College to Honor Former President, Local School System During May 13 Graduation | Thomas Nelson Community College

College to Honor Former President, Local School System During May 13 Graduation

April 21, 2021
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Thomas Nelson Community College will present the Thomas Nelson Medallion and Dana B. Hamel Award during a virtual celebration of its 52nd commencement. The awards honor those who champion education and public service.

The online festivities are set for May 13, beginning at 10 a.m. at

The Thomas Nelson Medallion acknowledges citizens who exemplify the mission, vision, and core values of Thomas Nelson Community College. The recipient is former Thomas Nelson President Dr. Robert G. Templin Jr.

The Dana B. Hamel Award is named in honor of the first chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges (VCCS). It recognizes individuals or entities for their commitment to public service, fostering access to higher education, and promoting an understanding of workforce development’s role as an essential part of the College’s mission. The recipient is the Academies of Hampton.

Thomas Nelson President Dr. Towuanna Porter Brannon said the College is proud to honor Templin and the Academies of Hampton with its prestigious community awards.

“The relationships we establish in our communities are vital to the College’s success and that of our students. These connections allow us to aptly respond to the region’s higher education and career training needs while also strengthening our resolve to be a good neighbor and an active partner,” Brannon said. “These awards serve to show how strongly we value and appreciate our community allies for their immeasurable contributions to the progress and prosperity of our region.”

About the award recipients
Templin, who was Thomas Nelson’s fourth president, retired in 2015 after a long career in higher education. His background includes service as Dean of Instruction at Piedmont Virginia Community College in Charlottesville and a stint as Dean of the College at Kentucky’s Somerset Community College, where he was the first community college educator to be named a W.K. Kellogg Foundation National Fellow. His career also includes a Virginia’s Center of Innovative Technology presidency, a senior fellowship with the Morino Institute, and service as president of Northern Virginia Community College, one of the nation’s largest community colleges.

Templin’s presidency at Thomas Nelson spanned 1986-1994 bringing many positive changes and new opportunities including a 16% enrollment increase and a surge in grant funding of more than $1 million annually. In addition to helping the College usher in new technology such as the Internet, he established the Peninsula Advanced Technology Center. The center linked businesses with colleges and federal research facilities, including NASA Langley Research Center and Jefferson Lab. Templin also dedicated time to civic engagement. Membership on the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors enabled him to facilitate talks with business and industry leaders to create a shared vision for local economic development.  

“Dr. Templin served as one of my mentors during my fellowship with Aspen’s Rising Presidents Institute. He continues to be a coach and mentor, pushing higher education leaders to advance initiatives that increase student success,” Brannon said. “Though retired, he will always be considered a gem within the VCCS. Those who worked under his leadership, particularly at Thomas Nelson, are richer for the experience.”

Mike Kuhns, who chairs the Thomas Nelson Board, mirrored Brannon’s sentiment calling Templin “an icon in the community college arena” and on the workforce development front.

“Dr. Templin has really been a catalyst for change. He did a great deal in establishing partnerships with employers as well as with other colleges, thereby effectively creating a pipeline for workforce development,” Kuhns said. “And, he is a senior fellow with the Aspen Institute helping to mold college leaders for the future. These certainly are key contributions worthy of recognition.”

Upon his departure from the College, Templin and his wife established a scholarship with the Thomas Nelson Community College Educational Foundation to benefit underrepresented students. The Templin Scholarship has been awarded to 24 students to date. His impact was such that he was recognized as the region’s 1993 Citizen of the Year by the Daily Press, and a building on Thomas Nelson’s Hampton campus constructed in 2002 was named in his honor.

Through the Academies of Hampton, students in the city's four high schools are afforded a clear path for graduation and a seamless transition to college or a career. Students participate in a learning community completing courses together with peers who share similar interests and desires to learn about a specific field. Students in each of the 16 academies get a personalized setting where they learn English, science, math, and social studies meeting all graduation requirements. The Academies also offer advanced placement and dual enrollment courses as well as industry certification exams to help students gain college credits and required credentials in more than 40 career pathways, all before high school graduation.

Another element is real-world exposure to business and industry. The Academies allow potential employers to share their knowledge and experience through classroom presentations, worksite visits, job shadowing, and internships. Plus, advisers and businesses introduce students to careers, opportunities, and industry skills through relevant hands-on learning experiences with practical applications. Given these components, the Academies contribute to the overall development of the Peninsula's workforce.  

Of the Academies Kuhns said, “This is truly transformational in that it took a traditional school system making it relevant to the needs of not only students but to the community and employers. It engages the business community while really immersing students in studies that prepare them for college or to directly enter the workforce. This is absolutely what is necessary for the economic vitality of our region.”

Brannon agreed saying, “A trailblazing concept that I am certain is propelling students to new heights, the Academies of Hampton exemplify the importance of evolving and being innovative when it comes to educating today’s youth. The emphasis on practical applications of lessons and its career exploration component, which employs broad community participation, is truly impressive.”  

In 2019-2020, more than 350 Hampton City Schools students were enrolled in courses offered by Thomas Nelson at various locations and online, earning 3,899 academic credits.

The College established the Thomas Nelson Medallion and Dana B. Hamel Awards about 10 years ago. Among past recipients of the Medallion are former Virginia legislator the Honorable Melanie Rapp-Beale, past Newport News Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Ashby Kilgore, and the late Sen. John C. Miller, who was a longtime state lawmaker. Past Dana B. Hamel Award honorees include Newport News Shipbuilding, Continental, and Molly Ward, City of Hampton treasurer.   

For more information about Thomas Nelson’s May 13 virtual graduation ceremony, visit