Retired North Carolina legislator David F. Weinstein was awarded UNC Pembroke Alumni Association’s Special Award of Distinction on May 13 during a dinner held in his honor.
It was a celebration of 20 years of extraordinary progress at the University, and a celebration of a man who was instrumental in making it happen, as mayor of Lumberton, N.C., University trustee, state senator and philanthropist.
As Robeson County’s senator for 13 years, Weinstein played a key role in guiding nearly $100 million to the University for building projects. A $29 million allied health building that will break ground soon was a personal legislative mission for the senator.
It was a star-studded evening with more than 80 of the senator’s friends. In the audience were State Rep. Ronnie Sutton, of Pembroke, who worked alongside Weinstein in the General Assembly, and Sen. Michael Walters of Fairmont, N.C.
Chancellor Emeritus Joseph B. Oxendine, Chancellor Charles Jenkins and Board of Trustee Chairwoman Dr. Freda Porter praised Weinstein’s many contributions to the University.
The first and, perhaps, most astonishing thing Weinstein did was to bridge the gap between the University and the City of Lumberton, Dr. Oxendine said.
“When David Weinstein graduated from high school, we wouldn’t let him attend our University,” Dr. Oxendine said of the historic gulf between Lumberton and Pembroke. “Low and behold, in the first week I was here as the new chancellor, the mayor invited me to dinner at his home.”
There, the new chancellor met key players in the community, like Carr Gibson, Joseph Sandlin, Dr. E.B. Turner, Bob Caton and Jack Sharpe, who would support UNCP in important ways in the future.
“David reached out and made me a part of this community,” Dr. Oxendine said. “I don’t know anyone who has been a better friend to this University.”
Mayor Weinstein joined the Board of Trustees in 1994 and was elected to the state senate for the 13th District in 1997. He had a habit of contributing money to the University that included the Max M. Weinstein Endowed Scholarship in History that honored his father.
Sen. Weinstein worked for passage of a bond referendum that resulted in the construction of Lumbee Hall and the transformation of the Mary Livermore Library. A $6.2 million special appropriation built the first new residence hall at UNCP in 20 years.
From left: Chancellor Emeritus Oxendine, Representative Sutton, Weinstein, Dr. Porter, Senator Walters, and Chacellor Jenkins.
The senator from Lumberton was just getting warmed up. From a successful $2 billion bond referendum, Sen. Weinstein, Rep. Sutton and the Robeson delegation carved out $57 million that transformed the University.
“Sen. Weinstein always made sure that we got our fair share,” Dr. Oxendine said.
With $10 million set aside for an ill-fated optometry school, Sen. Weinstein was able to add another $19 million for the new allied health building, which is the biggest construction project in the history of the University.
Dr. Porter said, “David Weinstein will always be our senator.
“Sen. Weinstein always said UNCP is the best thing going for Robeson County, and we are forever grateful for all the hard work he has done on our behalf,” Dr. Porter said.
Sen. Walters, who the voters returned to Raleigh on May 4, said Weinstein “has left a huge footprint on this county, this University and this state.”
“David Weinstein loves Robeson County, and he loves the folks here,” Sen. Walters said. “He is not only a great guy, he is a great guy who can deliver.
“He realized the importance of working with everyone,” he said. “He reached out to everyone to say ‘we will grow together.’”
For his part, Weinstein said, “All I did was my job – what you expected when you sent me to Raleigh.”
“UNC Pembroke is so important to the future of North Carolina and Robeson County,” Weinstein said.
Weinstein said nothing is accomplished without friends, and he thanked Rep. Ron Sutton for his work. Now the director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Program, he said there were some highlights in his long relationship with the University.
“We did many good things, but most of all, with the help of the late Adolph Dial, we changed the name of the University from Pembroke State University to UNC Pembroke,” he said.
A gift from Temple Beth El, Weinstein’s former synagogue, has a special place in the former senator’s heart.
“It has been my privilege to give back to this institution,” he said. “When we closed the books on the synagogue, we were able to donate remaining funds to establish a speaker program on diversity and understanding.”
Other highlights he noted are the football team, enrollment growth and the growth of the Town of Pembroke.
“I will always have a special place in my heart for this University,” Weinstein concluded.
The Special Award of Distinction was presented by Alumni Association president Floyd Locklear. It is only the second time it has been awarded.