President Emeritus K. Ray Bailey Receives Highest Honor from State Board of Community Colleges

Portrait of K. Ray Bailey
January 23, 2018
Tech Talk

K. Ray Bailey, President Emeritus of A-B Tech Community College has been named the winner of the 2018 I.E. Ready Award, the highest honor bestowed by the State Board of Community Colleges.

Named for Isaac Epps Ready, the first state director of the North Carolina Community College System, the award was created in 1983 to recognize individuals who have made significant, statewide contributions to the establishment, development or enhancement of the system.

Aside from a short stint teaching at Clyde A. Erwin High School, Bailey dedicated his professional career to A-B Tech from 1966-2007. He was the college's president from 1990 until his retirement and was honored as President of the Year for the North Carolina Community College System in 2005. He received honorary doctorates from Mars Hill University and Western Carolina University, and the Chancellors Medallion from the University of North Carolina in Asheville. In 2006, he was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.

“First of all, I am honored the college had submitted my name for the award and I was selected by the state board committee,” Bailey said. “I have enjoyed what is now almost 52 years of service to the community college system through A-B Tech, the State Board and now the A-B Tech Foundation Board. I look forward to finding more ways to help students to achieve their goals at A-B Tech.”

During Bailey's presidency, A-B Tech grew to encompass three campuses that collectively enrolled more than 25,000 students. The college also added more than 30 degree and diploma programs and constructed a computer technology center to house the state's first digital media technology program. In 2000, Bailey created the college's Enka campus through a donation from BASF Corp. The company's gift of 37 acres and three buildings was the largest-ever donation of property to a community college in the United States.

 “President Bailey’s legacy is evident on our campus today,” said A-B Tech President Dennis King. “It can be seen through the Haynes Building that houses the state’s first Digital Media Technology Center and the Brumit Center for Hospitality Education, home to a nationally-ranked culinary program. His creation of the A-B Tech Foundation has given thousands of scholarships to students in need. His dedication to the college and its students is indeed praiseworthy.”

After retirement from A-B Tech, Bailey’s commitment to the community college didn’t stop. He was elected Buncombe County Commissioner, winning more votes than any other candidate. He played a key role in luring the manufacturer Linamar to the area, bringing hundreds of high paying jobs to the county during his term. Bailey also remained involved with the community college system. He served on the State Board of Community Colleges from 2009-2015 and was elected vice chair for two years. He also chaired the board's Finance Committee from 2011-2015.

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