“To our students, as I continue this journey of service and leadership, I pledge to you a commitment to the best education, training, and service we can provide to meet your needs, “ said the Fifth President of Southside Virginia Community College upon his inauguration October 30, 2015. Dr. Alfred A. Roberts was officially inaugurated as president of the community college established in 1970 and serving the largest geographical area of any of Virginia’s 23 community colleges. (Dr. Robert's Inauguration Speech)
In performing the official inauguration, Dr. Glenn DuBois, Chancellor of the Virginia Community College System, noted the passing of two symbols of leadership: the gavel and the medallion. Dr. DuBois also offered a personal gift to Dr. Roberts, a blank journal, one without lines on the pages.
He said, “The journal is a reminder that the success story of your time as the president of this community college remains unwritten and without limits. Working with your team, working with your community, that story will take form and grow the way you collectively see it and the way you lead it.”
The investiture was witnessed by a crowd of about 400 people including regalia-clad delegates representing more than 26 colleges and the SVCC faculty and administration. Dr. Roberts’ wife, Janet, three children, their spouses and one grandchild were also in the audience along with many other family members.
Greeting from the podium included Local Board Chair Gerald W. Watts, SVCC Foundation Inc. President Robert F. Pecht, III, Thomas Scales, representing faculty, and Samuel Galipeau, a student who noted that he quickly learned at Southside that “success does start here.”
Dedicating the day in memory of his mother who passed away last year, Dr. Roberts told of her legacy to him,” Early in my life she inspired my brother and me and nurtured our appreciation of learning and service. She encouraged us . . . and often times made us . . . participate in activities sponsored by our school, church, and community. If there was a program that could enrich our lives, my mother sent us. “
“The inauguration of a new president provides a great opportunity to celebrate the rich history of Southside Virginia Community College and reflect on its many successes. This would be impossible to do without honoring the contributions and accomplishments of my predecessor, Dr. John Cavan. Dr. Cavan often spoke of Southside as “democracy’s college” and was committed to creating a culture of higher education across Southside Virginia. I consider myself privileged to have served with him over the past 20 years and I am grateful for his mentorship and support,” Dr. Roberts noted.
“Among the first steps taken by me as a newly appointed president a year ago was to call together government leaders and area economic developers to express my commitment to enhanced community engagement and expanded efforts in workforce training and economic development. We know that a skilled, well-trained and available workforce is key to the economic vitality of this region,” he said.
Noting more than 7,000 individual students who enrolled in a course at the college last year, Dr. Roberts said,” Southside Virginia Community College makes post-secondary education possible and affordable. We are opening doors for people who never thought they could go to college. We are helping them reach their goals for a better life for themselves and their families.”
Dr. Roberts continued, “Richard Boles, author of the career counseling manual What Color is Your Parachute? says this about purpose. “Your purpose in life is to use your unique talents and gifts in the places or settings assigned by God and for the purposes He most needs to have done.” It is here at Southside that I believe I have come face-to-face with my purpose. America’s community colleges, and especially Southside Virginia Community College, champion so many of the values that I treasure, both professionally and personally.”
With a commitment to the theme, “ One College. One Mission,” Dr. Roberts said, will address: our need to function as a singular institution in spite of our widely spread physical locations; our commitment to the fundamental mission of community colleges to provide opportunities for access, along with equity in opportunity for student progress and success; and last but certainly not least, our plan supports the new Virginia Community College System strategic plan “Complete21.” That plan features just one goal – to triple the number of credentials awarded to Virginia community college students by the year 2021. “
Dr. Roberts also announced the establishment of the Al and Janet Roberts “It Takes a Village” Scholarship, designed to promote degree completion for students with unmet financial need.
Dr. Roberts took the helm as President at SVCC on August 1, 2014. He has been making a difference in the lives of Southside Virginians throughout his 40-year career in education and community service. He began his career as an Instructor at Norfolk State University in 1976. He came to SVCC in 1995 where he has held several administrative positions including Dean of Off-Campus Instruction, Vice President for Workforce Services and continuing Education, and Provost.
He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication from Michigan State University, a Master of Education degree in Educational Media from Virginia State University, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Community College Leadership from Old Dominion University.