Lynn Nichols of Gaston College wins 2020 Altrusa Award of Excellence
Lynn Nichols, Associate Dean for Health and Human Services at Gaston College, is the recipient of the 2020 Award for Excellence presented by Altrusa International of Gastonia. The award was announced in February at the annual Gaston College Employee Appreciation and Recognition Ceremony. The award was “in recognition of outstanding service to students and representation of the highest ideals of Gaston College and Altrusa International.”
The Altrusa Award for Excellence recognizes an outstanding Gaston College faculty or staff member who personifies the College’s mission, vision, and values. Nominees are judged on their involvement with Gaston College students and their positive impact on the students’ lives. They must exhibit an enthusiasm for life, concern for others, and a commitment to the concept of lifelong learning. They are also evaluated on their extraordinary accomplishments and contributions to the College, community, or other civic activities.
Penny Ewing, an Instructor in the Medical Assisting program, nominated Nichols for the Altrusa Award. Ewing said that Nichols is “the epitome of what a lifelong learner and teacher is. She stands above all others in her commitment to hard work and being committed to student success.”
Ewing continued, “Lynn has always been available for her students, taking time to tutor, to explain and often just to lend an ear to whatever problem they had. I know many times she has found resources for students that were struggling not only academically but personally as well.”
Nichols is a first-generation high school graduate. She enrolled in the Gaston College Medical Assisting Program in her late twenties. The Department Chair at the time, Betty Jones, was one of her instructors. “She saw potential in me as a student that no one else had ever recognized,” said Nichols, “and she convinced me that I could succeed in college.” After graduating from Gaston College, Nichols enrolled in and graduated from Pfeiffer University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Care Management.
While working on her undergraduate degree, Nichols was given the opportunity to work as an adjunct instructor in Medical Assisting and then to become the full-time lead clinical and lab instructor. After becoming a full-time instructor, and with continued encouragement from Ms. Jones, Nichols obtained her master’s degree in Adult Education/Higher Education from Appalachian State University.
Nichols served over 15 years as the lead clinical and lab instructor in Medical Assisting and then became the Coordinator for Medical Assisting, a position she held for five years. She has been the Associate Dean for the Health and Human Services division since 2016.
“My educational philosophy includes the belief that it is my role as an instructor to provide a safe and respectful classroom environment conducive to learning,” said Nichols. “Students want to learn content that will be useful, meaningful and relevant to their life and interests. When teaching, I try to connect the learning content to life.”
Nichols believes that student success is predicated on student retention at all levels, and her efforts toward student retention begin early in the courses she teaches. From one-on-one counseling sessions to requiring students to retake any failed exam to help them master the content, to advising students of the many resources available, including tutoring and financial assistance, Nichols strives to give her students all the tools they need to succeed.
In her Altrusa Award nomination form, Ewing said that Nichols’ “hard work and commitment have been an inspiration, not only to myself but to others as well. I aspire to be to others what her example has been to many.”
“Knowing what the Altrusa Award for Excellence represents, I am truly honored to have been nominated for and to be a recipient of the Altrusa Award,” said Nichols. “I believe my receiving this award is actually honoring all the individuals who through the years have mentored and supported me in my education and in my career. I am an alumnus of Gaston College, Pfeiffer University and Appalachian State University, but without the education and opportunities that I first received as a student at Gaston I would not have the career I now have.
“I am so blessed in my career that it is important for me to make a positive difference in the lives of our students and in whatever role I am in as a member of the Gaston College family, because that is what I have received from Gaston College both as a student and as a faculty member.”
Altrusa International Inc. is an international community service organization dedicated to making communities better through leadership and service. Through the Gaston College Foundation, Altrusa International of Gastonia established an endowment to support the award in 1993, and the first recipient was selected in 1995. The organization also provides three scholarships to Gaston College students each year. More than $16,500 has been distributed through the scholarships and the Award for Excellence since the endowment began.
Past Gaston College recipients of the Altrusa Award for Excellence include Barbara Adams, Linda Greenlee, Brenda Falls, Roland Ball, Vicki Greene, Rhonda Smith Wood, Judith Cole, Peggy Truman, Louise Davis, Judy Jennings Bean, Bill Bambach, Bob Blanton, Amy Davis, Nancy Porter, Audrey Sherrill, Dr. Harry Cooke, Dennis Crosby, Mary Clemmer, Adele Earls, Dr. Joe Cagle, Sherry Sherrill, Renita Johnson, Lynn Dellinger, Karen Duncan and Dr. Virginie Maggiotti.
For information on this and other activities of the Gaston College Foundation call 704-922-6511 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.