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Class of 1963 celebrates 50 years at Homecoming 2013


Memories poured out on November 1 during the reunion of the Pembroke State College class of 1963. Much has changed including the name of the school, now the University of North Carolina Pembroke.

“We were the first to live in the new dorm on campus,” Palmer Midgette said of Jacobs Hall. “We lived eight to a suite.”

“They were so strict, we couldn’t do anything,” said Leroy Taylor. “No handholding, no alcohol and absolutely no kissing.”

Things have changed, a lot, they said, and some things have not. Robert Smith got lost looking for Old Main, something that often happens during class reunion time.

“I met a groundskeeper, who gave me a tour of campus in his golf cart,” Smith said. “People are still so nice here.”

Dr. Woodrow Dial ’63, who gave the invocation at the reunion luncheon held in the Chancellor’s dining Room on November 1, noted that “for 126 years, this university has stood as a beacon of training for young men and women to go out into a changing world.”

During a video about the modern university, W.L. Strickland let out a “wow!” at a photo of the more than 1,000-member freshmen class. “Just the freshmen! It’s amazing.” The entire college in 1963 was approximately 775 students.

In welcoming the class, Chancellor Kyle R. Carter also spoke of the new freshman class. “In 50 years, we want them to return to campus like you have to remember that we were an important part of their success,” he said.

“As different as the university is today, we continue to give students personal attention and to prepare them for good careers,” he said. “We give them the values that shape their abilities and character.”

Leroy Taylor said he was proud to be a member of this class. “Several of us get together every couple of years, but this is the first time the class has gotten together,” he said. “Looking around, the class of ’63 made out really well.”

In her address to the class, Wendy Lowery, vice chancellor for the Office of Advancement, noted: “It’s a great time to be a Brave, and 1963 was too.”

In 1963, Pembroke State College was on the edge of sweeping changes in Pembroke and nationally. The college was busy celebrating its diamond jubilee (75th) year and had just named Dr. English Jones its interim president.

Dr. Jones was the college’s first American Indian president. He served for 17 years and led another “amazing” enrollment and building boom that would more than double the size of the school.

The class of 1963 was part of the foundation to build success upon. The growth, success and vigor of the class would help the little college become a regional university and a member of the new University of North Carolina system.

There were tumultuous times ahead for the nation. Just months after this class graduated, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Controversy was almost stranger to the college in 1963.

Leroy Taylor recollected a long forgotten moment. At an institution that is famous for peacefully integrating itself when few colleges and universities had the courage to do so, Taylor remembered another moment when Pembroke State College was a national leader.

“It was rumored that one of the students was expelled for kissing a girl in public,” he said. “But not many people remember that we had the first co-ed dorm in the nation.

“English Jones tried it one summer in Jacobs Hall,” Taylor continued. “The girls were on the first floor and the boys were on the second, and anybody caught climbing the railing would be in big trouble. They never tried it again.”

Those are the memories that build class loyalty to this university, Lowery said. “You have come together as a family, and the university family needs your support,” she said. “It’s not just about giving; it’s about staying in contact with your university.”

The class made a contribution to the endowed 50th Class Reunion Gold Endowed Scholarship. On Saturday, they were guests of honor at the homecoming football game.

For more information about alumni at UNCP, please contact the Office of Advancement at 910.521.6252, email or go online to