EAC Festival of Carols heralds arrival of holidays, transition of leadership, and commitment to community

By Kris McBride

THATCHER, Ariz. — Eastern Arizona College’s Festival of Carols, an annual Gila Valley tradition that heralds the arrival of the holidays, provided the perfect setting to signal the transition of EAC leadership to President Todd Haynie, and ensure the continuity of the first of three pillars he has identified to guide his administration, namely, honoring community engagement.

“Like the Festival of Carols, which has been given as a gift to the community for more than 20 years, everything we do is steeped in tradition,” stated Gideon Burrows, EAC associate professor and director of choral music. “Even though the College will inevitably change, our traditions will remain, and the decisions we make should always honor the community.”

At the beginning of the festival, Burrows briefly recognized Haynie’s inaugural year and reinforced his commitment to the community with a commemorative installment which reads, “presented on behalf of the communities of Graham, Greenlee, and Gila counties, and in support of cultural, educational, governmental, business, and industry relationships that protect our diversity and enhance and preserve our quality of life.”

The moment, which bypassed more elaborate and costly academic presidential installations, underscored Haynie’s commitment to placing the community ahead of self-interest. “Thank you for this reminder that the communities we serve should be placed at the forefront of every decision we make,” stated Haynie. “At EAC, we will continue to provide lifelong learning and educational opportunities to all who seek them. We will prepare students to be job-ready more quickly, helping our community attract new employers and retain existing ones. And, we will continue to be a critical catalyst for artistic, educational, governmental, business, and industry partnerships.”

“It was touching to know that President Haynie cares about the community and wants to know what is important to us,” stated Ron Shiflet, a Thatcher resident and former EAC student and choir member. “He’s doing a lot to bring the college, the students, and the community together, which creates a sense of teamwork.”

In addition to honoring the community, President Haynie has identified student success and financial stewardship as additional pillars to guide his administration. To underscore their importance, these pillars will be showcased at two upcoming EAC events. “Recognizing these pillars at existing events not only reduces costs, but shows the concepts in action,” stated Haynie. “As we move forward, it is vital that we not only talk about our mission, but show what it looks like in the context of the College. Our mission, and these pillars, are more than words on a piece of paper or a commemorative plaque. They are displayed every day on our campus; it is important to highlight their accumulative effect so we can build upon them and create sustained momentum.”

At the culmination of the Festival of Carols, the community was invited to baklava from the Cottage Bakery, a local business.