By Holly Desrosier
Craven Community College (Craven CC) recently unveiled the Bruce Waugh Memorial Garden, located in front of the Business & Information Technology building on the New Bern Campus. The memorial garden is the product of a months-long Eagle Scout project implemented and carried out by Craven Early College student Nicholas Potter.
Craven CC faculty, staff and students experienced a tremendous loss with the unexpected passing of Dr. Bruce Waugh at the age of 58 in July 2017. Often described as “larger than life” due to his stature (he was at least 6 feet 5 inches) and distinct bass voice, Waugh was passionate about information technology and teaching. He taught various information technology and cyber security courses at Craven CC over a span of nearly 12 years.
After holding down careers as a chiropractor and radio personality, he decided to pursue his passion for technology and share it with others. Waugh became a non-traditional student at Craven CC in 2004. One of his first instructors was Jim Millard, who ended up becoming his employer just a year later. Millard, now vice president for administration, remembers Waugh as an incredible man, teacher and friend who was entirely dedicated to his students and his profession.
“I can truly say it is absolutely amazing to watch your students grow and go on to become extremely successful in their professional lives,” said Millard. “Bruce was a naturally gifted teacher and the students loved him. I am proud and honored to have been a part of his life.”
Dr. Kathleen Gallman, vice president for instruction, also worked with Waugh. She considered him a “gentle giant” whose personality could cheer up anyone he met.
“He would brighten any room with his sense of humor and kind spirit,” she said. “He was an excellent teacher, mentor and friend to many.”
Waugh excelled at his newfound career, and it did not go unnoticed: He was the recipient of the 2011 Craven CC Foundation Community Fabric Award for Leadership in Education—the first Community Fabric Award to be awarded in this category. One of his students, Elaine Rouse, took all her information technology courses from him. She now works at Craven CC as an information security analyst. Although she only worked with Waugh for about two years, she credits him as the reason she is in her position today.
“The thing about Bruce was that I could always tell that he truly cared about the success of his students,” said Rouse. “He took the time needed to make sure you not only understood, but he designed projects and assignments to make you grow and expand outside of your comfort zone. I truly believe Bruce’s passion for teaching came from a place of wanting to see each student be successful, not only in the classroom, but in any and all endeavors outside of the classroom.”
Word of Waugh’s benevolent and encouraging spirit reached Potter, 17, a Craven Early College EAST (Eastern Applied Sciences and Technology) student. Craven Early College EAST is a partnership between Craven CC and NAV Air aboard Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station that provides an innovative educational program for selected high school students in the Craven County School System. Students who complete this five-year program graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree from Craven CC or up to two years of college credit toward a bachelor’s degree. There is also a corresponding Craven Early College program on the New Bern campus.
“I have attended Craven Early College for four years,” said Potter. “This is my senior year, and I plan to graduate with my high school diploma and my associate degree in applied science. Then I plan to either attend East Carolina University or UNC-Asheville to study clinical psychology.”
Potter has been a Boy Scout for many years and is on the path to becoming an Eagle Scout. When he heard how deeply Waugh had affected his students and fellow faculty and staff members, Potter immediately knew what he wanted as the subject of his Eagle Scout project.
“I’ve been in scouting since first grade, and I have always wanted to be an Eagle Scout,” he said. “It honestly has been a dream.”
Earning the title of Eagle Scout is no easy feat. It is the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouting division, and only four percent of Boy Scouts achieve this rank after a lengthy review process. The requirements take years to fulfill and require the Scout to demonstrate exceptional service and leadership, earn a minimum of 21 merit badges and complete an extensive service project that must be planned, organized, led and managed by the Scout.
Seeing his idea carried out and turned into a reality touched Potter immensely. The project took approximately eight months to complete, and like any collaborative effort, there were a few snags. Even so, Potter experienced firsthand the positive impact hard work can have.
“It was difficult,” he admitted. “But it was supposed to be. Time, effort and some headaches have to play a part to essentially get the job done, and it feels more amazing than I could have ever imagined.”
Gallman oversaw the project and acknowledged the thorough planning and teamwork involved.
“There were many meetings: discussion and presentation of Nick’s plan to college leadership, coordination between my instruction and the facilities team, the Foundation, Bruce’s family and working around the heavy rain in July to meet the August deadline,” she explained.
An Eagle Scout Court of Honor reception was held Nov. 26 at Orringer Auditorium to celebrate the completion of Potter’s project.
Although no physical monument can truly encapsulate Waugh’s uplifting character, those involved in the project believe it would have made him smile. Fittingly, the memorial garden is located in front of the building in which Waugh both attended and taught classes.
“Whenever I pass by the memorial garden, I think of him, and in a way, it makes his presence permanent,” said Rouse. “His spirit is always with us.”
This story was also published in the New Bern Sun Journal.