It was with much sadness that I recently learned of the passing of Tom Ivester. I came to know Tom when he hired me for a teaching position at the newly created youthful offenders prison, Morrison Youth Center in Hoffman. At that time, he was not only the superintendent of Morrison but Sandhills Youth Center at McCain in Hoke County as well.
These were interesting and challenging times for the launching of these two facilities for several reasons. Leadership at the Department Of Correction had decided that male youthful offenders (18-21 years of age) should be housed separately from adult offenders as much as possible. Morrison Training School for younger youth and under the umbrella of another state department was closed down and after a complete re-organization re-opened under the Deptartment of Correction as Morrison Youth Center.
If this transition was not challenging enough for Superintendent Ivester, the newly formed youth center fell under the mandates of the recently passed 1975 Education for All Handicapped Children Act frequently referred to as Public Law 94-142. Hiring certified special education teachers became a high priority. Unable to find enough certified special education teachers, DOC had to coordinate with state universities to offer courses mostly on site for teachers to gain special education certification.
It was a memorable experience to be a part of this new prison school when our first students arrived. I think most were pleasantly surprised at what they perceived as a “real school” in this new prison.
Not only was Superintendent Ivester heavily involved in organizing and staffing the school, he continued to exercise his longtime passion for providing programs for inmates who had suffered with alcohol and drug addictions from a very young age.
Tom Ivester retired after working 39 years for DOC as an administrator, with the last 15 years serving as the state director of the Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation and Treatment Program in Raleigh for inmates. He also spent many selfless hours of personal time ministering to alcoholics and drug addicts outside the prison system all over the U.S. and in many countries around the world.
I truly have a great sense of gratitude to Tom Ivester for a rewarding teaching career in corrections. Because of his efforts to establish a prison school carefully following federal mandates as well as excellent auxiliary programming and security, Morrison offered more than “three hots and a cot” to the inmates.
For myself and many other Morrison employees from this era, Tom Ivester will be well remembered and missed for his giving personality, sense of humor, and dedication to people.
Helen Cox is a former journalist and educator in Richmond County.