Haywood Community College recently celebrated the 40th Anniversary of the first class of Forest Management Technology Graduates from the school. In 1969, 24 students received their diplomas and went on to diverse careers. Steve Sorrels, currently a college trustee and a member of this first class, heard about the program from his Assistant Principal at Bethel where he was finishing high school. There had also been publicity about the new program in the local papers.

“We had classmates from all over,” he remembers. “There were folks that the TVA had sent over from Tennessee, Vietnam veterans, and other folks from around the state in our class.”

The first class of foresters met upstairs in the Old Clyde School. Sorrels commented, “After graduation, there were jobs out there and some went into the private sector; but a majority were either drafted or enlisted in the military.” Steve entered the military as well, but later went on to earn a degree in Horticulture from NC State University and returned to Haywood Community College as a horticulture instructor from 1974 until 1979. In 2006, he spearheaded a reunion with several class members at HCC’s Mountain Echoes Festival. This August at HCC’s Jammin’ at the Mill Pond, Sorrels hopes that more of his classmates can get together to celebrate their 40th year reunion.

Forty years later, HCC’s forestry program is still going strong with an average of 20 new students entering the program yearly. The program is the only 2-year forestry program in North Carolina recognized by the Society of American Foresters (SAF). Graduates of the program have found jobs with the NC Division of Forest Resources as county rangers, the US Forest Service as forestry technicians and firefighters, the National Park Service, and with private forestry consulting firms. Several students each year also go on to complete their Bachelor’s degrees in forestry or natural resources from universities like NC State, Western Carolina University, and University of Idaho.

The HCC Forestry Club and Lumberjack Team travel to various conferences and competitions throughout the year. Forestry sophomore, Bill Sweeney, was recently elected the national SAF Student Congress Chair and will lead student delegates from across the nation representing their respective forestry programs at the 2009 Annual SAF Conference to be held in Orlando, FL in October.

If you are an alum of HCC’s forestry program or for more information, please contact Jenny Carver at 828.627.4560 or Jim Hamilton at 828.627.4567.

Members of Haywood Community College’s first Forestry Club included: Steve Sorrells, President; Jerry McAbee, Vice President; Gary Case, Secretary; Eddie Zimmerman, Treasurer; Mondee Monteith, Sergeant-at-Arms; Earl Rich, Parliamentarian; Ronnie Davis, Charles Dachelet, and Jack Wesley, Reporters.

In 2006, members of HCC’s first graduating class of Forest Management Technology students held a reunion on HCC’s campus. Those in attendance included: (front row, left to right) former HCC Director of Vocational and Technical Education Bill Seibert, Bill Davis, Tony Pressley, Mike Green, Earl Rich, and retired HCC Vice President of Academic Services Bill Rhodarmer. Pictured back row left to right are: Steve Sorrells, former HCC Forestry Department Head and Director of Admissions Jack Brodhage, Dean Ward, Jim Seay, George Lynch, and Ron Davis.