John Gossett ‘02EDD, president of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, says that throughout his career, he has sometimes felt like Forrest Gump -- always lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and surrounded by extraordinary people.
His work in the community college system has also been about hard work and service, and his contributions to the field were recognized when he received the I.E. Ready Distinguished Leader Award during the virtual Dallas Herring Lecture on Nov. 10, 2020. The I.E. Ready Distinguished Leader Award recognizes an NC State graduate for exceptional leadership within the community college system.
“I am absolutely blown away by it and humbled knowing all of the great leaders that have come through NC State,” Gossett said. “It’s just hard for me to reconcile myself to that, but I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it and I’m very humbled by it.”
“Dr. Gossett’s motivation and passion for making a difference in the lives of Madison and Buncombe county residents is exemplary,” said College of Education Dean Mary Ann Danowitz. “He also exemplifies IE Ready’s vision for expanding educational opportunities.”
Gossett began his community college career 32 years ago as a business administration instructor and department chair at Mayland Community College, where he later served as vice president for academic services, associate president for workforce development and vice president for student development.
He eventually joined McDowell Technical Community College as the vice president for learning and student services before becoming president in 2016. He took the position as president of A-B Technical Community College in July 2020.
Gossett also serves on several local, regional and state boards and committees in support of community college education and economic development initiatives.
“John truly has a servant’s heart. There aren’t many people who know the community college business better than Dr. Gossett,” said Interim President of the N.C. Community College System Bill Carver, who received the 2019 I.E. Ready Distinguished Leader Award and is former president of the Nash Community College. “Don’t be fooled by his laid back style, his record speaks for itself. He leads with compassion for those around him and most importantly, the students that experience the learning environment he champions.”
Having spent the majority of his career at small, rural community colleges, Gossett said he is proudest of his role in helping students to earn degrees and credentials that enabled them go on to “bigger and better things” in their careers.
“Seeing those students who didn’t have a chance for life reasons, financial reasons or personal reasons, we made them better citizens where they are and that’s exciting for rural America. I’m proud to be a part of that,” Gossett said.
The relationships he built with College of Education classmates in his Asheville cohort nearly 20 years ago, he said, have also been important as he progressed through his career.
“There were a lot of potential leaders in the cohort who created careers for themselves and are wonderful leaders in their own rite, but the camaraderie in the cohort, those friendships mean a lot to me still,” he said. “We all went our different ways and followed our own passions, but it was those relationships that really stick with me.”