'Ritch' in spirit: LCC Foundation donor inspired by graduate

'Ritch' in spirit: LCC Foundation donor inspired by graduate

Pictured from left are Lenoir Community College President Dr. Rusty Hunt, Jennie Tolar, LCC Foundation Executive Director Jeanne Kennedy; LCC Foundation supporter O.A. ‘Buddy’ Ritch is standing. Photo by Richy Huneycutt / LCC

Longtime Lenoir Community College Foundation supporter O.A. “Buddy” Ritch was so touched by a recent story about one of LCC’s graduates he was moved to action and wanted to help her along her journey.

Jennie Tolar recently graduated from LCC after dropping out from high school at the age of 15. In and out of trouble for the next few years, Tolar decided to take charge of her life at the age of 20 and make a change. Through the years and with much encouragement from her family, she will walk across the stage at LCC in May.

Her story does not end there.

Ritch, the former three-term mayor of Kinston, was so inspired by Tolar he couldn’t wait to assist her. Working through the Foundation, he is providing financial assistance for three months to help Tolar continue her dream.

“What she has done has impressed me so,” Ritch said. “It’s an inspiration to all who are dropping out. LCC is the finest place to help people in this county. It hurts my soul when I see so many who are needing an education and a better chance at a career.

“LCC is a new beginning for these individuals.”

LCC President Dr. Rusty Hunt said Tolar is one of the many reasons “we do what we do. It’s about changing lives and it is such a gift to be a part of that. It is so kind of Mr. Ritch to consider helping her.”

LCC Foundation Executive Director Jeanne Kennedy said Tolar volunteered at the college’s recent golf tournament to assist in paying her Phi Theta Kappa dues.

“It is only fitting that Jennie was at the golf tournament as that fundraiser started with an idea 18 years ago with Mr. Ritch leading the charge,” Kennedy said. “The golf tournament raises money for scholarships for our students. It has come a long way since its beginning and we are so proud of Jennie and what she has accomplished.”

Tolar said she was so glad she chose LCC.

“I’ve always felt comfortable and welcomed here,” she said. “If I had run into any resistance, I would have probably left, but everyone was so nice and helpful.”

While she plans to attend ECU, Tolar said she is going to take some time before hitting the books again.

“I don’t want to miss the journey just to get to the destination,” she said. “I want to spend time with my children and family and I do not want to go into debt to continue my education. I’m just so grateful for all the support and especially for Mr. Ritch’s willingness to help me.”

Kennedy said there are many opportunities to help students like Tolar through the LCC Foundation. For more information, contact Kennedy at 252 233-6812 or email at jmkennedy48@lenoircc.edu.

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