ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The new A-B Tech School of Nursing was dedicated Tuesday in a ceremony that highlighted the college’s nursing education legacy in Western North Carolina dating back to 1959. Nursing faculty, students, and alumni were joined by college, healthcare, and community leaders in the Ferguson Center for Allied Health and Workforce Development on A-B Tech’s main campus in Asheville.
“The establishment of the A-B Tech School of Nursing recognizes the critical role A-B Tech has played in educating and preparing nurses to work in hospitals and medical facilities throughout the region since the college was founded in 1959,” said A-B Tech President John Gossett. “A-B Tech has produced thousands of graduates who are essential in meeting the demands of the region’s healthcare industry and to delivering compassionate, high-quality patient care.”
When the college was founded, it assumed administration of the Asheville School of Practical Nursing, which opened in 1954. A-B Tech offered the Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) program until 2015. Gossett said the LPN program will be revived this fall, pending final approval by the NC Board of Nursing at its May 18 meeting.
The new A-B Tech School of Nursing includes A-B Tech’s Associate Degree Nursing program (founded in 1970), the Regionally Increasing Baccalaureate Nurses (RIBN) program with Western Carolina University, the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program, and the LPN program.
“The A-B Tech School of Nursing validates the college’s commitment to educational excellence and to expanding nursing education programs to meet the healthcare workforce needs of our community,” said Christy Andrews, the Jack and Carolyn Ferguson Endowed Chair for the School of Nursing. “Nurses are more in demand than ever for many reasons, including the pandemic and an aging population. With more than 12,000 openings projected in the next few years, the need is wide open.”
Andrews, who celebrates her 25-year anniversary with the college on June 1, cited the achievement of national accreditation for the Associate Degree Nursing program last year and the NC Board of Nursing’s pending approval for reviving the LPN program this year as important milestones in the college’s commitment to nursing education.
“Collaboration with our healthcare partners throughout Western North Carolina to provide students with opportunities for clinical practice and real-world experiences also facilitates clinical excellence in our students and graduates,” Andrews said. “Our alumni have been providing quality, compassionate healthcare throughout Buncombe County and beyond for decades.”
Andrews also directly addressed nursing students attending the event. “Nursing students are resilient, persistent, and compassionate,” she said. “You have chosen a career that will put you in the worst days of people’s lives, but it will all be worth it. When the patients and families you have helped tell their stories of births, illnesses, or deaths in their families, the nurse who was with them will always be part of their stories.”
Also on hand for the dedication were Laurie Zone Smith, vice president of Clinical Education for HCA and Mission Health; Pamela J. Griffin, A-B Tech Nursing instructor, and her daughter Chloe Griffin, a 2023 nursing graduate; and Christian Samuels, a 2023 nursing graduate and Nursing Student of the Year.
Griffin said she was a first-generation college student who was raised by her grandmother. She obtained her CNA, LPN, and ADN credentials at A-B Tech and later completed a BSN at Winston Salem State University and a master’s degree at Lenoir-Rhyne University.
“I started teaching for A-B Tech as an adjunct and loved it, so I went full-time and have now been here 10 years,” Griffin said. “Nursing education from A-B Tech changed the trajectory of my life and that of my family.”
Griffin’s daughter, Chole, said she was proud to follow in her mother’s footsteps. “I explored four-year colleges for nursing, but learned that A-B Tech provides the same level of nursing education,” she said. “Now I’m going to graduate debt-free in May, take the (licensing exam), and start work at Mission in July.”
Samuels, who was named Nursing Student of the Year by faculty and is vice president of the Student Government Association, said he also is a first-generation college student. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to attend college when I graduated high school, but community colleges are magical places with many people of all different backgrounds and amazing faculty,” he said. “The best nurses I work with at Mission also are A-B Tech graduates who have been so supportive. Now I’m a first-generation college graduate who is going to work in the Neuroscience ICU.”
Gossett also recognized Mission Health for its support of nursing faculty positions and clinical education, as well as the many WNC colleges and healthcare facilities that provide clinical
education for A-B Tech’s Nursing and Allied Health students. He also cited the support of Jack and Carolyn Ferguson for the state-of-the-art building named for them, as well as scholarships and the endowed nursing chair position. Smith said Mission Health relies on A-B Tech to educate most of its employees and values the partnership.
Fall admission for A-B Tech’s Associate Degree Nursing program opens on May 8, and the CNA program is currently registering students for May classes. Pending NC Board of Nursing approval, the LPN program will admit students for the fall semester beginning May 20.
About A-B Tech
Founded in 1959 in the heart of Asheville, A-B Tech is the largest higher education institution in Western North Carolina, serving approximately 23,000 students a year in Buncombe and Madison counties. One of 58 community colleges in the NC Community College System, A-B Tech offers 190 degrees, diplomas, and certificates, as well as a wide range of workforce training and continuing education programs. A-B Tech includes the main Asheville campus, A-B Tech Enka (home of the A-B Tech Small Business Center and Business Incubation Program, Craft Beverage Institute of the Southeast and N.C. BioNetwork), A-B Tech Madison, A-B Tech Woodfin, the Goodwill Center and the ABCCM Transformation Village in West Asheville, and a future location at Biltmore Park West. Learn more at abtech.edu.