May 7, 2015

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Local graduates are celebrating as they earn their bachelor’s degrees from various state universities by taking classes in Martinsville at New College Institute (NCI).


On Tuesday evening, NCI recognized spring graduates of bachelor’s degree programs as well as the recipient of a prestigious faculty award, the Lula White Johnson Distinguished Teaching Award.


Dr. Leanna Blevins, NCI’s associate director and chief academic officer, commended the hard work of the graduates as well as the support of friends and family members. “We are celebrating the students who achieved their degrees while balancing work, families, volunteer commitments, and more. We are glad you chose to complete your degree through a partner program at NCI,” Blevins shared with graduates.


Graduates included 12 students from three bachelor’s degree programs. Those who completed certificates, endorsements, or other programs throughout the year typically receive credentials at the time of completion.


Those earning a Bachelor’s of Business Administration from Averett University (AU) include Kevin D. Cochrane, Bridgette A. Helms, Monique Holland, Sierra N. Jones, Zachary Reeves, and Cindy S. Summit.


Those earning a Bachelor’s of Science in Liberal Studies and Elementary Education from Longwood University (LU) were Lindsey Letchworth, Ellen Pack, and Kevin Underwood.


Finally, those with a Bachelor’s of Science in Criminal Justice from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) included Kolton Helbert, Austin Steffey, and Tina Street.


VCU graduate Helbert addressed his peers and attendees by expressing appreciation for educational opportunities close to home through NCI. “We all have been bettered because of NCI, and I invite others to complete their education through the same extraordinary program.  The faculty and staff truly are wonderful, the facilities are immaculate, and the location is—well—just perfect,” shared Helbert.


Underwood, a graduate of Longwood University, shared that getting his degree through NCI was the only way he could have achieved this goal because of the cost and physical distance of other options. “NCI is a resource right in our backyard. Everybody here is willing to help you and encourage you to complete your degree and your goals,” Underwood continued.


In addition to honoring graduates, Janie Brazier, faculty-in-residence for the Longwood University Social Work program at NCI, received the 2015 Lula White Johnson Distinguished Teaching Award. This award is made possible by an endowed fund memorializing Mrs. Johnson, who taught at Albert Harris High School for many years prior to her appointment as English Department Chair at Martinsville High School.  Many former students link her talent and compassion as a teacher directly to their decision to enroll in college as well as their success in the college classroom.


“It is an honor to be recommended for this award by my students. I am humbled to be among a group of such outstanding professors recognized in honor of Mrs. Johnson and her legacy,” said Brazier. 


The award includes $1,000, an engraved plaque, and a public forum at which time the recipient will present an educational topic of his/her choice.  Previous recipients of the award are:

  • 2012 – Kimberly Fatten, professor of Accounting at Virginia Commonwealth University
  • 2013 – Dr. Patricia Grant, professor of Criminal Justice at Virginia Commonwealth University
  • 2014 – Dr. Coray Davis, professor of Engineering Technology at Virginia State University


If you are interested in learning more about academic programs and service available through NCI, please call (276) 403-5610 or visit



See article on Martinsville Bulletin.