At Rappahannock Community College’s forty-third Commencement on Friday, May 8, the honor of bearing the college mace in the procession has been awarded to dual enrollment dean Walter “Petie” Norris. In addition, two former faculty members — Robert Griffin and Leslie Smith — will be named Professors Emeriti.
Walter “Petie” Norris
By bearing the college mace at Commencement 2015, Dean Petie Norris joins a distinguished group of individuals who have been singled out over RCC’s 45-year history as outstanding examples of service and leadership. A Northern Neck native, Norris graduated from Washington and Lee High School (Westmoreland County) in 1969. He holds the degrees of Bachelor of Arts in English language and literature (1976) and Master of Fine Arts in creative writing (1981), both from the University of Virginia. In 1983, Norris began working at RCC’s Warsaw Campus as evening programs coordinator. Since then he has held a variety of positions, including those of off-campus administrator for RCC’s King George site and dual enrollment coordinator, culminating in his most recent appointment as dean of dual enrollment.
Norris is married to a UVA classmate, the former Lynn Eddings. They live together at “Plainview,” a frame house in the late Federal style dating to 1857, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.
The rare and special title of Professor Emeritus will be conferred on Robert Griffin and Leslie Smith in recognition of their valuable service to the college. Griffin, who came to RCC in 1987, has served as division chair, campus director, dean of student development, and academic dean of the Glenns Campus, and led the development and implementation of the Administration of Justice and General Engineering Technology degrees. The facilitator of various career and technical grants and career coach partnerships with the local school divisions, he was a co-winner of a state innovation award for early dual enrollment programs that enabled students to earn a certificate from RCC while completing high school.
In addition to his administrative duties at RCC, Griffin taught classes almost every semester, and took additional training to become a proficient online instructor. Since his 2014 retirement, he has remained an adjunct faculty member, teaching Administration of Justice and College Success Skills. His 44-year career includes experience as a high school social studies teacher, a probation and parole officer, a criminal justice instructor, and a program head at two other community colleges. Griffin holds a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in education (both from East Carolina University), and a master’s degree in administration of justice (Virginia Commonwealth University). He has also completed post-master’s-degree coursework in higher education at North Carolina State University and the College of William and Mary, and has made numerous presentations at statewide educational conferences.
A native of Louisburg, North Carolina, Griffin currently resides in upper Gloucester County with his wife Karen. His interests include cars, travel, tech gadgets, and reading autobiographies.
Until her 2014 retirement from the position of dean of technology and distance learning, Leslie Smith provided RCC’s students, faculty, and staff with the training and technology they needed for success, and its students with high-quality online classes that they can take when and where they like. She still teaches an online class about Excel spreadsheets; her most rewarding experience, she says, has been watching her students learn and grow. Smith holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business from Radford University, and has also completed graduate coursework from Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Virginia State University. Before coming to RCC, she served as an administrative assistant with the Farmers Home Administration and taught at New River Community College. Hired as an instructor for the new Warsaw Campus in 1973, Smith taught secretarial science, business machines, and business management, later adding accounting and information technology courses to her repertoire. In 1985, her accounting classes became the proving ground for RCC’s first computers. Ten years later, Smith initiated a distance learning program of eight courses; RCC now offers well over 100 online courses each semester. In 1996, Smith was asked to supervise RCC’s then-tiny technology department. Under her leadership it expanded greatly, both in size and in the variety of services provided.
A Virginia native, Smith lives in Essex County with her husband. She acts as treasurer of the Gamma Lambda Chapter of the Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, and is also treasurer of the Essex County Salvation Army Unit. In her spare time she enjoys reading, going to plays and movies, and especially traveling. The public is cordially invited to attend the Commencement ceremony, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. on the front lawn at RCC’s Warsaw Campus.