Brian Freeman, Convocation Speaker
The new academic year for The University of North Carolina at Pembroke was launched September 1 at Convocation ceremonies.
“Welcome to the traditional ceremony to begin the new academic year,” said Dr. Roger Brown, provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs. About 800 attended Convocation in the Givens Performing Arts Center.
Chancellor Allen C. Meadors welcomed students with a list of new enrollment records.
“We have welcomed a freshman class of 760 in number, and there are a record number of transfers - over 500!” Chancellor Meadors said. “Overall enrollment for the 2004-2005 academic year is at a record 5,000.”
“We have a record number of International Students from approximately 25 countries,” he said. “We have nearly 200 out-of-state students from about 30 states.”
“We expect you to make more history in your four years here,” Chancellor Meadors said.
Offering greetings were Carl Meares Jr., chair of the Board of Trustees; Dr. Jesse Peters, chair of the Faculty Senate and Venessa Jones, president of the Student Government Association.
Keynote speaker Brian Freeman, a second grade teacher and winner of the 2003 National Education Association (NEA) Award for Teaching Excellence, was introduced by Dr. Swanee Dickson, of the School of Education.
“Brian proves that before you teach them, you must reach them,” Dr. Dickson said. “His children don’t even know they are learning.”
A 1992 UNCP graduate, Freeman has received numerous awards, including teacher of the year for the county, district and state. He was twice named one of the top 40 teachers by USA Today and most recently won a 2004 DisneyHand award as one of America’s top teachers.
Freeman told the audience, that included many freshmen, to find their dream and pursue it with passion.
“Yes, I had plans for my life, but I didn’t know what life had planned for me,” he said. “When you choose a career, or a career chooses you, you must be passionate about it; it must be a calling.”
“I am a successful educator today because of my passion and the great experience I had at UNCP,” he said. “Remember, you must first be a successful student in order to be a successful alumni!”
A second grade teacher at Peterson Elementary School in Red Springs, Freeman spoke at length about the positive influence UNCP had on him as an undergraduate. At UNCP, he was student government president and later earned a master’s degree in elementary education.
Since the NEA award, Freeman has traveled 20,000 miles to share his message, but he said his students keep him humble.
“When you teach second grade, the honesty of a seven-year old really keeps you straight,” he said. “Not every lesson works, and no matter how good you think you are, you can always be better.”
Freeman’s legacy looms large with his students at Peterson Elementary School. He never misses his students’ baseball games, and he visits every student during the summer, “just to see how they are doing and if they need anything.”
In Red Springs, he is leaving his mark as an elected town commissioner. At UNCP, he stays involved through alumni activities and through giving. He recently established the Brian Freeman Endowed Scholarship for Teaching Excellence.
“I am the first teacher from North Carolina to win the NEA Teaching Excellence Award and the first UNCP graduate to win it,” he said. “But I am also proud of this scholarship because it will help others get into the teaching profession.”