The measure of a man can often be learned from his wife.
Retiring ICC president and long-time public servant, Walter Dalton heard his wife, Lucille, say, "I've always been proud of him, especially his caring for other people."
Lucille has had a career in public service, too, spending nine years on the local school board and once being named school board member of the year by the state association.
Dalton heard stories of his late father, Charles C. Dalton, from his mother, Amanda Haynes Dalton, in his childhood. His father died when Walter was eight, but his state senate portrait hung in the hallway of his childhood home.
He was inspired to think about public service as his mother talked about his father and that portrait.
"I think we were at Cliffside dedicating a clock and a man came up to me and said my dad had helped get their road paved and talked about what a difference that had made in their lives," Dalton said. "That had been 20 years previous, but the man still remembered and was grateful. That got me thinking about the good that could come of working in public service."
Again, there's that caring for other people.
He gives a lot of credit to high school teacher, Lena Mayberry.
"I was in an accelerated English class with her for all four years of high school. She really emphasized the importance of communications. Later in politics and practicing law, I really saw the importance of her training," Dalton said.
Dalton was not only inspired by that portrait in the hall, the tribute from the man in Cliffside and Lena Mayberry. It's also very tender to him that his father left the state senate when Walter was born.
"He was 44 years old and came home from the senate, because there was a baby at home," he said.
Dalton also gave tribute to lions of local politics: Jamie Clark, Woodrow Jones, and Jack Hunt.
Mike Gavin, who is the college's Director Of Marketing and Community Relations, said of Dalton, "Walter's background as a successful attorney, long-serving state senator and North Carolina's lieutenant governor positioned him to have a most unique and positive perspective from which to lead a community college. He served years as a trustee at Isothermal, on legislative committees charged with improving and funding community colleges across the state, and, while he was lieutenant governor, on the State Board of Community Colleges.
"Walter brought all those years of cumulative knowledge with him to serve Isothermal with a singular purpose: to better the lives of people in Rutherford and Polk counties and beyond, by creating inclusive opportunities for personal, professional, economic and cultural development. Walter's strengths are in his abilities to build relationships and partnerships. He is the kind of tireless leader who sees solutions before some others might even recognize a problem. His persistence and determination serve him well as he leads an organization. And, he has a knack for identifying the right people who can do the right things at the right time."
But such rich praise is not limited to Gavin. Local accountant Roger Jolley chairs the ICC board and said, "It's hard to speak about Walter in ordinary terms, because every position he's ever held, whether it was attorney, county attorney, state senator, Lt. Governor or president at Isothermal, he does a tremendous job. He goes above and beyond anybody's expectations of him."
Dalton's career in politics led him to many opportunities to learn about education. He served on the senate's education committee, and chaired it for many years. As Lt. Governor, he visited more than 40 community colleges and saw great programs that he was later able to help start at ICC.
He is particularly pleased with the Workforce Development center at the college. The building was named for Dalton during his last meeting with the trustees. During that meeting, Gov. Roy Cooper also presented Dalton with the Order Of The Longleaf Pine, North Carolina's highest civilian honor.
"There is a lot of expensive equipment in the center that students can train on, including high school students, so we don't have to buy that same equipment for all the high schools in the county," Dalton said.
He likes to talk about the early college program which has gained popularity in recent years and the fact that so much of the first two years of a two-year degree can be gained at a community college at so much less cost.
In addition to a brief time in banking and the other career paths he has followed, Dalton taught American Government and Southern Politics at Gardner Webb for a semester. He said he loved teaching, but had told the folks at GW he would take the ICC job if he had the opportunity.
He said Southern Politics gave him a chance to tell one of his favorite funny stories. When Big Jim Folsom was elected governor of Alabama, he took a horse into the governor's mansion as part of his inauguration. A newspaper columnist wrote the next day, "It was the first time in a long time that an entire horse had been in the governor's mansion."
Both Daltons have worked long and hard for Rutherford County and North Carolina. You can't get that in a general store that sells everything.