The 2010 graduation speaker at Pearl River Community College describes himself as one of the country''s most enthusiastic supporters of two-year colleges.Raymond Hartfield of Austin, Texas, received his associate''s degree from Pearl River in 1967. Although he has spent more than 30 years working in the corporate world, his work keeps him closely connected to his educational roots at a community college.”They are the heart and soul of the country,” he said. “Community colleges, after all is said and done, will be the salvation of this country.”Hartfield will speak at PRCC''s commencement exercises at 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 19, at the James Lynn Cartlidge Forrest County Multi Purpose Center in Hattiesburg. Approximately 500 students will receive degrees or Certificates of Proficiency.Hartfield came to then-Pearl River Junior College in 1965 after graduating from Purvis High School. A first-generation college student, he heard about the availability of on-campus housing and the low cost of attending junior college from friends.”It seemed so far away at that time and like such a big place compared to where we lived,” he said.He moved into Pearl River Hall where he roomed with Gary Rushing of Bogalusa, La. The two became life-long friends. A music major, Hartfield played in the band, directed by Mr. Patton, and sang in the choir. He also met classmate Jimmy Buffett.”He kind of stayed to himself, but he was here,” Hartfield said. Buffett played clubs along the Gulf Coast on the weekends, and students tagged along if the club had an outdoor stage.”We''d travel with him from time to time just to see him play,” Hartfield said.As a sophomore, Hartfield and Rushing lived on the second floor of Lamar Hall where Coach John Russell and his wife were dorm parents.”They live within eight miles of me now, and I take him to lunch on his birthday every year,” Hartfield said.While in high school, Hartfield got a part-time job at McCaffrey''s Grocery in Hattiesburg and worked during college breaks. When he transferred to the University of Southern Mississippi, he worked from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. almost every day before going to classes.”That''s the way times were,” he said.Hartfield graduated from USM in 1969 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and a minor in chemistry and physics. He took a job as director of the beginner band at then-Central Attendance Center near Hattiesburg''s Beverly Drive-In.Three years later, he moved to Mobile as band director at Davidson High School. He earned a second bachelor''s degree – this one in chemistry and physics – and a master''s degree in geophysics from the University of South Alabama and taught science at Davidson from 1974 to 1979.Hartfield left the classroom in 1979 to become a product manager with Texas Instruments Inc. in Austin. He has held vice presidential positions with CCI/Triad and VTEL Corp. and currently is Director of Education and Research at AT&T in Austin. He does research and consulting for multiple education and technology projects throughout the country and is widely-known in education and industry circles for public policy work and legislative updates.He has maintained an active connection to education, serving on the Round Rock (Texas) Independent School District Board of Trustees for 14 years. He also has served as a band clinician and contest judge. Hartfield currently chairs the public policy committees of the Texas and U.S. Distance Learning Associations.Hartfield and his wife, Ann, have two children and two grandchildren.
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