Thomas Nelson Community College will present the Thomas Nelson Medallion and Dana B. Hamel Award during its 48th Commencement Exercises on Thursday, May 11 at 7 p.m. at the Hampton Coliseum. The awards honor citizens who champion higher education and public service. The graduation ceremony will also include a keynote address by Digby Solomon, former Daily Press Media Group publisher and CEO.
The Thomas Nelson Medallion honors citizens who exemplify the spirit and highest ideals of Thomas Nelson – patriot, soldier-statesman and governor. The medallion will be posthumously awarded to the late Sen. John C. Miller (pictured).
Named in honor of Dr. Dana B. Hamel, the first chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges (VCCS), the Dana B. Hamel Award recognizes individuals or entities for their commitment to public service; to fostering access to higher education; and promoting an understanding of the role of workforce development as an essential part of Thomas Nelson’s mission. This year’s recipient is Continental in Newport News.
Miller was elected to the Virginia Senate representing the 1st District in 2007 and won re-election for a third term in 2015. He was a staunch advocate for education who lead legislative initiatives to reduce the number of Standards of Learning (SOL) tests in elementary schools and he stressed the importance of exercise in elementary school to combat childhood obesity. Before his passing in April 2016, Miller had just completed a Senate session during which a high school education reform bill he championed was approved. The legislation redesigned high school education to better prepare students to for the 21st century workforce.
A broadcast journalism position with WVEC TV brought the Pennsylvania native to Hampton Roads in the early 1970s after he earned degrees in history and education from Northern Illinois University. His 18-year stint with the local station included service as a reporter, an anchor and later news director. Miller earned numerous national awards for his weekly documentary news program Focus.
Miller left television news and served six years as an aide to U.S. Sen. Paul Trible in Washington, D.C. He resumed his broadcasting career at WHRO, where he appeared on Good Morning Hampton Roads and held key administrative positions.
Among the senator’s numerous awards is the Virginia Education Association’s Solid as a Rock award, the Association for Career and Technical Education’s Policymaker of the Year recognition and the Virginia State Reading Association’s Friend of Literacy honor. He is the only legislator to have twice received the award. Miller was also granted the Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s Excellence in Workforce Development award.
In addition to serving as President of Peninsula READS, Miller held many civic memberships including Foodbank of the Virginia Peninsula, the Newport News Youth Commission, the Downtown Hampton Child Development Center, the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth, the Newport News YMCA, the Junior League of Hampton Roads Advisory Board and People to People. His prized role above all was 20 years of service as an umpire for Warwick Little League.
Part of the engine systems unit of Continental Automotive Systems Inc.'s powertrain division, Continental’s Newport News plant is known for producing fuel injectors and other fuel system components as a supplier to car manufacturers. Those fuel injection systems are comprised of small metal components that must be made with computer-controlled high precision metal cutting machines to work effectively.
Boasting roughly 750 employees, Continental is on track to grow to 1,000 workers by 2019. The company announced in 2014 that it would invest $150 million in its facility over multiple years to help in expanding its product portfolio.
Thomas Nelson officials are excited about plans by Continental leaders to provide renovated space, equipment and other expertise that will enable the College to launch a new Machining Program at the company’s Newport News facility which will begin this fall. The training partnership established this year will generate much-needed skilled workers to meet Continental’s workforce needs as well as the needs of the advanced manufacturing industry on the Virginia Peninsula.
While the initial dollar value of Continental’s investment in Thomas Nelson’s new Machining Program in terms of space, renovations, equipment, utilities, maintenance, and more over the next five to 10 years is estimated to surpass $400,000, the partnership’s economic impact will be priceless in today’s competitive economy given the skilled workforce it will yield.