Press on to reach your goals

Published 9:40 am Friday, October 14, 2011

Editor’s Note: The following was adapted from the speech Dr. Paul Conco made during his Sept. 30 inauguration.

by Dr. Paul Conco

I am inspired when I think about the history of this college and its beginnings. I am reminded of the quote from Isaac Newton: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” The idea is that we can build on the work of people before us to do things that would not be possible on our own.

Our namesake, Paul D. Camp, established a successful lumber business with his two brothers in Franklin. He became the first president of Camp Manufacturing Co., which later became Union Camp and subsequently part of International Paper Co.

They say P.D., as he was often called, loved education and knew its importance. P.D. was born in 1849. He was denied opportunities in education because of the times in which he lived. His success in life did allow his natural generosity to show and he bountifully supported his church, community and educational institutions. He made sure his eight children received a higher education.

But we must also recognize that it was two of P.D.’s daughters, Ruth Camp Campbell and Willie A. Camp Younts, who donated the land in his memory for the college to be constructed in Franklin. The college was named in honor of their illustrious father.

The other giants in our past are the former presidents of this institution and the accomplishments they and their faculty and staff made.

If I can only mention one giant in my life, it would be my mother, Elizabeth Ann Adkins Conco. She always encouraged me, often in the most subtle ways. She was an avid reader and we had many books in our house, but one book always seemed to be lying about, so I would pick it up to read.

It was “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale. It contained stories of people doing extraordinary things when life brought them hardship. There seemed to be no limit to what one could accomplish if they remained positive.

My mother was always positive, doing her best, going the extra mile for me and so many others. She saw me through the tough times and I know she knew the book was having an effect on me. The first chapter in that famous book says a lot — “Believe in Yourself.” It is what we work to teach our students every day.

My mother’s mantra was “Go to college. Go to college. Go to college.”

Well, I went to Salisbury State Teacher’s College to be a math teacher. I was overwhelmed and homesick. I quit after that first semester. But my Mom’s mantra would not leave me alone — and I took one class every semester at the local community college.

After 10 years those credits added up to an associate’s degree. I continued on to a bachelor’s, master’s and finally, a doctoral degree. But the degree I am most proud of is that associate’s. It was the hardest — raising a family, developing a career, sacrificing finances and social life. The things many of our students do today.

Let me share one last story from my life. This is from when Diana, my dear wife, and I were both attending the University of South Carolina, working on our doctoral degrees. At the time we were past 39 years old, and with work, school, travel, family and getting older, our memories and life just needed help and organization.

We would put Post-it notes everywhere, pick out our clothes the night before — anything to help our organization, memory and time management. Now, Diana and I both love a good cup of coffee, and sometimes she would set up the coffee pot the night before. Then I would come along in the morning and not notice what she had done, adding more water to overflowing — creating a mess.

Diana started leaving a sticky note on the coffee machine after she had set it up that simply said “press on.” I can’t tell you how many times I needed those words first thing in the morning as I juggled work, college and family — “Press on!” It is what our students do day after day.

But creating PDCCC’s future is really about continuing our mission. To do it in such a way that encourages our students to be positive, to keep on the sunny side as best as possible, to dream, to believe in themselves and to press on.

Dr. PAUL WM. CONCO is president of Paul D. Camp Community College. He can be reached at