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College Trustee Ray Spells, an A-B Tech Success Story
February 28, 2014
When Ray Spells talks about how A-B Tech Community College can change lives, he speaks from experience. He was one of the College’s first African-American graduates.
In 1965, Spells graduated as a member of the final class at Stephens-Lee High School. Built in 1923, Stephens-Lee was for many decades Western North Carolina's only secondary school for African-Americans. The school drew students from throughout Buncombe, Henderson, Madison, Yancey, and Transylvania counties, and represented a focal point and key source of pride for the extended African American community in the state's western region.
Upon graduation, Spells initially enrolled in a traditional four-year college with a goal of a degree in business administration. However, upon hearing of the same program at A-B Tech, Spells decided to transfer to A-B Tech, completing his Associate’s Degree in Business Administration in 1968. “It was one of the wisest decisions I ever made in my life,” Spells recalls.
Spells’ first job out of A-B Tech was as a management trainee at Wachovia Bank (now Wells Fargo). He quickly moved up the ranks at the company, next as a Trust Officer to ultimately serving as a Senior Vice President, the position he holds today. He credits his instructors for his success in the banking industry. “My instructors’ high expectations prepared me well, not only for my first job but for the job I currently hold today,” Spells said.
That same foundation has led him to give back to his alma mater and serve the College in numerous capacities. Since 1995, Spells has served as a member of the Board of Trustees, and serving as Chair from 2001 until 2003. His colleagues on the Board asked him to step up again in 2012 to serve as Vice Chair of the Board, a position he still holds. That service has also led him in his philanthropy, as a major donor to numerous scholarships at the A-B Tech Foundation as well as lending his expertise as a member of the Foundation’s Board of Directors. “More than four decades after graduation, I am privileged to serve [A-B Tech] and am continually amazed at how much the College makes a difference in literally tens of thousands of students’ lives each year.”
As we close out Black History Month, the College and the A-B Tech Alumni Association wish to honor Ray Spells and express our gratitude for the tremendous and life-changing effect he has had both on the College’s history and its future.