Greg Hodges is on a mission to feed what he describes as Southside Virginia’s economic comeback, one student at a time.
That’s what Hodges says he plans to focus on now that his tenure as Patrick & Henry Community College president is in full swing. Appointed in 2021 by a statewide committee, Hodges has spent the last two years emphasizing the school’s workforce development. Once he is formally inaugurated on Friday, he plans to continue in that vein.
“We like to talk about being the cog in that economic development wheel,” Hodges said. “We are the provider that are helping to train the employees that are occupying the positions in our community. That is our focus.”
Hodges explains that the gap between the start of his new position and Friday’s inauguration is normal for college presidents.
By the numbers: Roanoke MSA
- Population: 315,389
- Median age: 43.5
- Median Household Income: $64,596
- Unemployment rate: 3%
Source: U.S. Census, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
“All Virginia community college inaugurations occur within the second year. We want to make sure that it’s a good fit,” Hodges said, adding that despite his presidency starting in the midst of the pandemic, it has mostly been smooth sailing.
“It’s been very exciting. We are starting to see a return to pre-COVID numbers for enrollment, both on the workforce and the academic side. We are elated that we are able to get people back to work, back to good paying jobs.”
The college’s headcount immediately leading up to the pandemic was 1,976 while the current enrollment is 1,686.
Hodges replaced Angeline Godwin as president. Godwin served as president for nine years.
Hodges’ inauguration comes ahead of the college’s May graduation ceremony, where Hodges will serve as the commencement speaker.
His affiliation with the community college goes back years. A Henry County native, Hodges began his time at Patrick & Henry as an education student.
“I had a high school teacher who encouraged me tremendously,” Hodges said about Gracie Agnew, the teacher who inspired him to become an educator. “She really invested time in me and really had me consider education as a career.”
That training would take him to Martinsville City Schools before he boomeranged back to Patrick & Henry in 2004 as a faculty member in early childhood development.
He served in a number of different positions, including as dean and vice president of academics, before he was named president in 2021 by the State Board of Community Colleges.
Hodges said that while he could teach anywhere in the country, he wanted to stay close to home and play a part in its development. Hodges describes the college as being in a fairly “unique position” to impact people economically.
“I think the most important thing about our college is that we are squarely in the middle of the economic renaissance that is happening in our community,” Hodges said. “Most folks who are from this area know that the late ’90s and early 2000s brought about an economic depression in our community. We went through double-digit unemployment … and in the last decade we have seen major economic [growth] in our community, and Patrick & Henry is squarely positioned in the middle of that.”
Hodges said that like other community colleges, Patrick & Henry provides the training to fuel local industry with qualified candidates.
“That is in fact our focus, that is our mission, that’s our vision, providing the economic mobility for the citizens in our community,” Hodges said, adding that this is the aspect of the job he was most excited about. “Next month we’ll have our graduation … and every one of those folks [has] a ticket into financial security.”
Hodges said he is looking forward to continuing his work, touting the pending unveiling of a new building at the school’s manufacturing and engineering complex. This building, according to Hodges, will offer training in in-demand skills such as engineering and welding.
“These are exciting times to be in our college and in our community,” Hodges said, adding that he ultimately wants the college to continue being perceived as an asset by the community and student-body alike.
“Patrick & Henry is the institution … that is singularly dedicated to their economic mobility,” Hodges said. “We want to invest in them.”