Ron Presley strives to open the minds of his students with life lessons, stories and agriculture.
Presley is a professor of agriculture in the Science Department at South Plains College
Born in 1957, the same year the college was founded, Presley did not think he was college material because he claims he did not do very well in high school in Abernathy.
In 1976, Presley attended SPC and became close with his professor, Jim Jenkins.
“He (Jim Jenkins) gave me a job out at the school farm…,” Presley recalls, “and I realized after a time that they weren’t determined to run me off or fail me.”
At the time, SPC had only about 1,700 students. Presley says that the campus used to be “local,” with mostly Hockley County residents attending.
He went on to attend Texas Tech University after his time as a student at SPC. He later got into agricultural banking. During the decade he was working as an agricultural banker, he realized that he wanted to be home for his family more often.
“I was on the road so much,” Presley explained.
He called his old professor, Jim Jenkins, and asked him for a job. Within a month, Jenkins called Presley to work for SPC, and since 1989, he has been a professor at the college.
“South Plains College wants to help students move forward and be who they dream they can be, and I honestly still feel that on campus,” Presley explained.
Presley has watched SPC throughout the past few decades and thinks that the college has grown but has not necessarily changed, because the mission of SPC has been the same.
“It’s been fascinating,” said Presley, “because, of course, the reality that students live in has changed tremendously.”
The college has grown from 1,700 students in the ‘70’s to more than 8,700 students this semester.
“As we’ve grown, not only have we had more programs, but we’ve also opened the student’s experience up to more diversity amongst students,” said Presley.
Presley encourages his students to meet and visit with other students of different cultures and nationalities.
“That is very much a big part of a person’s education,” exclaims Presley.
Presley said that he has high hopes for the future of SPC, and mentioned future plans of opening more buildings on campus.
“I see us becoming more of an integral part of the high plains of Texas,” said Presley. “And you know the old saying, ‘If you’re going forward, or you’re going backwards, but you can’t stay where you are and survive.”
Presley occasionally travels abroad for the United States Agency for International Development (or U.S.A.I.D.). Presley is part of the Farmer-to-Farmer program (or F2F).
The F2F program “promotes sustainable economic growth, food security and agricultural development worldwide,” according to the organization’s website.
His past trips have included Nigeria and Senegal.
“I went to Nigeria and talked to colleges and university leadership all around Nigeria about recruiting agriculture majors” Presley said.
His latest visit was to Guinea, on the west coast of Africa, in 2018. Presley’s job in Guinea was to train a group of farmers and co-op managers in agricultural finance education.
“I taught the balance sheet, the income statement, and statement of cash flows and how to set up a yearly budget based on that,” explained Presley.
Presley said he had a great time in Guinea, partially because it had been a French colony. He said that he enjoyed the food immensely, and he also needed a translator. His translator, Mr. Moray, became a dear friend of his during the trip.
After the first few days in Conakry, the capitol of Guinea, Presley traveled to Kindia.
“So then, for the next week and a half, I met with this group of wonderful people and taught them agricultural finance,” explains Presley.
Presley also explained that many teachers in Conakry were on strike, and because there was trouble in the streets, he did not get to stay in his originally planned hotel. Instead, he was allowed to stay in a more modern hotel.
Presley did get some time off for one day during his trip to explore. His group went into the jungle to a park to admire the beauty of nature.
“Tarzan would’ve lasted about four days,” joked Presley.
Presley says that he took this trip because one line on his bucket-list is to see more of the world.
“I came away realizing that education is the only thing that can save civilization,” explained Presley, “and we need all be carrying our share of educating, educating, educating.”
Presley says the entire trip has changed him a little differently than he had expected, because he realized that he was part of something very important.
“One of our old presidents from years ago, Dr. Marvin Baker, his favorite saying was, ‘If you think education is expensive, try ignorance,’” said Presley.
Presley says that he is fulfilled with his career and being able to help students. The energy in the classroom that he emits is very rewarding and fills his students with confidence and determination.
“I get to be around people moving forward, with dreams and hopes,” Presley said, “and that is a wonderful karma.”