Stith out as president of NC Community Colleges System

Thomas Stith was chosen to lead the NC Community College system.

RALEIGH — Thomas Stith III announced his resignation on Tuesday, July 19 as president of the NC Community Colleges System. His resignation will take effect on Friday, July 22. 

“It has been an honor to lead the NC Community College System alongside well-respected college presidents, professionals, dedicated educators and inspirational students. While navigating the uncharted waters of the COVID-19 crisis with careful stewardship, authentic collaboration and unshakeable faith, I am thrilled that our community college system enhanced its offerings, making students more competitive for the workforce, entrepreneurship and transfer to 4-year institutions. That was my job to do and my commitment to our state,” he said in a statement. 

Sources tell North State Journal that Stith’s removal was discussed during a three-hour closed session of the system’s board on July 15.  

According to those sources, the possible removal of Stith has “been an ongoing conversation for several months.”  

One source tells North State Journal that the board issued specific feedback and timelines for “improvement,” and if he chose not to resign, termination was a distinct likelihood. Stith opted to resign, as today’s news confirms. 

North State Journal has learned possible reason for the lack of response is that at least one communications department staffer, Sharon Gladwell, the executive director of communications, resigned within the past three weeks. 

Stith was named president of the system on Jan. 11, 2021. 

According to Stith’s bio on the NC Community College System’s website, he was previously the “district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration, where he led the federal agency’s response to COVID-19 in North Carolina.”

Stith had also served as chief of staff to former Gov. Pat McCrory from 2013 to 2017, was a three-term city council member in Durham from 1999 to 2007, and was “a chief executive of several businesses and consulting firms,” that includes the Michael Thomas Group in Durham and LJP Lab, a toxicology lab and health care consulting company located in Kernersville. 

“The State Board of the NC Community College System has accepted the resignation of Thomas A. Stith. The Board thanks Mr. Stith for his service and wishes him well. The State Board expects to name an experienced interim president in the next few days and will begin a thoughtful and thorough search for a permanent president to lead the NC Community College System,” a board chairman Burr W. Sullivan said.