Brank Proffitt

Published 4:53 pm Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Brank Proffitt, 90, died at the Brian Center Health & Rehabilitation Center in Weaverville, N.C. on Nov. 10, 2011. He was a native of Foster Creek in Madison County and lived there in retirement for the past 25 years.
Preceding him in death were his parents, Grover Cleveland and Flossie Farmer Proffitt. Surviving are his wife of 62 years, Juanita; their son, John, and daughter-in-law, Cathy, who live in Burlington, N.C.
The life of Brank Proffitt validated the fundamental American belief that with education and hard work each individual can succeed personally and also contribute significantly to the advancement of the community.
During the Great Depression, he finished elementary school on Foster Creek, then Ebbs Chapel, until the State of North Carolina began providing a school bus that would take him to Mars Hill High School, which was 17 miles away. Despite an almost total lack of financial resources, he then completed Mars Hill Junior College and graduated from Western Carolina University. He was always extremely grateful to these institutions for the opportunities they provided for him and attributed much of his success in life to their influence.
After serving in the Air Force during World War II, he was a teacher and an assistant principal in Sylva, N.C., completed a master’s degree at George Peabody College in Nashville, Tenn., and from 1951-1956 served as superintendent of school in Tryon.
After completing a Ph.D at the U.N.C. at Chapel Hill in 1957, Dr. Proffitt became principal of the Laboratory School and professor at Western Carolina University. Subsequently, he directed the North Carolina Teacher Merit Pay Study, one of the most highly regarded research and development projects in education at the time.
From 1963 until 1976, Dr. Proffitt was superintendent of the Burlington City Schools, Burlington, NC. During his tenure, a new high school and junior high school were constructed, along with several elementary schools and a central administration building.
At that time, student ability scores in the Burlington City Schools were average for North Carolina school systems, but the student academic achievement scores consistently ranked near the top in the state. Much of this remarkable success could be attributed to Dr. Proffitt’s focus on the quality of classroom teaching and his no-nonsense approach to the management of schools. Also, at that time, Burlington provided significant additional financial resources to support the public schools.
His greatest professional and educational leadership challenge was the desegregation of the school system. He, along with a relatively small group of senior education and political leaders, more or less charted and managed the state response to these changes. Much of the successful integration of the N.C. public schools may be attributed to them.
In recognition of his leadership and contributions to education in the state of N.C., and to Burlington in particular, Dr. Proffitt received numerous citations and awards. Among them were Man of the Year, Alamance County, 1968 and Alumnus of the Year, Western Carolina University, 1972.
After retiring from the Burlington City Schools in 1976, Dr. Proffitt became a professor at Elon University and spent several years developing the public administration program there.
Earlier in his adult life, Dr. Proffitt had built a modern home on Foster Creek for his parents and sister. In 1986, he moved to this beloved home, where he spent more than 20 contented years before the onset of dementia/Alzheimer’s.
A funeral service was held Nov. 13, 2011 at Mars Hill Baptist Church, Mars Hill, N.C. Interment was in the family cemetery on Foster Creek on Nov. 14.
Memorials may be made to the Proffitt Scholarship Fund at Western Carolina University, P.O. Box 222, Cullowhee, N.C. 28723. The Proffitt home address is 411 Foster Creek Rd., Marshall, N.C. 28753.
Condolences may be sent to the family at www or

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