When it was time to retire, Gene Brayboy wanted to go out on top.
The director of the Center for Sponsored Research and Programs at UNC Pembroke did just that when he left his post on October 15.
"I believe in my heart that it will take a man or woman with a lot of energy to keep this office moving in the right direction," said Brayboy. "It is time for me to step aside."
Brayboy, 67, has put his considerable energy into winning grants for 11 years. And the numbers validate his successful career.
For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2003, Brayboy's office helped UNCP take in $9.3 million in grants. Grant receipts and grant applications have steadily increased since Brayboy's arrival in 1992. That year, the University took in just $485,000.
"This is a faculty-driven enterprise, and I've had a good staff and a lot of support from the top," Brayboy said. "Our office provides the faculty with as much technical assistance and support as we can. We don't just write grants. We look at markets to see where we can best put our limited resources to good use."
In the current budget-cutting environment, grants are increasingly important in higher education, Brayboy said.
"If we want to continue supporting growth, we've got to go out and get it ourselves," he said. "There is renewed interest for faculty to be engaged in research and grant activities. The competition for grants is also increasing."
Brayboy believes one of the projects he is working on will give UNCP a powerful competitive edge in winning grants. He has worked for five years to have UNCP designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a "minority serving" institution for its historic and ongoing role educating Native Americans.
"We're close," he said. "A bill has been introduced by Congressman Mike McIntyre, and we're hopeful," he said. "If this happens, we could triple our funding for sponsored research in a short time."
Brayboy is especially satisfied with his office's role in the start-up of UNCP's Regional Center for Economic, Community and Professional Development. The center recently broke ground on a new 7,000 square foot headquarters at COMTECH, an nearby technology and education incubator.
As a regional university, Brayboy said UNCP and its grants office must support its communities.
"We are a community-based organization, and in that role we brought in $2.3 million in outreach grants last year for economic development, youth and health related programs," he said. "I'd say that is remarkable for a higher education institution like ours."
Remarkable is a good description for Brayboy's life and career. He grew up on a farm in the Philadelphus community near Pembroke.
"At that time, it was either farm or teach," he said. "I knew nothing of the outside world."
The ambitious young Brayboy chose another path. After earning an undergraduate degree from Shaw University and a Master's in Public Health from UNC Chapel Hill, he got an opportunity to see the world.
Brayboy joined the Navy's U.S. Public Health Service. Late in his military career when he was stationed in Washington, D.C., he caught the eye of another Pembroke native, Dr. Joseph B. Oxendine, then chancellor at UNCP.
"Chancellor Oxendine was familiar with my grant work, so he hand-picked me for this role," he said. "I have had great support from both Chancellor Oxendine and Chancellor (Allen C.) Meadors."
Brayboy vows to stay busy in retirement with consulting work and other projects.
A member of the National Association of Medical Minority Educators, he was recently elected to its Board of Directors. There is an important local healthcare issue he would like to address.
"When representatives of the Lumbee Tribe testified before a Senate Committee on the issue of recognition, they had no information available about the health disparities of the tribe because there is no database available," Brayboy said. "I would like to create data on the health of the Lumbees and other tribes east of the Mississippi."
That ambitious retirement project is typical of Brayboy. His colleagues say his leadership will be difficult to replace.
"We will miss him," said Lynda Parlett. "We would not be where we are without him, and he has handed us a blueprint for the future of this office."
That blueprint should keep UNCP grant receipts, research and programs on top - right where Brayboy put them.