UNC Pembroke Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings is the recipient of the 2016 John L. Sanders Student Advocate Award.
The John L. Sanders Award is the highest honor bestowed by the University of North Carolina Association of Student Governments. It recognizes a public figure who advocates for the best interests of North Carolina’s students and contributes to the quality of their lives.
Dr. Cummings was among several nominees across the UNC system. Cummings was presented the award at the UNC Association of Student Governments’ 14th annual John L. Sanders Student Advocate Award Dinner at UNC Charlotte on April 15.
“I am humbled to accept this honor,” Cummings said during his remarks inside the Cone University Center.
He told the audience that he was “touched emotionally” when he learned he was selected as this year’s recipient.
“Students are the reason I embarked on this new chapter in my life,” he said.
Cummings took over as UNC Pembroke’s sixth chancellor in July 2015. Prior to coming to UNCP, Cummings worked as a cardiothoracic surgeon in Pinehurst. A Pembroke native, Cummings later served as North Carolina’s Deputy Secretary for Health Services and Acting State Health Director.
The award is named in honor of John L. Sanders, director emeritus of the UNC Institute of Government at UNC-Chapel Hill. Sanders served as director for 24 years. While there he researched, wrote books and taught public officials about the role of government. He played a pivotal part in developing the statewide community college system, integrating the University of North Carolina and in preserving the State Capitol building.
Sanders also played a vital role in the 1971 revision of the North Carolina Constitution. He has been called "North Carolina's invisible hand" because of his decades of humble, dedicated service in helping to shape politics, law and government in our state.
Despite his noted accomplishments, Cummings said the relationships Sanders forged with students are regarded among his greatest achievements.
“By extending himself to student leaders, he has helped to shape the successful professional and personal paths of countless young men and women,” Cummings said.
Cummings adopted a similar mantra when he came to UNC Pembroke, vowing to make all decisions based on the answers to three questions:
Is it good for the student?
Is it the best option for the university?
Does it prepare UNCP for the future?
SGA President Candace Locklear, who nominated Dr. Cummings for the award, was on hand to present him with a stylish, glass plaque.
“The chancellor is always saying, ‘if it’s not in the best interest of the students, then why are we doing it?’” Locklear said.
“Since he became chancellor, he has taken the students into consideration, and not just looking at the undergraduate level but the graduate programs as well.”
“He is a great, overall person,” Locklear said. “During freshman-move in, Chancellor Cummings was helping students move in their belongings. That’s just one example of how personable he is with the students.”
Cummings said he is pleased to be recognized as a student advocate, which he considers part of his job responsibility.
“It’s why I wake up every day,” he said. “It’s why every administrator, every faculty member, and every staff member is employed. We are all in the business of advocating for students. Because when you succeed, you make our institutions proud, and you make us proud, because we know you are destined for great opportunities in life.”
UNC Pembroke is a constituent institution of the University of North Carolina system. For more information, contact Joanna Warner, interim executive director of University Communications and Marketing, via email, (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by phone (910.775.4587). Connect with UNC Pembroke online at uncp.edu or on social media to learn how the university is changing lives through education.