Student Portal


ECC Foundation Receives $1 Million Gift to Strengthen Technical Programs

The Edgecombe Community College Foundation has received a $1 million gift through the John R. Jenkins Trust. In recognition of the donation, the largest in the Foundation’s history, the college’s Board of Trustees has named the newest facility on the Tarboro campus the Barnhill-Jenkins Center for Innovation. Shown from left are Dr. Greg McLeod, president of Edgecombe Community College; Robert E. Barnhill Jr., chairman of the board of Barnhill Contracting Company; Benjamin Hardy, trustee of the John R. Jenkins Trust; and Jean Bailey, president of the ECC Foundation.

The Edgecombe Community College Foundation recently received a $1 million gift, the largest donation in its 42-year history.

The gift is made possible through the John R. Jenkins Trust and its trustee, Benjamin Hardy of Page & Smith, P.A., in Greenville. In recognition of the donation, the college’s Board of Trustees has named the newest facility on the Tarboro campus the Barnhill-Jenkins Center for Innovation, which opened in 2020.

The gift will expand the existing John R. and Yantus S. Jenkins Memorial Endowed Scholarship, which was established in 2015 to benefit an Edgecombe or Nash County resident who is enrolled in the electrical systems technology, automotive systems technology, industrial systems technology, or facility maintenance worker program at ECC.

In addition, the gift will establish the Barnhill-Jenkins Quasi-Endowment Electrical, Engineering and Trades to support the following programs: applied engineering technology, which is anticipated to begin in 2025, electrical systems technology, industrial systems technology, welding, and technical trades.

The gift also will endow the Barnhill-Jenkins Quasi-Endowment to Support SkillsUSA. SkillsUSA provides leadership-building activities for students enrolled in trade, industrial, technical, and health occupations programs. The new quasi-endowment will support travel and participation at the state and national competitions.

“The generosity of Mr. Jenkins and the Barnhills will forever stand as a living legacy to both Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Robert E. Barnhill Sr.,” says Jean Bailey, president of the ECC Foundation. “The Foundation has enjoyed many generous gifts during my many years of involvement, but I can’t recall such an extraordinary gift, not only in the magnitude of the amount, but in how it will be used to move the college forward.”

Dr. Greg McLeod, president of ECC, agrees. “This incredible commitment from the John R. Jenkins Trust is a transformative gift that will strengthen our technical and trades programs immeasurably. Its impact on our college will be felt for years to come. This gift will enable the college to better meet the changing needs of local businesses and industries. We shall remain eternally grateful for the Jenkins’ belief in our mission and trust in our work.”

John R. Jenkins and his wife, Yantus, were residents of Tarboro and later, Pinetops. She passed away in 2013, and he died in 2014. Jenkins, a licensed electrical contractor, was president of Trico Electric Company, located in Tarboro. Trico served clients, governments, and electrical cooperatives throughout the Carolinas, Virginia, and southeastern United States.

According to Benjamin Hardy, “Mr. Jenkins had a special relationship with Barnhill Contracting Company and its founder, Robert E. Barnhill Sr. Mr. Jenkins considered Mr. Barnhill a close friend and mentor and credits Mr. Barnhill with sound guidance and advice for many years.”

Robert E. Barnhill Sr. and R.W. Long established Barnhill & Long Construction in 1949. In 1952, Barnhill purchased Long’s interest in the company and renamed the business Barnhill Contracting Company. Today, Barnhill Contracting Company offers commercial building, site infrastructure, transportation, and asphalt services throughout the Southeast.

Trico provided electrical, lighting, and signage construction design and installation services to the State of NC and its contractors. Throughout their professional lives, Barnhill and Jenkins worked together on numerous projects.

Robert E. Barnhill Jr. serves as chairman of the board of Barnhill Contracting Company. He recalls, “John Jenkins was an electrical genius. He could fix anything, build anything, he was as good an engineer as any you’ve ever known. His office and dad’s office were separated by just one building. John would walk over early in the morning and talk to dad, who became a mentor to John on the business side of running his company.

“Dad helped him get into the electrical business in the highway industry, such as stoplights and large signs. Dad encouraged him and helped him. Theirs was a sincere friendship based on mutual respect.”

Both men also valued the importance of the state’s community colleges and the opportunities they provide. According to Hardy, “ECC was special to the Jenkins family and their company, so much so that they requested that I, as their trustee, work with the college in the years following their death to fund projects with portions of their estate.

“Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins would be proud to know of the naming of the Barnhill-Jenkins Center for Innovation in their honor and the honor of their friend, Robert E. Barnhill Sr.”

Robert E. Barnhill Jr. says he was overwhelmed when he learned that the Center for Innovation would be named in honor of his father. “Mr. Hardy called me early on to let me know, and I was so surprised. I had no idea this would happen. Of course, I am thrilled. It’s quite an honor, and my family and I are so appreciative.”

The Barnhills have long supported ECC, both professionally and personally. Barnhill Contracting Company built the Fleming Building on the Tarboro campus as well as the Barnhill-Jenkins Center for Innovation. Barnhill Contracting Company also donated funds to name a hydraulics and pneumatics lab in the facility.

In addition, when Robert E. Barnhill Sr. passed away in 2000, the family honored his legacy by establishing the Robert E. Barnhill Sr. Memorial Scholarship to benefit ECC students in any curriculum.

Both Barnhill Contracting Company and the Barnhill family have continued to support ECC annually, demonstrating their commitment to the college and community.

The Barnhill-Jenkins Center for Innovation is the training site for high school and college students, creating a pipeline for workers in advanced manufacturing. Education and training align with current industry standards.

“An important mission of the college is to provide modern facilities to train skilled workers, and this cutting-edge facility has been a major step forward since it opened four years ago,” notes Dr. McLeod.

The facility houses the college’s industrial-related programs, including manufacturing technology, industrial systems technology, electrical systems technology, global logistics and supply chain management, agribusiness technology, and soon, applied engineering technology. The facility contains state-of-the-art equipment within a computer integrated manufacturing lab, instrumentation lab, electronics lab, motor control lab, and innovation lab.