‘She had a teacher’s heart’
Colleagues remember Dr. Carolyn C. Modlin as a leader, educator
The town of Boykins, the school district of Southampton County and even Chowan University lost a valued member of their respective communities when Dr. Carolyn Carter Modlin died on Oct. 21.
The townspeople had known Modlin, 69, as a neighbor, a friend, for some a fellow church member and also since this past spring, their mayor.
“She was very proud to be the first woman mayor of Boykins,” said town clerk Victoria Edwards. “She hit the ground running, and had big plans for Boykins. She was working on getting free public WiFi access, especially for virtual learning.”
Vice Mayor Jackie Robertson said Modlin had been working hand-in-hand with council to rebuild the town maintenance shop, which had burned down 30 days after her election in May.
“She had proven to me to be a very nice lady,” said Robertson. “I’m deeply hurt by her passing.”
The Rev. Michael Baugham, a former pastor at Boykins United Methodist Church [2005-2015], recalled her activity as an organist for services.
“She would help out in various ways as things were needed,” he said. “She just had a great, great love for educational accomplishments and did much for the Town of Boykins.”
Baugham continued, “The way I really know and remember Carolyn is as a generous spirit. She had a great love for the community there, the people. She was able to use what she had to help others. I guess she just had a teacher’s heart.”
That devotion to education includes earning degrees from Radford and Virginia State universities. She achieved her doctorate at Virginia Tech, and later taught in neighboring Greensville County Public Schools, later becoming a vice principal and principal.
As a member of the Southampton County School Board for several years, chairwoman Dr. Deborah Goodwyn said Modlin was, “a joy to work with, and an asset to our board. She committed her time, her energy to being a great school board member — she was effective.”
“One thing I always remember is that she was always prepared to ask pertinent questions,” Goodwyn continued. “She was a great team member. That is, she was willing to share her views, but also open to listening to the viewpoints of others. She practiced collaboration and respect.
“She was concerned about the entire school district. Not just a segment or portion, but the entirety.”
Her scope in teaching went beyond public schools to serving on the faculty at Chowan University from 2001-2017, and had been an adjunct professor since retiring.
“She was a remarkable professor, administrator, colleague and friend,” said Kirk Peterson, university president. “She knew no stranger and treated all with respect and care. Dr. Modlin spent hours working with students who had exceptional needs, including our son, Cody. As parents, we want the very best for our children and when he presented with unique learning needs, Dr. Modlin graciously agreed to assist us in providing the very best learning opportunities for Cody. The many hours she volunteered meant the world to us; however, it was her passion to help students. That became obvious, and Rachel and I were moved to see the connection she developed with Cody.”
During her time at CU, Modlin received the Faculty Advisor of the Year award in 2014, an honor bestowed upon her by students and peers. The Chowan University Faculty Advisor of the Year Award is given each year to recognize excellence in academic advising. In September 2017, the Chowan University Board of Trustees named Dr. Modlin professor emeritus, a status designed to honor a professor who has served the university with distinction over a period of years through retirement.
The president added, “The Peterson family and Chowan always had a special place in Dr. Modlin’s heart and she, in ours. God bless you, Carolyn, and you will be deeply, deeply missed. We love you and thank you for caring so much for all those you taught.”
Survivors include her husband, Jimmy Modlin; two children; godsons and grandchildren.
A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Oct. 25, at Beechwood Cemetery in Boykins.
Chowan University contributed to this story.