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Helen Scheirbeck honored by anonymous gift


An anonymous contribution of $100,000 to UNC Pembroke was deposited into the Dr. Helen Maynor Scheirbeck Endowed Scholarship, according to an announcement by Wendy Lowery, vice chancellor for Advancement.

The scholarship was established in late 2011 to honor Scheirbeck, who died on December 19, 2010. A Lumbee, she was an effective advocate for American Indian education in Washington, D.C. Her commitment to education, equality and her people and the considerable legislation she helped pass in Congress are her legacy.
“The scholarship is designed to keep alive the memory of Helen Scheirbeck by providing entry to college for students, like Helen, who find higher education inaccessible,” Lowery said. “This is a major gift to an endowed scholarship that will perpetuate her legacy far into the future.”

Lowery said the gift arrived by mail and came as a complete surprise. “This is a very special gift in many ways,” she said. “Our surprise turned to delight upon learning the purpose of the gift.”

Upon learning of the contribution, Chancellor Kyle R. Carter offered these thoughts. “The spirit in which this gift was given is truly worthy, and we can all take note of the importance of finding a cause that ignites passion and commitment to mankind,” he said.

“A gift like this allows a moment to reflect on why we are celebrating the 125th anniversary of our university,” Chancellor Carter continued. “We celebrate because of people like Helen Scheirbeck, who worked tirelessly to provide educational opportunities for people to improve their lives through education. This generous gift also accomplishes that goal by providing financial assistance to students who are pursuing that very dream.”

Over a 53-year career in Washington, D.C., Scheirbeck held many jobs and had a hand in the passage of half a dozen key pieces of Indian education legislation in Congress. Some of that legislation included the Indian Civil Rights Act, the Indian Education Act in 1972, the Tribally Controlled Community College Act in 1978 and the Native American Languages Act in 1990. The federal Indian Education Act continues to provide funding for American Indian school children in southeastern North Carolina and across the U.S.

After starting her career as an intern with the National Congress of American Indians in 1958, Scheirbeck went on to hold a staff position on the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights. She then directed the Office of Indian Affairs in the U.S. Office of Education; directed the American Indian Nations, Save the Children Federation; and served as a member, chairperson or director of several other commissions, organizations and presidential task forces throughout her career.

Scheirbeck was a founding member of the board of directors of the National Indian Education Association in 1968; she co-founded the Coalition of Indian Controlled School Boards in 1972 and was a founding board member of the National Museum of the American Indian in 1987. She continued to serve on the board of trustees of the National Museum of the American Indian and later became director of the museum’s public programs.

Scheirbeck is a graduate of Berea College and earned a doctorate from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and Virginia State University. She received an honorary doctorate from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2009.

For more information on the Dr. Helen Maynor Scheirbeck Scholarship Fund or giving at UNCP, please contact the Office of Advancement at 910.521. 6252 or email