Dr. Quentin Johnson: We’re meeting critical needs

Quentin Johnson

Quentin R. Johnson
SVCC President

Some years ago, I encountered a student whose young daughter was undergoing treatment for brain cancer. That institution’s foundation provided financial help so he could stay in school while paying for his child’s prescriptions. The story has a sad ending because the little girl passed away. Her father was able to move past the tragedy and continue his studies because of the generosity and support of others.

When I accepted the role of president here at Southside Virginia Community College, I was delighted to learn that the SVCC Foundation also deploys emergency funds in times of crisis. These funds have been set up by donors who understand the value of lending a helping hand.

Mike Berryman is one of those benefactors. He knows first-hand how a little assistance can make a huge difference.

Mr. Berryman studied pharmacy at the Medical College of Virginia. He married a young nursing school graduate (his high school sweetheart), Jean, in 1962. He says his wife helped put him through his senior year in college. He notes, “Throughout my life, I’ve been very fortunate. Many people mentored and assisted me. They helped me get on my feet before, during, and after school.”

During his professional career, Mr. Berryman worked as a pharmacist and also served on the board at Benchmark Bank. He managed a hospital-based pharmacy at Community Memorial Hospital. At CMH, he learned about a single mother who was also a nursing school student. “She’d go to school during the week. She’d come to work on Friday afternoons and sleep in her car Friday and Saturday nights so that she could go to work.” Many nursing students were in similarly difficult situations.

Later as he approached retirement, Benchmark Bank gave a donation to the SVCC Foundation in his honor, designating that the funds be used to assist students in distress. Mr. Berryman and his wife have personally added to that fund since then. “So many people fall through the cracks and there are a lot of ways to help them,” he says. “We’re happy we can give back.”

At SVCC, many of the requests for funds to assist students come through faculty and staff who are closest to the students and know where help is needed. A SVCC faculty member, Lisa Back, shared the following, “I have seen students homeless, tired from working double shifts and still coming to class. They are hungry from skipped meals, worried from sending children to school sick and distracted from concerns I can only imagine. It is humbling to witness the determination and bravery it takes to try for higher education goals. They are worth every effort.”

I am proud of our SVCC family and of our community that goes the extra mile to assist in each student’s quest for education and training.

Dr. Quentin R. Johnson is president of Southside Virginia Community College. He can be reached via email at quentin.johnson@southside.edu.