Dr. David E. Daniel, second president of Wilkes Community College (July 1977 to April 1989), died after an extended illness on July 23.
Daniel, 83, died in Midland, Texas, where he was president of Midland College from 1991 to 2008, and where he later lived.
Daniel was born in Gaffney on Sept. 13, 1936, to the late Joseph and Helen Hill Daniel.
Survivors include his wife, DeeDee Blanton Daniel, to whom he was married for 62 years.
Daniel is remembered for his lead role in efforts resulting in construction of WCC’s John A. Walker Community Center. The 33,000-square-foot facility, with a 1,100-seat auditorium and additional banquet hall, opened in 1984.
Daniel also emphasized workforce training at WCC. Some of the programs started at WCC during his tenure are adult high school education, associate degree in nursing, auto body repair, criminal justice, cooperative education, human resources development and a career center. A child development center and senior citizen programs were established.
The inaugural event that became MerleFest was held in 1988, with Daniel as a strong supporter. Daniel played alto, soprano, and tenor saxophones; was a drum major of his high school and college bands; and was a disc jockey for several South Carolina radio stations.
In addition to the Walker Center, facilities completed at WCC while he was president include the James Larkin Pearson Library, greenhouses and a building for the horticultural program, power mechanics building, Randolph Hall (with Bumgarner gym) and an industrial classroom building. Daniel Hall, added in 1989, was named for him.
Major landscaping occurred, including the Ruth B. Colvard Rose Garden. A road and steps to the upper campus were built. Also added was an extensive information management system, with computers and telecommunication equipment.
The Ashe Center of WCC was started in West Jefferson and the WCC Alleghany Center opened in Sparta in 1979 and 1983 respectively. The Ashe Skills Center opened in 1985.
While at WCC, Daniel was president of the N.C. Community College Foundation, N.C. Association of Public Community College Presidents and Southern Association of Community and Junior Colleges.
"B" Townes of Boomer, retired vice president for development at WCC, stated, "Dr. Daniel came to Wilkes Community College at a time of academic and physical growth. Through his leadership, the Wilkes Community College Endowment Corporation (now the Foundation) was also positioned for growth."
"It is often said that great leaders surround themselves with great people. As an example of his leadership, one of the first things he did was ask Dr. Bill Davis and Dr. Conrad Shaw to manage the organization and he recruited Tom Ogburn to lead the board of community volunteers."
Townes added, "Much of the college’s success is due to the strong foundation he laid through them and many others. He was an inspiration to me in my roles as an instructor, in community development, and as an administrator."
Betty Jo Burcham of North Wilkesboro, who worked for Daniel at WCC, said he was an outstanding president, a visionary and loved a challenge. “I feel so fortunate to have worked alongside Dr. Daniel for 12 wonderful years and witnessed the tremendous growth of Wilkes Community College into a premier center for education in northwestern North Carolina under his strong leadership.”
She added, “Dr. Daniel reactivated the Wilkes Community College Endowment Corporation and gained the reputation of being a “fund-and-friend-raiser” for the college. In closing, truly Dr. Daniel left WCC a tremendous legacy that we continue to enjoy today.”
Between his time at WCC and Midland, Daniel spent two years as executive director of the Pennsylvania Commission on Community Colleges and the Pennsylvania Federation of Community College Trustees.
At Midland, Daniel established an advanced technology center, distinguished lecture series and a performing arts series. Enrollment increased 50% and a baccalaureate degree was established at Midland while he was there. The men's dormitory at the four-year college was named Daniel Residence Hall in his honor in 2012.
Daniel was president of the Texas Association of Community Colleges and chaired the American Association of Community Colleges.