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COA honors Etheridge, one of college's first grads

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College of The Albemarle President Robert Wynegar (left) presents a Distinguished Alumnus Medal to Oliver Etheridge, a member of COA's first graduating class, at an open house for the college's alumni at Wynegar's house, Saturday.

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Monday, December 3, 2018

College of The Albemarle celebrated its alumni, including a member of its first graduating class, at an open house Saturday afternoon at the home of COA President Robert Wynegar.

Wynegar and his wife, Lyndasu, hosted about 55 COA graduates, trustees, faculty and staff at the event. One of the key moments was the presentation of a Distinguished Alumnus Medal to Oliver Etheridge, a member of COA’s first graduating class.

In brief remarks at the gathering, Wynegar said he is proud of the college’s students and graduates. He said he’s particularly proud of graduates who stay in northeastern North Carolina and put their skills to work here.

Wynegar said the open house was part of the college’s Alumni Connect initiative that began in the past year. Organizers of Alumni Connect said they have been able to meet with some 250 COA alumni at various workplaces during the initiative, which is designed to build support for COA through its alumni.

Before presenting the Distinguished Alumnus Medal, Wynegar said he wanted to single out Etheridge, who has served on the COA Board of Trustees and currently serves on the COA Foundation Board of Directors, for special recognition.

“I didn’t know about this,” Etheridge quipped to Wynegar as he stepped up to receive the medal.

Addressing Wynegar, fellow alumni and others at the gathering, Etheridge said graduating from COA had made a big difference in his life.

“It set me on a career path that I would have never made,” he said.

In an interview afterward, Etheridge said when he graduated from Elizabeth City High School he went to the beach to work while most of his friends went off to college.

He said his family couldn’t afford to send him out of town to college, so he probably wouldn’t have continued his education had he not learned about the opportunity to attend COA.

“I really had no plans to go anywhere,” Etheridge said.

He said he took courses at COA for two years before transferring to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“It was really good for me,” Etheridge said of his experience attending COA. “That was the groundwork for getting me started.”

After a successful career in business, Etheridge retired and returned to Elizabeth City. He said he has enjoyed being a COA trustee and serving on the Foundation Board.

“That’s my way to try to give back a little bit for what COA was for me,” he said. “It was just a good fit.”

During Saturday’s event, Wynegar also thanked Chef Leslie Lippincott and the culinary arts students from COA’s Edenton-Chowan campus, who prepared and served hors d'oeuvres to guests.

The hors d’oeuvres included Greek meatballs with pita bread and tzatziki sauce, pastry cups filled with chicken salad, other pastry cups filled with hummus and herbs, and stuffed tomatoes.

Casey Nicholas, one of the culinary students, explained as he put the finishing touches on a tray of Greek meatballs that most of the prep work was done in class and then some of the dishes were heated up in the kitchen at the Wynegars’ home.

“Everything was started at the school,” Nicholas explained.

He said he enjoys preparing and serving food to groups, and he especially likes seeing people enjoy food he has prepared. He said the meatballs were made using a mixture of beef and pork seasoned with garlic, mint, red pepper and parsley. The tzatziki sauce was made with yogurt, dill, cucumber and olive oil.

Lippincott said the culinary arts students enjoyed preparing and serving food at the open house.

“Anything like this is a great experience for them,” she said.

As the college continues to build on the Alumni Connect initiative, plans are underway to form a COA Alumni Association in January, according to Amy Alcocer, the COA Foundation’s executive director.

“There is a need for it,” Alcocer said. “There are definitely enough alumni to build one in this region.”                                         

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