Trustee Sees Ferrum as a Beacon of Light
Betty Forbes joined the Ferrum College family during her son’s freshman year at the school, when Jerry Boone, Ferrum’s ninth president, invited her to join the Parents Council. From there, Boone told her, “You did so well, I thought you should move up,” and appointed her to the Board of Trustees. Forbes is one of Ferrum’s biggest advocates and vocal supporters. “To us, Ferrum was the beacon of light that helped our son make it through college and become the person he is today,” she says. Forbes notes that everyone at Ferrum, from the chaplain to the president to the men and women in dining services, cared about her son and called him by name. The fact that faculty and staff can still do this today, despite a growing student body, is one of the aspects of Ferrum that make it so special.
Forbes’ business expertise and work ethic are evident in her work with Ferrum College. Retiring from the mortgage industry in 2000 as president and CEO of the Mortgage Company of James River, Inc., Forbes went to work in the nonprofit sector. She took a position with Christian Children’s Fund (CCF) as vice president of marketing and sponsorship shortly after her retirement; she was sought out by the new president of CCF following her work on the CCF Board of Directors and her involvement in the search for a new president. Initially, her job was to last for a period of one year, but once she got there, she says she just had to stay longer. Under her leadership, the revenue doubled and the visibility of the organization grew. In 2008, she decided to retire once again, but continues to serve on numerous community and church boards, using her experience and passion to further the mission of the Methodist Church and to expand educational offerings for students of all ages.
Now serving her third term on the Board of Trustees, including several years as chair, Forbes has seen many changes at Ferrum College. She notes times of transition and development, but says the Board of Trustees has always remained focused and dedicated to the mission and purpose of Ferrum College. “Board members are always involved and we work well together for the good of the College,” she explains. The most significant change, she notes, is the hiring of Dr. Jennifer Braaten as president. Having served on the search committee, Forbes says Braaten represents a move toward a more community-oriented administration. “Dr. Jennifer Braaten is determined to make Ferrum the best it can be, and the sense of community is an integral part of that strategy,” she says.
While she has seen tremendous growth at Ferrum, Forbes also notes how difficult it is to raise money for small colleges, particularly those in rural areas like Ferrum. She believes that if a student will give Ferrum a chance, he or she will see the hands-on educational opportunities available and the possibility to dramatically change his or her future with an education from Ferrum College. When asked about supporting those students who enroll at Ferrum, she says this: “There are so many parents who cannot afford college tuition, and I believe those of us who have seen the final product that Ferrum can produce need to give back and support the College in a manner that will keep it financially stable and provide opportunities for others to share in that same experience.”
While the future is always uncertain, Forbes believes Ferrum College will continue to grow and remain strong for the very reasons it was started 100 years ago: to provide a quality education to all students who are interested in learning, especially those for whom a college education may seem out of reach. Forbes feels that all levels of Ferrum, from the Board of Trustees to the professors and staff members, play a role in providing a strong education; a job well done will continue to turn out students with a high level of expertise in their chosen fields.
Forbes says the Ferrum College student is known for being a hard-working and capable individual who has learned to think independently and creatively. Students such as this provide a key service to our communities and are exactly the kind of students employers want to hire. “Ferrum offers such a good support system for students, and I know it will continue long past my tenure,” Forbes says. She notes the crucial nature of supporting the College as it moves forward in saying, “It is important to have a college that provides an excellent education and a holistic approach to learning, while investing in the growth and future of its students.”