This towering gift to education, and of education, has talked with our newspaper on countless occasions over the past few months, and especially since announcing his plans for year-end retirement back in July.
Never at a loss for words about education, and most importantly its future, Hite for the last 17 years has served as a primary “go to” person by our reporters for professional insight about higher education and its roller-coaster ride of successes at the community college level.
He has never turned away a request from our newspaper for an interview, whether from his CSCC office or from long-distance via a phone call during a Florida vacation. His knowledge in the field is unprecedented. And his opinions about education, its trends and where those trends should be heading are almost always spot on.
In an interview with Banner staff writer Delaney Walker six months ago, when Hite first announced his plans to retire, the longtime educator was candid in his remarks about the state of education, his hopes for its future, his love of Cleveland State Community College and its surrounding Bradley County community, as well as his plans for the future.
Consider these thoughts from a thoughtful man whose title is changing from president to president emeritus:
n On his decision to retire: “It is time to do something else. I’ve been in higher education for close to 40 years. I love working with people, but maybe in terms of management, it’s time for someone younger with more energy.”
n On his plans for the future: “I will probably spend half of my time in Tennessee and half of my time in Florida. I am thinking about consulting. I could also teach.”
n On the future of higher education: “I think Tennessee, or any state, could do a better job of looking at future trends that will shape higher education. We should be responding to what is happening around us and not dictating what happens around us.”
n On his transition into retirement: “It will be a shock, but I also know I can sleep late in the morning, or I can go on vacation somewhere to travel and not worry about deadlines. I really don’t like deadlines.”
n On living a balanced life: “A presidency is 24/7. In this community, if I walk outside the door, just like [Lee University President Paul Conn], I am the president whether I want to be the president or not. There are some folks who do not want that. They want a life outside of their work.”
n On the benefits of college life: “I think college keeps one young. Half of our population is over 26 and half is under. College campuses keep people young. I still like to think I am a young 67. If I live to 100, then I am only two-thirds of the way there.”
n On CSCC’s aim to remain relevant: “We’ve done a lot with workforce development. We’ve renovated the technology building. We’ve added a new piece to the technology building. We just bought several assessment pieces, costing $250,000, which will allow plant managers and HR folks to measure ability, skills and problem solving.”
Others will miss him. During a community sendoff at The Venue Creekside on Dec. 19, the eve of his final day in the office, Hite was credited as being a caring people person who understands how to make a difference in his community.
State Sen. Mike Bell said Hite inspired him to complete his college degree. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Gary Farlow credited the professional educator with sharing his passion between education, business and community. Tom Griscom, a member of the Tennessee Board of Regents, praised Hite for nurturing the relationship between CSCC and the Cleveland community. Ron Braam, a board member of the Cleveland State Community College Foundation who served as a member of the college’s president selection search committee 17 years ago, stressed “... we obviously got the best one.”
The gift of appreciation given to Hite by the CSCC staff senate president, Kim Wills, was perhaps the most telling of the school’s love for the retiring administrator. They gave him his own day. As proclaimed by Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland on Dec. 19, the president’s final day in the office was declared Dr. Carl Hite Appreciation Day.
It was a fitting gift for a man whose own humility unveiled the size of heart that pumped enthusiasm and energy throughout the Cleveland State campus for almost two decades.
His words to those attending the retirement dinner told the entire story of this man’s love affair with higher education and community: “I’m blessed.”
The same two words can best describe any who have crossed his path and all who have called Cleveland State Community College their school, and Cleveland and Bradley County their home.