Former state representative and longtime attorney Ron Sutton has been appointed to the Board of Trustees at UNC Pembroke.
Sutton brings a distinguished record of service as a former member of the state House of Representatives–a seat he held for 18 years. His extensive and varied experience also includes a 22-year military career in the U.S. Air Force and as a decorated officer in the U.S. Navy, where he rose to the rank of commander.
His appointment was made upon the recommendation by state Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger.
Sutton, a Pembroke native, said he is eager for the opportunity to serve his hometown university.
“I want to see the local community and the university community outside the greater Pembroke and adjoining areas work together to benefit the entire southeast region,” he said. “I’ve seen the university grow both physically and its enrollment drastically in the last few decades. From just a couple hundred students in 1957 to nearly 7,700 students today, our university has grown significantly in stature and area, and I want to see that continue.”
Sutton served as a Democratic member of the N.C. General Assembly representing District 47, which includes Robeson and Hoke counties, from 1993 to 2011. A dedicated public servant and champion of civil rights, he was a staunch supporter of UNCP as a state legislator, co-sponsoring a bill designating UNCP as North Carolina's Historically American Indian University. He also played a pivotal role in the name change of Pembroke State University to The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
“Ron is an outstanding addition to the Board,” said Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings. “His legislative knowledge will bring an invaluable perspective.”
“Throughout his career, he’s done so much for UNCP and Robeson County and has been instrumental in moving the university forward in many ways. His passion for UNCP and its success is clear and will greatly benefit our university and students.”
His ties to the university date back to 1957 when, as a high school student, he lived briefly on campus with his uncle Dr. Herbert Oxendine, the former faculty dean for whom the Oxendine Science Building is named. Sutton, whose mother was the cafeteria manager at UNCP in the late 60s, enlisted in the Air Force after high school. After four years, he returned home and attended Pembroke State College from 1962 to 1964 before joining the Navy’s Flight Program. While in the Navy, he flew more than 600 hours of combat missions in Vietnam earning him two Air Medals.
A graduate of the University of West Florida, Sutton later earned post graduate degrees from the Naval War College and Central Michigan University. Following his retirement from the Navy, Sutton earned a juris doctorate from the University of North Carolina law school and began his 35-year career in law back home in Robeson County
Sutton was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine in 2011 and previously served on the UNCP Foundation Board. In 2018, Sutton was appointed by Chancellor Cummings as a founding member of the university’s newly established Board of Visitors.
Sutton, and his wife Geneva, have two daughters, Ronette Sutton Gerber and Fonda Sutton. All four members of the Sutton family attended UNC Pembroke.