The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Sunday Profile

June 20, 2010

Dr. Charles Polk

— Although it had already been in existence for 57 years, in 1990, the future of Beckley College was murky at best.

In deep financial distress and still trying to regain its footing following the death of its longtime president, the two-year college was struggling.

A lot can change in 20 years.

In 1990, Dr. Charles Polk was in his 16th year as president of Daytona Beach Community College.

Polk was looking for a change, however, and the Texas native was ready to accept the same position at a community college in the Northeast.

Plans, as most know, can easily change.

“I had all but accepted the presidency of another school, but circumstance and talking to people here, who said, ‘You really should come here. We need you here,’ I made the decision to come here,” Polk said.

It was a risky move.

“When you look back on it and come to grips with what it (the school) was at that time and how much difficulty it was in, financially and otherwise, you almost have to say it was a little bit of insanity and a desire for punishment, I guess,” he said with a laugh.

“But I had this gambling spirit and risk-taking tendency and I thought it was just something I would really like to try to do.”

The first step for Polk upon his July 1, 1990, start date was to try to pull the school out of the financial cellar.

“We needed to try to get to a point where it could just breathe,” he said. “The first year was a year of really tightening things down, reducing numbers and trying to create an idea of what we could do, where we could go and what we could be.”

The president had some big dreams for the tiny school, which served between 800 and 900 students from its three buildings on South Kanawha Street.

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