More than 100 people gathered on the UNC Pembroke campus on March 28 to witness the unveiling and rededication of the newly restored Hamilton McMillan statue.
Several of the university’s earliest graduates, along with McMillan’s great-grandson, were recognized at the event. McMillan was the state representative who sponsored the legislation in 1887 that created the Croatan Normal School, now UNCP. The legislation called for the establishment of a seven-member Board of Trustees, and through McMillan’s efforts, seven American Indian men were selected to serve on the board.
The life-size bronze statue facing Old Main has been a fixture on campus for more than three decades. It was erected in 1987 as part of the university’s centennial celebration.
Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings said the statue reminds the university of its heritage, mission and commitment to making Robeson County and southeastern North Carolina better than we found it.
“Today, we come together to celebrate the legacy of Hamilton McMillan–a man who served a pivotal role in our institution’s founding. Hamilton McMillan helped plant the seed for a tree that would provide shade not for him, but for students he would never meet,” Cummings said.
“Hamilton and our seven founders understood the power, the purpose and the potential of education.”
After the unveiling, attendees got an up-close view of the new traditional green patina that now coats McMillan, adorned in a rough, textured cape. The statue rests atop a new granite base, which sits slightly higher than the previous brick base. Benches were also added around the space.
E.H. Alexander, Hamilton’s great-grandson and 1967 UNCP graduate, was pleased with the ceremony.
“The original commissioning of the statute was appropriate. He put a lot of hope and love into all the citizens of Robeson County. He was dedicated to serving people whether it was as a lawyer or an educator,” Alexander said.
Cattie Mae Hunt, a 1941 graduate, also was in attendance. Hunt, who is 99, is one of two oldest-living alumni. Chancellor Cummings recognized Hunt and Beulah Mae Ransom Kemerer, also 99, during the ceremony. Kemerer, a two-time graduate (1939 and 1952) was unable to attend. Also in the audience were alumni representing the graduating classes of 1948, 1952, 1954, 1955 and 1959.
“I was real excited,” Hunt said afterward. “They had a good group here today.
“It was good, wasn’t it? It was very good.”
Original sculptor Paul Van Zandt, UNCP professor emeritus, assisted with the unveiling, along with art department faculty members Carla Rokes and Austin Sheppard, who served as the technical consultants for the project.
The newly restored statue will watch over the university’s continued growth.
“I like to think about Hamilton standing here, facing the steps of the most iconic building on our campus. And I wonder if he could see UNCP today, what would he think,” Cummings said.
“I like to envision him standing there smiling, proud of what he helped seed. He would have witnessed an incredible transformation from a clapboard, two-story building with 15 students and one teacher, to a comprehensive regional university with over 7,000 students and more than 855 faculty and staff.”