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WILSON, N.C. – “If you don’t give back as least as much as you took, — I mean, hello! — at some point in time there’s not anything here for anybody else.”
For Eric Sellers, that’s not just a nice idea, it’s a way of life. The 1979 Barton graduate and Smithfield native serves on the Executive Committee of the Barton College Board of Trustees and chairs the Institutional Advancement Committee as well as the Black Box Theatre Committee, which is responsible for raising funds for the construction of Barton’s new Lauren Kennedy and Alan Campbell Theatre. Recipient of the 2005 Barton College Alumni Achievement Award and former president of Barton’s Alumni Board, Sellers now serves as president of the Barton Society.
“I have a debt here I can’t repay. I mean it’s that simple. I owe a debt that, no matter what I do work-wise or monetarily, I just can’t repay it. Having said that, it then becomes important to create the opportunity for the next Eric Sellers …, that kid that doesn’t know where he is and doesn’t know why he’s out there.”
Sellers entered college directionless, completing his first two semesters with lackluster grade-point averages.
“I probably tried to flunk out of this place, and they wouldn’t let me. I got an arm around my shoulder when I needed that, and I got a foot in my tail when I needed that,” he stated candidly.
Realizing he risked failing geometry, Sellers met with math professor Dr. E. D. Winstead to discuss his grade during the last week of the term. Expecting to charm his professor, he instead discovered that Dr. Winstead had strong words for him.
“He ripped me up! I mean, he just let me have it! And I remember when we were over, he looked at me and said, ‘Young man, the bottom line’s this: if you pass this exam, you pass; if you fail it by one point, you flunk this course.’”
The truth hurts sometimes, but that was what Sellers needed to hear. Of all the grades he made in college, the one he remembers is the 98 on his geometry exam.
Sellers found that Barton’s small size and faculty who pushed you to succeed made a great combination.
“They took the time to understand you. And, again, I’m not saying you can’t be successful somewhere else; but the environment of being able to ask and see a guy after class and do the interaction that’s just darn tough to do in an environment if you got, you know, 60 or 100 or 200 students, I think, definitely gives people a leg up. I really do.”
Sellers initially had declared a religion major. Although he loved his church, he discovered the study of religion as a subject was not where his talents lay. In the spring of his junior year, he took an economics class and found his calling in business.
“I had a phenomenal background in accounting! Ashton Wiggs was a great teacher! In business at that time, we had to have at least 12 hours of accounting, and I had 20. So [the business program] helped me understand the business basics, because I was a blue-collar kid — my parents never ran a business. But it gave me the look into the world, if you will, the perspective of understanding so that when I graduated I was on the same footing as everybody else.”
Barton was the right place for Sellers, giving him a quality education and helping him mature as a person.
“The process I went through here was instrumental in me being successful in life. It really was. And I would not have had that opportunity in a lot of other places. So you’ve got to give it back.”
After graduating, Sellers worked in banking and then transitioned to the computer industry, selling billing systems to medical offices. Offered the opportunity to own part of the company, Sellers accepted. This proved to be a lucrative decision as he and the other investors experienced great success and eventually sold the company to Medic Computer Systems. In May 2004, Sellers opted for early retirement.
Sellers now resides in Selma and coaches baseball there and in Smithfield. As a trustee and alumnus, he devotes a significant amount of his time and resources to Barton. Because of his experience here, he is adamant about “giving back to Barton and creating scholarships.”
“You don’t forget those people that made you successful, and I want somebody else to have that same opportunity.”
Questions? Please contact Ken Dozier, web services manager at Barton College, at 252.399.6596 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.