A friend of a friend-Van Dempsey – Carey & Joanna Read-February 2

One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about “friends of my friends”. The post below is the story for February 2, 2015.

My goal in 2015 is to learn or get reacquainted with 365 people and doing a daily post on the “the friend of a friend” is helping me get closer to my goal.

Last night at dinner the topic of leaders in higher education came up. We went to a local restaurant named Candy Sue’s Downtown in Lumberton NC and ran into two great friends Carey and Joanna Read. Carey talked about a friend he had in college at UNC Chapel Hill who he was confident is going to take the next step eventually because of his leadership skills.

Carey is the son of a successful high school coach named Finley Read who spent most of his career at Lumberton HS. Carey while at Carolina was part of the UNC Football Team while enrolled. Carey is a great lover of the game of baseball and has been a leader in the Lumberton Youth Baseball Association (LYBA). He had a very talented son named Mac that pitched on the NCAA Division I level at Davidson College. Mac was also an outstanding student.

At dinner Carey & Joanna talked about their hope that one day their friend Van “Butch” Dempsey and his wife Jaci. Butch and Jaci both work at Fairmont State University in the School of Education would be closer to them. The Read’s are hoping that someday soon they will be offered a leadership position at a North or South Carolina University. Carey and Joanna want to see them more often.

Butch grew up in Scotland Neck, NC which resonated with me since my first experience with North Carolina involved that small eastern NC town.

I left for East Carolina University in Greenville, NC from New York City on September 5, 1971. My dad drove me to the Port Authority Bus Station in Manhattan from New Jersey. The bus left at 11:00 p.m. and at dawn I woke up in Scotland Neck, NC. Shortly after we left town I noticed field after field of tobacco. Each field had a two story structure sitting in the middle of it that I assumed was a home. I was from metropolitan New York and I thought those structures were houses with no windows.

My first experience with North Carolina was Scotland Neck, NC and it had a city boy scared of the south. My fears were unwarranted because majority of the best people I call friends are from North Carolina including Carey and Joanna who both grew up in Lumberton, NC.



The friend of the friend-“BUTCH” and JACI DEMPSEY

Butch DempseyJaci Dempsey

Carey and Joanna Read on Van and Jaci Dempsey

Van Dempsey (Butch to me) is a great friend and great educator.  Our time together goes back to my freshman year of college when we were both Student Managers on the UNC football team.  Butch was a year ahead of me in school.  There were six or seven managers at the time and the older guys pretty much treated the younger guys like crap.  So Butch and I bonded over being in the senior managers’ crosshairs.  We had to do all the really dirty jobs. I will leave to your imagination what the dirty jobs in a college locker room are.  Butch was from Scotland Neck, NC, a small farming community.  But Butch even then had an intellectual air about him that defied his Eastern NC roots.  We spent long hours over the next four years both on and off the football job solving the world’s problems over beers. 

Butch had already decided that  Education was his calling and he set about gaining as much from UNC in that field as he could cram in to his time there.  He had a short stint in Fayetteville teaching high school but decided that higher education was has calling.  After obtaining his PhD, he eventually found himself in West Virginia. 

He first worked as a professor at West Virginia University before moving the nearby Fairmont State where he is now the Vice President for Institutional Assessment and Effectiveness.

Van’s wife Jaci  is a remarkably beautiful lady.  One thing we have in common is we both completely outkicked our coverage with who we married.   Jaci is also on the faculty at Fairmont State and in fact works for Van.  Van is a successful leader because he truly cares about the people that he works with.  He always gains a consensus of his people before moving ahead on a project.  He knows the politics that go along with a leadership position at a state school.  He has spoken often about dinner parties and outings with the governor of West Virginia. 

Van and Jaci have expressed an interest in coming home to North Carolina and Van has been a finalist for several jobs at NC Universities.  When the right job comes along, he is going to be an excellent addition to the University he ends up at. 

Butch is one of my closest friends which is truly amazing since we have lived so far apart for most of our adult lives.  But we can go several years without seeing one another and pick up like we saw each other the day before.  Only great friends can pull that off. 


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