Five UNC Pembroke alumni were honored on February 4 at the 42nd Annual Alumni Awards and Athletic Hall of Fame Induction Banquet.
Dr. Johnny Hunt, super- intendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County, was awarded the Outstanding Alumnus Award; Evan Davenport, an executive with corporate giant Unilever, was named recipient of the Distinguished Service Award; and Matthew Staley, a district manager with the Social Security Administration, was named Young Alumnus of the Year.
Soccer all-American Timo Reinikainen and four-time wrestling all-American Jay Stainback were inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame.
Chancellor Kyle R. Carter noted in his welcoming remarks “these are the graduates who make us proud.”
“It makes me feel even better to be at this University when I meet our many successful graduates,” Chancellor Carter said. “These are people who went on to make the lives of others better.
“This event is a celebration of this great University that has made a difference in the lives of those we are honoring tonight,” he said.
New Alumni Association President Sylvia Pate, who is director of UNCP’s Regional Center for Economic, Community and Professional Development, said there is a one trait common to the award recipients.
“Looking over the biographies of tonight’s award winners, I think there is a common thread that connects them all,” Pate said. “These are people who give back to the communities where they live.”
Dr. Johnny Hunt’s career is marked by public service. He has invested his entire professional career in the education of Robeson County’s children, and he served 18 years as an elected member of the Robeson County Board of Commissioners.
Dr. Hunt rose through the ranks from classroom teacher to superintendent while continuing his education. He graduated from UNCP in 1977; returned to earn Math and physical education certifications in 1982; earned a Master of School Administration degree in 1985; and recently complete work on a doctor of education degree.
As Morgan Hunt Warriax said introducing her father, “he has continuously strived to prepare himself for new leadership roles, and he has an intense commitment to improve the lives of others.
“UNCP helped shape and guide his life and gave him a solid educational foundation,” said Warriax, who is a 2006 UNCP graduate.
Another remarkable feature on display is Dr. Hunt’s humility.
“I am humbled by this award,” Dr. Hunt said. “I’ve tried to represent UNCP in every thing I’ve done.
“It’s a great honor to join the distinguished list of people who have won this award before me,” he continued. “UNCP has done a lot for Johnny Hunt.”
Dr. Hunt ticked off the names of many people who helped him while a student at UNCP.
“I can’t think of a better place to get an education,” he said. “I am a proud alumnus of UNCP.”
Evan Davenport, a 1986 graduate, showed the attributes of an outstanding individual early in life, said his former math teacher Dr. Sam Cummings.
“Evan was an outstanding student and the valedictorian of South Robeson High School,” Dr. Cummings said. “He was also an outstanding athlete and was drafted by the Boston Red Sox.
“He has also given back to his community,” he said.
Davenport has worked 14 years with Unilever, one the world’s largest global consumer products companies. He serves as Safety, Health, Environment and Quality Manager at its Raeford, N.C., facility.
Davenport volunteers in the public schools and is a motivational speaker for youth. Recently, he helped secure a grant from his company to support UNCP’s Rural Health and Wellness Collaborative.
“I’ve been blessed,” Davenport said. “From others, I’ve learned to keep my priorities in place, and I’ve learned that to be a good leader, you have to be a good servant.”
Mathew Staley, a 2002 graduate and recipient of the Young Alumnus Award, was one of many non-traditional students at UNCP.
A Whiteville, N.C., native, Staley served six years in the Navy before returning to UNCP to earn a degree in history. For the Social Security Administration, he has worked in North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina and is currently district manager in Conway, S.C.
Fellow non-traditional student and 2002 graduate Michelle Mackley said as a student, Staley demonstrated intelligence, a strong work ethic and a great sense of humor.
“We worked hard, and he was a lot of fun to be in class with,” Mackley said.
“I have many fond memories of my time here, and I would give almost anything to be as busy now as I was then,” Staley said. “In my travels, I have met many UNCP graduates and the one thing we all have in common is that we all miss being here.”
HALL OF FAME
Retired soccer coach Mike Schaeffer introduced his first all-American soccer player, Timo Reinikainen for induction into the Hall of Fame.
“Among the best players I have coached, Timo is high on that list,” Schaeffer said. “He was a very skilled player, a leader on the field and raised the level of the play on our team.
“He was our first big time player and spurred me on the path of international recruitment,” the coach said.
Speaking via a recording from in his native Finland, Reinikainen, a 1995 UNCP graduate, thanked coach Schaeffer and the University community.
“Coach, you helped me academically and in sports,” he said. “Soccer is a team sport, so this award goes also to my teammates.
“I would like to say thank you to Pembroke as well,” he concluded. “You people showed me what Southern hospitality means, and you always made me feel at home.”
Jay Stainback, a 1982 graduate, was introduced by retired wrestling coach P.J. Smith.
“Mike did not have a lot of talent when he came to us, but what separates this four-time all-American from this rest is heart,” Smith said. “There are two kinds of hearts – brave hearts and good hearts – he had both.
“He is the toughest hombre you’ll ever see,” Smith said. “He put his heart out on the mat every time.”
Stainback thanked coach Smith for teaching him the subtle aspects of wrestling.
“I had better than average skills when I got here, but coach Smith taught me to put moves together and to use deception,” Stainback said. “All the things I learned here have helped me in life, except deception, which did not help me.
“I’m a better teacher, husband and father for what I learned here,” he said.
Sandy Waterkotte, who is retiring as vice chancellor for the Office of Advancement, has many good memories of alumni she met at awards banquets.
“The pride we feel when we meet these super people always puts a smile on my face,” Waterkotte said. “On this Super Bowl weekend, let’s celebrate our own super people and the five MVPs here tonight.”
For more information about this or other alumni programs, please contact the office at 910.521.6533.