Wilkes Community College
||This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (March 2012)|
|President||Dr. Jeff Cox|
|Location||Wilkesboro, North Carolina, USA|
|Colors||Red and white|
|Affiliations||North Carolina Community College System|
Wilkes Community College (WCC), a member of the North Carolina Community College System, is a public, two-year, open-door institution serving the people of Wilkes, Ashe and Alleghany counties and beyond. The college is located in the city of Wilkesboro, North Carolina in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Brushy Mountains. The college is probably best known as the site of the annual MerleFest music festival.
Wilkes Community College was founded in October 1964 by the North Carolina Board of Education. The first Board of Trustees was sworn into office on January 15, 1965, and classes were first held in August 1965. The student enrollment for the college's first year was 68. The college's campus originally covered 75 acres and included three buildings - Thompson, Hayes and Lovette halls. The first president of WCC was Dr. Howard Thompson, who served from March 5, 1965, to June 30, 1977.
Wilkes Community College currently has a 151.7-acre (0.614 km2) campus and 14 buildings. The student enrollment is typically around 3,500 students for curriculum, 900 for continuing education, and 1,600 for basic skills. The college also has satellite campuses in nearby Ashe and Alleghany counties. WCC is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Like most of North Carolina's community colleges, WCC has an "open-door" admissions policy, which means that any adult with a high-school diploma can be admitted. The college pledges itself to "quality education, training and retraining for the workforce, including basic skills education, occupational, technical and pre-baccalaureate programs." In addition to offering associate's degrees in the technical, business and medical fields, the college also offers a university-parallel college transfer program, which provides the first two years of courses towards a bachelor's degree. Students who complete this program can transfer to a four-year college or university. The current president of Wilkes Community College is Dr. Gordon Burns; in 2006 the North Carolina Community College system presented him with its annual "President of the Year" award.
In 1988 legendary, Grammy-winning guitarist Doc Watson, WCC horticulture instructor B Townes, and local businessman and musician Bill Young started the MerleFest music festival on the campus of Wilkes Community College. Named in honor of Doc's late son Merle Watson, MerleFest has grown into one of the largest bluegrass and folk music festivals in the United States, drawing nearly 80,000 music fans each year. The festival, the primary fundraiser for Wilkes Community College, has brought national publicity to the college. As of 2011, MerleFest has raised $9 million for WCC.