Fourth President, Hampton School District Honored | Thomas Nelson Community College

Fourth President, Hampton School District Honored

May 7, 2021
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Dr. Jeffery Smith (center), the Superintendent of Hampton City Schools, accepted the Dana B. Hamel Award on behalf of the Academies of Hampton. He is standing with Thomas Nelson President Dr. Towuanna Porter Brannon, and College Board Chair Mike Kuhns.

Former Thomas Nelson President Dr. Robert G. Templin Jr. and the Academies of Hampton received the College’s two biggest honors in separate ceremonies last week.

Templin received the Thomas Nelson Medallion, which recognizes a citizen who exemplifies the mission, vision, and core values of Thomas Nelson Community College.

“I’m humbled to receive the Thomas Nelson Medallion,” he said during a Zoom award presentation May 6.

His first reaction when hearing of the award was surprise.

“It’s just very gratifying to know that whatever contribution I made still is recognized and lives on,” he said in a phone interview a few days before the presentation.

The College’s success during his tenure, he said, was the result of not trying to compete with the other institutions on the Peninsula.

“It was what do we do best and let’s do that … find what we can be excellent in and leverage that,” he said.

That led to his proudest accomplishment at Thomas Nelson, forming partnerships with local industries to help the College “achieve a distinctive place in the region.”

“During the time I was there, Thomas Nelson emerged as a leading force in driving the economy of the region,” he said.

One day after Templin was honored, the Academies of Hampton received the Dana B. Hamel Award, which is named in honor of the first chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. It acknowledges individuals or entities for their outstanding public service, fostering access to higher education, and for promoting an understanding of workforce development’s role as an essential part of the College’s mission.

Dr. Jeffery Smith, the Superintendent of Hampton City Schools, also mentioned it was a humbling experience.

“As you know, every day we are transforming what it means to teach and learn in Hampton City Schools,” he said. “We’re also transforming the student experience, and we’re transforming our community, civic and business partnerships. I’m proud to say from the very beginning you have been a collaborative partner in this life-changing work. … We are making history.”

The Academies of Hampton offers students in the four city schools – Bethel, Hampton, Kecoughtan and Phoebus - advanced placement and dual enrollment courses as well as workforce experience. The Academies provides students the opportunity to earn college credits and industry credentials in more than 40 career pathways, all before they graduate from high school.

“Together, we have chosen to go after creating a better tomorrow through the minds and lives of the next generation,” Smith said.

The Academies also consists of the Academy of the Advanced College Experience (ACE) at Phoebus High School, which allows students to earn an associate degree before graduating from high school. This year, the first graduating cohort of ACE consisted of 26 students. (See related story at

More on the award recipients

Templin, who was Thomas Nelson’s fourth president, retired in 2015 after a long career in higher education. He also was Dean of Instruction at Piedmont Virginia Community College in Charlottesville and Dean of Somerset Community College (Ky.), where he was the first community college educator to be named a W.K. Kellogg Foundation National Fellow.


After leaving Thomas Nelson in 1994, he was named president of the Virginia Center for Innovative Technology in Northern Virginia. He was there until 2002, when he became the president of Northern Virginia Community College, a position he held until his retirement in 2015. He lives in Alexandria with his wife, and he holds appointments with the Aspen Institute, including its College Excellence Program, which every other year awards $1 million to the highest performing community college in the country through the Aspen Prize.


“That’s very gratifying,” he said.


Through the Aspen Presidential Fellowship, which is for those who would like to be college presidents or have just become one, he helped mentor the College’s newest president, Dr. Porter Brannon.


“I’m helping to prepare the next generation of community college presidents,” he said.


He and his wife have 14 kids, including 11 who were adopted from all across the world and a number of whom attended Thomas Nelson. He enjoys spending time with his 11 grandkids.


The Academies of Hampton offer students a clear path for graduation and a seamless transition to college or a career, thus contributing to the overall development of the Peninsula’s workforce. Students participate in a learning community completing courses together with peers who share similar interests and desires to learn about a specific field.     

Students in each of the 16 academies (four at each school) are afforded a personalized setting where they learn English, science, math and social studies, meeting all graduation requirements. Another element is real-world exposure to business and industry. The Academies allow potential employers to share their knowledge and experience through classroom presentations, worksite visits, job shadowing and internships. Plus, advisers and businesses introduce students to careers, opportunities, and industry skills through relevant, hands-on learning experiences with practical applications.


For the 2018-19 academic year, nearly 370 Hampton City Schools students were enrolled in courses offered by Thomas Nelson at various locations and online, attempting 3,843 academic credits.


About the awards
The College established the Thomas Nelson Medallion and Dana B. Hamel Awards roughly 10 years ago. Among past recipients of the Medallion are former Virginia legislator and the Honorable Melanie Rapp-Beale, past Newport News Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Ashby Kilgore, and the late Sen. John C. Miller, who was a longtime state lawmaker. Past Dana B. Hamel Award honorees include Newport News Shipbuilding, Continental, Inc., Newport News and Molly Ward, City of Hampton treasurer.