Suffolk resident earns TCC award
Published 10:32 pm Thursday, May 22, 2014
Suffolk resident Emanuel Chestnut is one of many military veterans applying skills they honed in the military to an entirely different career in the civilian world.
Chestnut, a retired senior chief in the U.S. Navy, serves as interim dean of student services at Tidewater Community College’s Norfolk campus. For his work in that position, he recently was named the college’s administrative employee of the year.
“I’m blessed, because I come in every day with the opportunity to make a difference in somebody’s life,” said Chestnut. “In life, you want to be able to do what you want to do, versus what you have to do.”
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Chestnut, a native of the Myrtle Beach, S.C., area, stayed here in Hampton Roads after retiring from the military in 2003. The youngest two of his three children were still in high school at the time, and he didn’t want to uproot them. They later moved to North Suffolk.
He had earned his master’s degree from Norfolk State University in urban education guidance and counseling while still in the military. He completed an internship at TCC, being mentored by Fred Jeffcoat, and was hired on full-time.
“I would not have been able to achieve any of that had not my wife been very supportive of me,” he said of his wife, Deborah.
Having been an information systems technician in the Navy, guiding college students was quite a career switch.
“Now instead of dealing with the inanimate object, the computer, you’re dealing with the opportunity to save lives and salvage dreams.”
However, his work in the Navy had prepared him well, he said.
“During my time in the military, I found that I had a penchant for helping others, especially the young sailors and soldiers I was responsible for,” he said. “The advice that I gave them, I noticed it was working for them. That’s what gave me the mindset that’s what I want to do after I retire from the military.”
He said he “got bit by the counseling bug” during his internship at TCC. He now considers hundreds, if not thousands, of TCC students his adopted children.
“That is the most satisfying aspect of this job,” he said. “If they don’t have anybody there to guide them, it could lead to them not reaching their goals. You see them grow and gain confidence and ultimately walk across that stage to receive their degree, whether it be a certificate or a diploma.”
Having now worked at all of TCC’s campuses, Chestnut said he owes the credit for his award to his colleagues.
“The people I’ve been able to surround myself with, they’ve raised me during my time at Tidewater Community College,” he said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better group of folks to work with.”
He said he was surprised by the announcement of the award because he tries to avoid attention.
“It didn’t seem to work in that case,” he said. “I’m a very humble individual. It was a surprise.”
In addition to mentoring students, Chestnut also is the founding adviser for the Student African-American Brotherhood mentoring program. He also was recognized in 2011 with the college’s Martin Luther King Jr. College Distinguished Service Award.