Delaware Tech's annual presentation to the budget committee Tuesday afternoon took a sentimental turn.

Tears and applause, both rarely if ever seen at Joint Finance Committee hearings, greeted the final presentation by Delaware Technical and Community College president Dr. Orlando George. "Lonnie" as the former state lawmaker is known around Legislative Hall will retire at the end of June after 19 years leading the community college.

All in the family

Part of the sentimental feel to the hearing stemmed from George's long tenure at the school. But increasing the emotion even more was the fact that George's daughter, State Representative Melanie George Smith, is now co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee.

Smith fought back tears as she thanked her father for teaching her the mantra that an education is something that no one can take away from you. "You've given that lesson and that value to thousands and thousands," the Democrat from Bear said. 

State Rep. Joe Miro, R- Pike Creek Valley, echoed that thought. "You have done a lot for this state," Miro said. "You have done a lot for every family in the state of Delaware that has been touched by [Delaware Tech]."

"It was very emotional, but there was still a story to be told," said George. "In all 19 years  I've come in with the goal of telling Delaware Tech's story. What is it that we're doing to help their constituents have access to their future."

George laid out that story during his presentation, highlighting advances the school has made in establishing partnerships, and signing 144 articulation agreements with other schools that will accept Del. Tech grads as full time juniors.

Aviation program expansion

George also highlighted the school's ability to listen to the needs of employers in the state and adjust their offerings to give students the skills needed to find work in an ever-shifting job market. One of those adjustments was dedicated earlier in the day Tuesday in Sussex County. George joined Governor Jack Markell and other state leaders for the grand opening of a building at the Sussex Airport where Delaware Tech students will learn to repair and maintain airplane engines.  

Coupled with the airframe courses already offered at Del. Tech., the powerplant classes will prepare students to fill jobs in Delaware's growing aviation industry, in both Sussex and New Castle County. "There is a ton of companies here, and they're dying for people with the kinds of competencies and skills that are described in our programs," George said. 

As far as the actual budget presentation, it was fairly smooth sailing. George wants more money dedicated to the school's nursing and allied health programs. Currently, those programs get some funding from tobacco settlement money, but George wants the program's budget to move into the school's general fund.

George also asked for more funding to hire five additional public safety personnel, as well as funding to launch a pilot program to hire individuals with disabilities.