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Health Sciences dean named ‘Woman of Substance’

WINTERVILLE — Pitt Community College celebrated Women’s History Month on Wednesday with a program that included the presentation of the 2019 Woman of Substance (WOS) Award to Health Sciences Dean Donna Neal.

A PCC employee since 2002, Neal received the award during the annual Women’s History Month Forum in recognition of her leadership, dedication to education and commitment to student success. She was selected from a group of eight female employees who had been nominated by their coworkers.

“Dean Neal is a steel magnolia that provides leadership with compassion, common sense and caring,” PCC Nursing Director/Department Chair Elizabeth Toderick said. “We follow and support her because she has earned our respect. We want to do better because she genuinely cares for us and, more importantly, for our students.”

Toderick was one of many nursing instructors to support Neal’s nomination. The consensus among them was that she respects her coworkers, sets a high bar for her division, holds those she supervises accountable and secures needed resources for the programs she oversees.

Four months ago, PCC cut the ribbon on newly-renovated health sciences facilities, including a state-of-the-art simulation hospital. By reaching out to Vidant Medical Center and the Golden LEAF Foundation, Neal secured much of the funding for the $1.61 million-project.

In 2012, she helped PCC earn reaffirmation of accreditation from the Southern Association of College and Schools Commission on Colleges. Not long after, she filled in as interim vice president of Academic Affairs for nearly a year.

More recently, Neal — as co-chair of PCC’s Student Success Action Council Data Committee — helped develop the college’s application for membership in the Achieving the Dream (ATD) National Network.

PCC Assistant Vice President of Academic Affairs Lori Preast joined Vice President of Academic Affairs Tom Gould in nominating Neal for the WOS Award, saying she embodies the characteristics of a Woman of Substance.

“Not only is Donna smart, organized, detailed and articulate, she is intrinsically motivated, innovative and selflessly does whatever is necessary to better serve our college and community,” Preast said.

Never one to seek the spotlight, Neal downplayed her achievements and shifted credit to her coworkers.

“Anything that I have accomplished, I do it because I am surrounded by people who support me and people who help me; I don’t do any of this by myself,” she said.

A Wilson resident, Neal has worked more than 26 years in higher education. She was director of clinical education for Edgecombe Community College’s Respiratory Therapy program for nine years before being hired as department chairwoman of Pitt’s Respiratory Therapy program in 2002.

In 2005, the N.C. Society for Respiratory Care named Neal its Educator of the Year. And two years later, PCC promoted her to dean of one of the N.C. Community College System’s most comprehensive health sciences divisions.

Neal is the 18th recipient of the WOS Award, which was established by the college’s Multicultural Activities Committee and Student Government Association to recognize and encourage outstanding women role models on campus. The award has been presented during PCC’s women’s history celebration since 2001.

In addition to Neal, this year’s WOS nominees were Katherine Clyde, Marianne Cox, Faith Fagan, Happy Gingras, Anna Jones, Tabitha Miller and Rebecca Warren.

Legal Aid attorney headlines women’s history forum

PCC’s annual Women’s History Month program featured a presentation by attorney Leah Arnold that centered on the “peace and nonviolence” theme of this year’s national women’s history celebration.

A staff attorney with Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Battered Immigrant Project, Arnold represents low-income immigrants who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and other forms of gender-based violence. It’s a job, she says, in which she is challenged each day “by the brutality of the world and inspired by the resilience that women exhibit in response to it.”

During her presentation at PCC, Arnold said that when she hears the words “peace” and “nonviolence,” she thinks about the many places in the world where they are lacking.

“And when I think of the words ‘peace’ and ‘nonviolence’ in the context of Women’s History Month,” she said, “it’s hard not to think about the fact that one in three women and girls will be a victim of physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives. It’s hard not to remember that half of all women who are killed worldwide are killed as a result of domestic or family violence.”

Arnold said much of her workday is spent confronting “violence head on, looking at it soberly, honestly, unflinchingly and then doing what I can, in my own way, to champion healing and justice in its place.”

Last year, Arnold visited Dilley, Texas, to offer legal services pro bono to women and children seeking asylum in the United States. She ended up spending a week listening to mothers being detained at the South Texas Family Residential Center tell stories of hardship in order to provide them “coherent analysis” of their legal claims.

“I’ve worked with a lot of women here in North Carolina who have told me stories about their experiences in the border region, but I wanted to see it for myself,” she said.

In closing out her speech, Arnold encouraged her audience to help make the world a better, more peaceful and less violent place.

“It is our responsibility to find the ways in which we can contribute personally to the greater good,” she said. “… I truly believe that we are the visionary women we’ve been waiting for.”

Co-sponsored by PCC’s Multicultural Activities Committee and Women’s Resource Center, Pitt has held a program each March since 2001 to celebrate Women’s History Month.

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