PCC President Retires after 42-Year Career in Higher Education

PCC and local leaders break ground at the site of a new Welding Technology Building on campus.

WINTERVILLE—Six years after becoming only the fifth president in Pitt Community College history, Dr. Lawrence L. Rouse spent his final day at the helm breaking ground on a new home for the school’s Welding Technology program.

After 42 years in higher education, Rouse officially closed out his career this month. He says retirement will allow him to spend more time with his family, including his wife, Janie, three children and granddaughter, and in pursuit of recreational interests, like golf, reading and restoring cars.

“My first convocation address in 2018 was titled ‘Beyond the Horizon,’ where I asked everyone to think about and be prepared for what was just beyond the horizon for PCC,” Rouse said. “Now, a little more than four decades after beginning my career in higher education, I’m preparing for what lies beyond an entirely new horizon, and I’m excited for what is to come and grateful for what has been.”

PCC Trustees Chairman Charles Ellis thanked Rouse for his service to Pitt and higher education.

“Dr. Lawrence Rouse’s leadership, decision-making and commitment to educational equity have directly contributed to thousands of people in the Carolinas bettering their life circumstances through higher education,” Ellis said. “There are also countless people working in higher education today who have benefitted from his kindness, the knowledge he’s shared, and the many examples he’s set for others to follow.”

Originally from Sumter, S.C., Rouse was hired to succeed Dr. G. Dennis Massey as PCC president in the summer of 2018. Prior to joining Pitt, he’d spent 13 years as president and CEO of James Sprunt Community College, where he earned recognition as the N.C. Community College System’s “President of the Year” in 2016.

From the moment he arrived in Winterville, Rouse focused on meeting four objectives outlined in PCC’s partnership with the Achieving the Dream National Network: workforce development, equity, student success, and organizational development and accountability.

“The ATD partnership asked everyone on campus to be courageous enough to examine PCC policies, processes and procedures to identify and address challenges,” Rouse said. “It also underscored the importance of ensuring every member of the community has access to an adequate education beyond high school and reminded us that student success is everyone’s business.”

Rouse emphasized service excellence as president and encouraged faculty and staff to be fully-engaged when working with one other, the public and students. He made it his mission to ensure Pitt was student-centric and “capable of responding to the community’s needs rapidly, adequately and innovatively.”

With Rouse at the helm, PCC achieved reaffirmation of accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges in 2023 and opened the Eddie & Jo Allison Smith Center for Student Advancement on campus the same year. Pitt also acquired the former Alliance One property to become its Farmville Center, where a variety of workforce development training will be offered once it’s fully renovated.

Though Rouse leaves PCC well-positioned to continue as a leader in education and workforce development in North Carolina, a highlight of his legacy will be the calm and steady leadership he demonstrated while guiding the college through unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. His proactive approach and emphasis on communication ensured Pitt remained adaptable and supportive of students, employees and the community.

“The adversity created by the pandemic was significant and comprehensive. Among many other things, it disrupted lives, the global economy and higher education,” Rouse said. “PCC responded to those challenges with incredible speed and intentionality, and our faculty and staff exhibited the necessary strength and grit to help the college meet obstacles head on.

“We learned to adapt and made the best of a difficult situation through such things as virtual graduations, loaning laptops and mobile hotspots to students for completing online coursework, and extending free WiFi services to a campus parking lot for students to safely access.”

Following his retirement announcement in January, the PCC Foundation established the Drs. Lawrence & Janie Rouse Endowed Scholarship. To contribute, donors must visit the PCC Foundation website. They must click on “Direct Your Donation to a Specific Scholarship” and enter “Drs. Lawrence & Janie Rouse Endowed Scholarship” in the designation box.

Three candidates vying for Pitt’s presidency delivered presentations to campus June 18-20. PCC Trustees must now come to a consensus on who they feel is the best fit for the college among those candidates and submit their choice to the State Board of Community Colleges. The State Board is expected to make a decision during its July 19 meeting.

Until Rouse’s successor is in place, PCC Vice President of Finance/Chief Financial Officer Ricky Brown will serve as interim president of North Carolina’s seventh-largest community college in terms of student credit hours.