership Association President is an ex-officio member. Jean Ellen was appointed in July, 2015 to a 4-year term by the Jackson County Commissioners. Chairman, Brian McMahan, says of her,
“I consider Jean Ellen Forrister to be one of the bedrock members of our local Jackson County Democratic Party. She has been a well-respected member of our party and one that others turn to when seeking wisdom and guidance. With a background in education at various levels and having worked at Southwestern Community College, it was obvious to the Board of Commissioners that Jean was the perfect fit to represent the Commissioners as our appointment to the SCC Board of Trustees. We are pleased to appoint her and know that our community will benefit from her service.”
Please join me in congratulating Jean Ellen Forrister on this prestigious appointment.