by Jennifer Rose Bryant
“My best memories of my life in America are from Rappahannock Community College,” says Nina Thompson. Born and raised in Santiago, Chile, Thompson took compulsory English and French language classes and later, Italian and Portuguese. By the time she entered the University of Chile, where she earned a BA in Political Science and Business Administration, she was fluent in five languages. While still a student she began work at the Embassy of Venezuela as an executive secretary to the Ambassador and then for the Consul at the Embassy of Yugoslavia. This led her to America’s east coast with a position as a multilingual interpreter/assistant to the president of an embassy affiliated overseas shipping company. Here she met her husband, and in 1983 moved to the Northern Neck area of Virginia.
Nahazla Elena Chandia Zapata de Thompson
In 1984, Thompson began teaching conversational Spanish, Secretarial Science and organized the Spanish-American Club at Rappahannock Community College. After one year, she was working for RCC’s continuing education department and the college’s president, Dr. John Upton. Thompson fondly recalls Upton making a point of using her full name, Nahazla Elena Chandia Zapata de Thompson.
Other RCC administrators and professors made an impression on Thompson, including Dr. Patricia Nicholas (assistant to the vice president at the time), Ron Carter, Walter “Petey” Norris and Sissy Crowther — who were all very encouraging of Thompson’s desire to be a life-long learner. In addition to working at RCC, she began taking classes, and with the help of History professor, Phil Semsch, prepared for her citizenship exam.
A Model Student
Throughout her years at RCC as a student and employee, Rappahannock Community College has been a bright light of opportunity, friendship and growth for Thompson. She taught several modeling classes geared toward self-improvement, such as: Modeling and Self-Confidence and Modeling and High-Fashion. Thompson continues to be approached by former students who thank her for the experience.
In 1992, Thompson’s own academic pursuits at RCC earned her the honor of Phi Theta Kappa member. She earned a career studies certificate in Microcomputer Applications in 2003, and earned a Legal Assistant Certificate in 2013.
As someone experienced in spreading her own wings, Thompson’s advice to any young person considering Rappahannock Community College is, “Moving away can be a traumatic transition. It is easier if you start here at home where, with RCC’s help, you can become better prepared to spread your own wings.”
by Jennifer Rose Bryant
It all started in Irvington for Tim Lowery, where he grew up with his mom, dad and older sister, Audrey. Tim fostered a love of baseball and after high school, his natural talent for the sport afforded Lowery the opportunity to attend Randolph Macon. Being from a close-knit family however, Lowery decided to start his college education closer to home at Rappahannock Community College to be near his father, whose health was compromised by prostate cancer. He recalls this being an especially challenging time driving back and forth to the VA hospital with his father for treatments.
On top of family obligations, Tim was the acting director of RCC’s student intramural sports, while maintaining a GPA worthy of the Dean’s list. An accomplishment for him and his teammates during this time was winning the annual state-wide community college “Play Day” championship. Having a healthy outlet for stress, maintaining friendships and systems of support, Lowery states, were key to his success during this difficult time.
All the Fun Stuff
A significant part of Lowery’s support system was Wade Johnson, RCC’s Physical Education teacher. Lowery says that Mr. Johnson taught “all the fun stuff” like skeet shooting, archery and sex ed. He also cites Wade Johnson as “…absolutely instrumental in becoming the person I am today” and says that “he was a great mentor who saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. He took me under his wing.” Lowery says that Johnson guided him on how to be a good teacher by inspiring and encouraging involvement in professional organizations. He also remembers Wallace Lemons, Bill Hackman and Joe Swonk as outstanding and supportive teachers.
Two important things to Tim Lowery’s life happened on the same day in April 1979, just one month before he was to graduate Rappahannock Community College with an Associate of Science in pre-teacher education. Tim turned 21 and his father passed away. Wade Johnson came to the class he was in and got him out to give him the news.
Relationships Over Championships
After graduating RCC, Lowery transferred to Longwood University (then Longwood College) where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education, attending one additional year to be certified in K-12 education.
Having enjoyed many career- and sports-related successes and accomplishments in his long career, he states that the greatest of them was marrying his wife of 31 years and raising their two sons. “Relationships over championships,” he says. A foundational thought that was no doubt, at least in part, fostered during his time at Rappahannock. Still friends with Wade Johnson, Lowery says that he “always points back to Rappahannock Community College.” Tim says, “I recommend RCC to anyone. Without that place as a base, I wouldn’t be who I am today.”
If you happen to walk in the Sports Centre athletic store in Kilmarnock, be sure to look at the Northern Neck Wall of Fame just inside the entrance. Among other local home town heroes you will find Wade Johnson, and also Tim Lowery.
Bringin’ the Heat!
Tim’s journey continues!
Tim was named head coach of the Coastal Plain League’s East Division Tri-City Chili Peppers baseball team, part of this summer collegiate league. The Chili Peppers will play at Shepherd Stadium in Colonial Heights, Virginia and start their home season on May 29, 2020 against the Holly Springs (North Carolina) Salamanders. Tim’s sons both played in the league.