Bringing Opportunity to our Community

Written by Claire Allen, participant in the 2020 Fall Leadership Discovery class, after hearing Dr. Mary Thornley, President of Trident Technical College

Dr. Thornley’s dedication to bringing opportunity to the Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester communities is evident in her 47 years of teaching and administration at Trident Technical College. Dr. Thornley began her career at Trident Technical College as a part time English and Speech teacher and saw an opportunity for her passion to grow and provide opportunity to others. But Dr. Thornley’s story doesn’t begin at Trident Technical College, it began as a young schoolgirl in Concord, NC. Her humble beginnings taught her to study, believe and achieve your dreams and goals.  She said that “you can’t lead others until you can lead yourself”.

Dr. Thornley stated that “facts tell, but stories sell” and that was demonstrated by the ease with which Dr. Thornley joined, greeted and spoke with the Leadership Discovery class. She didn’t start with a fact sheet of her rise and tenure at Trident Technical College to include 30 years as President, nor did she note that she has held the President position the longest in Trident Technical College’s history. She didn’t provide a recount of her degrees, certifications or qualifications to hold this position. She gracefully presented the class with opportunities to think of our own histories, our community’s history and our world’s historic leaders.

We weren’t able to have our conversation in person, but that did not diminish the engagement, sharing and storytelling skills of Dr. Thornley. She took us back to her childhood, back to her roots, in pictures and words. Knowing where Dr. Thornley began gives life to her statement, “with opportunity, everyone has potential.”  Dr. Thornley continues to operate with that statement as her guiding focus.

After an enlightening and engaging conversation, Dr. Thornley provided us with a call to action:

  1. Be proactive
  2. Be grateful
  3. Remember that behavior is a result of decision, not condition
  4. Read autobiographies and biographies

The stories she shared were purposeful and drove home that we are a connected community, learning from each other and that opportunity surrounds us. Dr. Thornley provided her personal cell phone number as a means for us to reach out beyond this initial conversation to ask questions, to discover the opportunities awaiting us, and she’s standing ready to lead us.

Claire Allen, ManTech
Participant in the 2020 Fall Leadership Discovery class

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