“UNCP's African American Firsts: Celebrating Their Legacy!” will be held Wednesday, March 27, in the University Center Annex. A reception will be held at 6 p.m. with the program beginning at 6:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
The event features a moderated panel discussion comprised of UNC Pembroke African American alumni who will reflect on UNCP’s African American firsts - enroll, graduate, athlete, Student Government Association president and Miss UNCP.
Panelists include Sylvia Banks ’69, Larry Barnes ’71, Larry Rodgers ’73, Howard McLeod ’75, Delthine Watson ’84 and Renee Steele ’93.
Alphonzo McRae ’74 will moderate the panel. He majored in physical education and is currently the vice president for institutional services at Robeson Community College.
Sylvia Baugham Banks was the first African American to graduate from Pembroke State College in 1969. From Elizabethtown, she transferred to PSC in the fall of 1967 and became the second African American to enroll at the college. Banks majored in sociology and retired from the state of Ohio. Her motto is, “Helping the needs of others!”
Larry Barnes was the first African American to enroll at Pembroke State College in the summer of 1967. A native of Pembroke, Barnes was the second African American graduate in 1971. He majored in elementary education and is a retired educator and state employee. Barnes served eight years as State Ombudsman on the staff of Governor James B. Hunt. He currently operates his own janitorial cleaning and mobile tire business.
Larry Rodgers, class of 1973, was the first African American athlete at Pembroke State College in the fall of 1968. He ran cross country that fall and track the following spring. Rodgers coached and taught at the university beginning in 1981. That year, he was named the head men’s track and cross country coach, becoming the first African American head coach at PSU and the non-historically black colleges and universities in the UNC system. Rodgers served as the head women’s cross country and track and field coach since 1988 and 1995, respectively, until his retirement in 2011. Rodgers majored in Physical Education.
Howard McLeod was the one of the first African American basketball players at Pembroke State. He was a member of the first men’s team to travel to the NAIA nationals in 1973. In 1975, McLeod was team captain and received his degree in business administration. A retired educator, McLeod coached men’s and women’s basketball at the collegiate and high school levels. He currently operates a landscaping business.
Delthine Watson was the first female African American president of the Student Government Association in 1983-84. She graduated from Pembroke State University in 1984 with a degree in social work. Watson is a social worker with the Vance County Department of Social Services.
Renee Steele was the first African American Miss Pembroke State University in 1991. She was president of the Student Government Association in 1992-93 and graduated in 1993 with a degree in political science. Steele has served as the director of Alumni Relations at UNC Pembroke since 2011.
The event, held in conjunction with UNCP’s 125th anniversary celebration, is co-sponsored by the offices of Alumni Relations, Multicultural and Minority Affairs and the 125th Anniversary Committee.
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