It was homecoming on September 15 for UNC Pembroke alumnus Nathan Powell.
Powell, a 1988 graduate and a standout in cross country, returned to the Jones Athletic Center for the dedication of the Nathaniel Powell Trophy Case. Powell contributed $32,500 to UNCP’s football, track and cross country and wrestling programs.
Nathan Powell, center, with track coach Larry Rodgers, left and retired wrestling coach P.J. Smith at the trophy case named in memory of Powell’s grandfather, Nathaniel Powell.
“I know football is very important to the future of the school, and I wanted to be part of it,” Powell said. “Football will be good for the University, good for school spirit and good for the students.”
Powell is co-owner of PCS Enterprises, an information technology company with five offices and headquartered in Washington, D.C. He said he owes a lot to many people at UNCP.
“Twenty-five years ago, I don’t think (track and cross country) Coach Larry Rodgers ever anticipated this day,” Powell said. “I’m here because you guys instilled some character in me.
“Thank you all for taking the time that you gave to me and to all the athletes, now and into the future,” he said. “The things you do leave an impression on young people.”
A portion of Powell’s contribution establishes an endowed scholarship in track and cross country. Coach Rodgers remains an institution in UNCP’s Athletics Department.
“The thing I remember Nathan for is his dedication,” Rodgers said. “After a race he would always say that he could have done better. If he got a 90 on a test, he would say he could have gotten a 100.
Nathan Powell, left, with Athletic Director Day Kenney at the check presentation
“That attitude has carried into his career, and that’s why he is successful,” Rodgers said.
Another part of Powell’s gift is earmarked for the Whitey Smith Endowed Wrestling Scholarship that was established by retired wrestling coach P.J Smith.
“I remember Nathan well because he spent a couple of weeks on my couch as a freshman when he had housing problems,” Smith said. “I want to thank him for this generous gift to the scholarship in my father’s name, and I hope this inspires other athletes to give back to the University.
“In my 25 years at the University, I have never seen the level of optimism that I am seeing now,” Smith said.
The dedication took place in the Native Angels Braves Club Hospitality Room. Located in the lobby of Jones Athletic Center, the trophy case is named for Powell’s grandfather, Nathaniel Powell Sr.
Powell is a New Bern, N.C. native, and he posted the second fastest 8K time in UNCP cross country history in 1986. In an interview, Powell credited coach Rodgers’ 6 a.m. workouts for keeping him focused as an undergraduate.
“The morning run was followed by an afternoon workout every day,” he said. “Running was a good way to go to college. It was all fun, and we had a great time.”
The Powell family lives in Maryland and is five children strong, ranging in age from 10 to 24. Powell’s family and business have grown nicely. The business had its roots at UNCP.
Besides running track, Powell was a computer science major with a minor in business. He got his start in information technology at UNCP, and he remembers the early technology.
“I remember we used a (Commodore) VIC-20 computer, which was a keyboard plugged into a cassette tape recorder,” Powell said. “At PCS Enterprises, we offer turn-key business solutions. We recently completed work on an electronic medical records system for the (U.S.) Department of State.”