SKCTC’s Greene celebrates 60 years of service
Published 1:20 pm Monday, March 13, 2023
Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College has gone through many changes throughout the last half century, and Elizabeth Greene has seen most of them. On February 11, 1963, Greene began working for what was then the Pineville School for Practical Nurses. Recently, President Vic Adams and a gathering of Southeast employees honored her for 60 years of dedicated service.
The 13th child of a coal miner, Greene knew she wanted to do secretarial work from the time she was young. She found inspiration in perhaps the most unlikely of places: the local landfill. A business had discarded reams of bookkeeping ledgers, and nine-year-old Greene was mesmerized. “I knew right then looking at those columns and figures that that was what I wanted to spend my life doing,” she says.
After her father was laid off from the mines, Greene graduated high school and began working for the Life and Casualty Insurance Company. Following the birth of her first child, she took a hiatus of three months before going to work for the Bell County Extension Office. In 1963, she learned from Tom Winkler, supervisor for the Bell County Schools, that a secretarial position had opened with the nursing school. “This was working for Mrs. Mildred Winkler, the first coordinator,” she says. Applicants were required to travel to Frankfort to take tests in typing and shorthand, and Greene was one of the top three who passed the test. After a successful interview with Curtis Mathis, the director of the Harlan Vocational School, and Mrs. Winkler, she got the position which she would hold for 29 years.
According to Greene, Mrs. Winkler was instrumental in implementing the first program, the building of the present facility, and the achievement and growth of the various allied health programs. The school’s success can be attributed to many sources, state and regional employees, doctors, and affiliating agencies, and, says Greene, “Mrs. Winkler’s ability to relay the idea of excellent training to produce excellent health care workers.”
In the beginning, the nursing school was in the former Roland Hayes School for African American students in downtown Pineville. Following integration, the hospital bought it and the Harlan Vocational School began the Pineville School for Practical Nurses. In 1962, the Kentucky Department of Education took over. Greene recalls that in the early years, Pineville Hospital bought the nursing students their uniforms and books and even provided their lunch in lard pails.
Following the flood of 1977, the school moved into trailers while construction began on the current building located on Hwy 25E. In 1983, that facility opened its doors with 100 students. In May 1983 the new school, Cumberland Valley Health Occupations Center was dedicated. By the fall of 1986, four new programs were added: Medical Secretary, Surgical Technology, Radiologic Technology, and Respiratory Care. In July 1989, Related/Remedial, the fifth program, began. When changes took place in the workforce, the school changed its name to Cumberland Valley Technical College. In 2000, the Commonwealth’s community and technical colleges were merged and reorganized under the current Kentucky Community and Technical College System.
Although Greene never aspired to become a nurse, she says she has learned a lot over the years because she used to type all the tests for the nursing instructors. “In all these years, I’ve only had two typewriters,” she says. Not only did she work full time for the college, but she also worked several part-time bookkeeping jobs and managed to raise three children “without ever missing a ballgame.” When asked how she was able to juggle so much responsibility, she says the key was “speed and accuracy” and a focus on “necessary work and not busy work.”
According to President Vic Adams, “Elizabeth Greene sets the gold standard for all Southeast employees. Her work ethic, her professionalism, and the care she shows for our students are an inspiration.”
“Elizabeth is so much more than a co-worker,” said Paul Bryant, Dean of Administrative Services. “She is a true friend and mentor. She loves her job, particularly helping students achieve their goals. She also loves to see the change higher education makes, not only in their lives, but also in the lives of their families. I always look forward to visiting with Elizabeth as often as I can because she has so much knowledge to share.”
Carrie Hembree, Greene’s longtime coworker in the Southeast business office, emphasized the many roles Greene plays on the Pineville Campus: “She is the wise sage who knows how all this came to be and what should be done when we have a tough situation here at Pineville. She is a mentor to fellow employees and a guide in the ways that are right. She is still a fierce advocate for our students and works her magic to help them succeed. To many of us, Liz is also that true friend that we can come to with our problems and our joys. She will celebrate with us and pray with us. We can cry in her office if we need to, and we certainly can–and do—laugh a lot there.”
Greene said that the most rewarding part of her job throughout the decades has been to watch students succeed in reaching their goals. “There is no greater feeling than to see people get an education, to feel free, to make their own money, and to be happy. And I’ve seen a lot of it,” she says.
Incredibly, she has no plans to slow down anytime soon. “‘Retirement,’” she said, “is not in my vocabulary.” She credits her faith and the positive work environment on the Pineville Campus for continually inspiring her. “People here make apple cobbler and chili for the students. It’s no wonder I enjoy coming to work every day.”