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Date: November 30, 2020
CONTACT: Lisa Garrett,

(By Lisa Garrett)

Glenn Hellenga, Tri-County’s Longest-Standing Employee, to Retire

PENDLETON --- For nearly five decades Counselor Glenn Hellenga has advised Tri-County Technical College students of all ages that life is too short to do something you don’t enjoy.

They weren’t just words – they were his own personal life philosophy.

November 15, 2020, marked Hellenga’s 47th year of service at Tri-County, making him the longest-standing employee in the College’s 58-year history.

Ironically, he said he never intended to make a career at the two-year college when he signed on back in 1973 right out of graduate school but he says quickly discovered he found his calling.

He vividly remembers the day he interviewed for the job as a counselor in the Manpower Training Program.  He said when he drove up to the then-three-building campus and parked, he had a good feeling that continued throughout the interview process. What he expected to be a couple of hours turned into an all-day conversation with folks who ended up being mentors and lifelong friends.

Former Dean of Students and Anderson resident Al Norris and the late Dr. Don C. Garrison, who served as president from 1971 until his retirement in 2003, were among those who relayed the S.C. story about the birth of the S.C. Technical College System and its mission of being a comprehensive community college that fuels economic development while providing equal educational opportunities for everyone.

“‘Dr. Garrison was so fired up. I identified with him and Al and David Shirley (former counselor and assistant dean of students). Al became a second father figure and David remains a great friend to this day.  Dr. Garrison’s magnetism and passion for the College was infectious,” Hellenga said. 

“Dr. Garrison offered me a job that day, and I accepted.  It felt like home, and it still does.”

Norris is at the top of the list in terms of mentors. “He always treated every person with dignity and respect.  He created a framework, a team.  He worked shoulder to shoulder with us.  I remember getting settled into the job and realizing this is a place where I can help people and that’s a good thing,” he said.

“Tri-County clicked with me. The diversity of the student body is one that makes every day different.  We have students who range in age from recent high school graduates to 50+ years of age who are looking for a second career through reskilling.”

Throughout his tenure, Hellenga remained committed to the College’s philosophy of serving students. “Jobs for People and People for Jobs. That slogan said it all in the 1970s and still does. That student-centered leadership continues today with President Galen DeHay and Linda Jameison, vice president of student support and engagement.”

For years, Tri-County counselor Butch Merritt and Hellenga were mainstays in the College’s Counseling Center.  Throughout the years, they have been highly respected by students and are known for going beyond the call of duty to ensure student success. They served as recruiters, advisors for the Student Government Association, student activities directors, and continue to provide academic, admissions and career counseling. 

He often runs into graduates out in the community, or those who are back on campus with their children who are enrolling at Tri-County.  “They stop me and ask, ‘Are you still here?’  I always say, yes, and I am proud of it,” said Hellenga.

He said their next comment is often, ‘Tri-County made a difference in my life.  I didn’t realize how much until I went to work.’  Graduates go on to ask about other faculty and staff who served as mentors for them and pushed them to succeed.  “You don’t realize how much power that has until they tell you personally,” said Hellenga.

“I believe in what we do here.  It’s rewarding work that has resulted in long-lasting connections with graduates, their parents and even their grandparents. We’ve seen generations of families at the College. Many say you are the first person I thought of when I decided to come back to school.  It’s about relationship building - that’s at the core of it,” he said. 

After serving as a counselor for five years, Hellenga established the College’s Career Center in 1978 and became its first director.  He later became director of the Workforce Investment Act and Special Projects and has led the Career and Employability Services office since 2006.

“Few people dedicate their lives to serving others, and even fewer remain with an organization for their entire careers,” said TCTC President Dr. Galen DeHay. “Glenn Hellenga is the rarest of public servants whose career has spanned four decades of service to students and his community.  Throughout his work, Glenn kept students first.  His student-first priority came well before the current national focus on student success. Over the years, I have learned and been influenced by the clarity of Glenn’s focus on helping students have a better life.  Glenn even offered his expertise to my niece as she struggled to figure out what she wanted to do after high school. His compassion and passion for helping others leaves an indelible mark on Tri-County Technical College and our employees.”

In 1995 he was honored with the College’s Presidential Medallion for Staff Excellence, the highest award to recognize staff at the College. In 2018 he was the College’s Educator of the Year (staff) nominee and was recognized at the South Carolina Technical Education Association conference.

For 47 years he has been telling the S.C. technical college story. “I will be telling the story after I retire January 4, 2021.  And I’ll tell it until I can’t talk anymore,” he said.

He admits he is ambivalent about vacating his second home.  “But Tri-County will always be in my heart.  I’ll always say ‘we’ when I talk about Tri-County Technical College.”


About Tri-County Technical College
Tri-County Technical College, a public two-year community and technical college serving Anderson, Oconee and Pickens Counties in South Carolina, enrolls more than 9,000 students annually and offers more than 70 major fields of study, including computer technology, industrial electronics, mechatronics, nursing, and university transfer programs. Tri-County boasts the highest student success rate among two-year colleges in the state and ranks in the top one percent nationally for successful student transfers to four-year colleges and universities.