ELIZABETHTON — Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) Elizabethton President Dean Blevins has announced his retirement after more than a third of a century in career technical education.
The Bristol native, who is 60, graduated from Tennessee High School.
He earned his associate of applied science in electrical engineering technology from Northeast State Community College, a bachelor of science in electronic engineering technology and master of science in adult technical education from East Tennessee State University. He also did post graduate work in human resource management at the University of Tennessee.
He also is acting director of the Tennessee Council on Career and Technical Education, which advocates for CTE and reports CTE issues and accomplishments to the General Assembly. He is retiring effective June 24, 12 years and 10 months after he began as TCAT president.
Looking back on a career that started at TCAT Elizabethton, took him to Greeneville and Kingsport City Schools, and then back to TCAT, Blevins recently answered some questions from the Times News:
1. What sticks out in your mind the most about your time at TCAT Elizabethton?
“I started my journey in career and technical education 35 years ago here at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (formerly known as the State Area Vocational-Technical School, then as the Tennessee Technology Center) as an industrial electricity and electronics instructor, so to see the change in education over that time has been significant to say the least,” Blevins said.
“Changes in technology that affect everyday life but also how we teach differently because of technology. Another significant accomplishment for TCAT Elizabethton is our main campus and program improvements that has made the college a state-of-the art facility to better serve the citizens of Northeast Tennessee.”
2. What is your term at TCAT and before that with Kingsport City Schools, and what was your title at KCS?
“Started here at TCAT 35 years ago as an instructor, was promoted to student services coordinator. Worked for Greeneville City Schools and more recently in Kingsport City Schools for about 10 years as director of Career and Technical Education. Returned to the college as president in August 2009 serving as president for the last 13 years.”
3. The new program at the old Sullivan North High School building, the future Sevier Middle School building, sort of seems to bring you full circle with KCS and a TCAT program at the future KCS school. Did you have any idea that
would come to pass shortly before you announced your retirement?
“I guess a couple of full-circle experiences, first here at TCAT, but also full circle in Kingsport with our recent work on developing an extension campus for Kingsport at the former Sullivan North High School location.
“When I returned as president of the college, our first order of business was to improve our main campus to include three new buildings and renovate the existing building. We wanted a college campus feel as we moved from a Technology Center to a Technical College.
“I believe we have more than achieved that goal with a state-of-the art main campus and programs. We knew early on that we also needed to improve our outreach to the other counties we serve in Northeast Tennessee due to over 3,500 students on our program wait lists. It seems as though the ‘stars aligned’ with the Sullivan North facility becoming available and our need to expand — so yes it is truly rewarding to be back in Kingsport delivering Career and Technical Education.
“We have developed the extension campus and started a practical nursing and building construction technology programs in record time. The college will continue to develop new programs for Kingsport in the very near future.”
4. What will you miss most about your position as president of TCAT Elizabethton?
“If you do what you enjoy, then you will never work a day in your life. I haven’t worked a day in my life because of the enjoyment I get from Career and Technical Education. The thing I will miss most about the job is the relationships, both old, long-term friendships and new relationships that are a significant part of the job as a college president.”
5. What advice would you give the person who is president after you?
“The work of delivering high-tech, world-class Career and Technical Education is more important now than ever before as we emerge from a devastating world-wide pandemic,” Blevins said.
“We have set the college on a path to prosperity; however, there is still much work to do, continuing to grow the college. A focus on developing extension campuses in our region is paramount to enriching our community, making sure we enhance the quality of life for the citizens and their families in Tennessee.”
6. Anything else you’d like to say?
“It has been the honor of my life serving as president of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology Elizabethton. I have been rewarded many times over in my time in public education with fond memories I will never forget.”