NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- Trident Technical College is one of the largest colleges in the state, but it wasn’t always that way.

It’s nearly doubled in size over 30 years, and leading the way toward growth has been the college’s president, Dr. Mary Thornley, who announced earlier this week that she is retiring.

It’s been a 50 year career for Dr. Thornley at Trident Tech.

She started off as an adjunct instructor and moved up over the years, to eventually become president in 1991.

She has so many awards, she’s running out of wall space in her office.

However, she says that’s not what drives her.

“I don’t tend to think of accomplishments in the sense of what are you proud of that you’ve done,” Dr. Thornley said.

For her, it’s the people.

“You know every human being has a story, but our students’ stories are particularly interesting,” Dr. Thornley said.

No matter the student, their age or where they came from, Dr. Thornley says she’s always been interested in their lives.

“We might not have looked alike, been the same color or the same age, but I identified with where they were in realizing that if they were to secure an education, they have opened a path forward,” Dr. Thornley said.

She’s spent her years as president also providing students with more space for education.

The school has nearly doubled its enrollment since 1991, and has expanded from one campus, to five across the Lowcountry.

“Everything we have done is about meeting the needs of students. Making it affordable, making it accessible, and accessibility is many things. It is affordability, but it’s also geographic accessibility,” Dr. Thornley said.

With tears in her eyes, Dr. Thornley told me she will never be ready to leave Trident Tech, so she has to leave, without being ready.

Dr. Thornley said. “Most people announce they’re retiring, and they keep smiling. I announce I’m retiring, and I go home gloomy every day and tell my dog to cheer me up. I’m invested in Trident Tech.

Dr. Thornley says her time at Trident Tech will officially come to a close in June.