Paul and Pat Willoughby contribute to football campaign


Paul and Pat Willoughby of Chapel Hill, N.C., have contributed $50,000 to the First and Ten Campaign for Football and Athletic Excellence at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.


UNCP Development Director Wendell Staton and Paul and Pat Willoughby

The gift earned naming rights to the new Willoughby Press Box in UNCP’s football stadium. The Lumberton, N.C., natives own PPR Foods, Inc., a McDonald’s franchisee with five Triangle area restaurants. The family moved to the Triangle area and opened their first restaurant in 1986 in Durham, N.C.

Paul and Pat Willoughby, and their son, Rex, are UNCP graduates with lengthy connections to athletics in the region. Paul graduated in 1973, Pat in 1976 and Rex in 2004.

“We’ve always been plugged into things down there,” Paul said. “With football starting up, we thought this would be a good time to contribute to the University.”

Paul Willoughby’s name is synonymous with football at Lumberton High School. As a player, he was a standout quarterback, and as head football coach from 1976-81, he was a winner and coached many outstanding players including retired NFL great Donnell Thompson.

Pat was an outstanding athlete at Littlefield High School. And Rex played on the UNCP golf team and is currently playing on the Hooters Tour.

“Wendell Staton recruited Rex, and we thought it would be a good place for him,” Paul said. “He did fairly well, and they had some good golf years. He made a good decision to go to UNCP.”

Staton is a former UNCP assistant basketball and head golf coach who works with UNCP’s Office for Advancement, leading the Campaign for Football. Staton is just one connection the Willoughbys have with UNCP athletics.

As a physical education major, Paul met UNCP’s coaching community including Ray Pennington and Lacy Gane, both former coaches and athletic directors. At Lumberton High School, he worked and coached with current UNCP Physical Education Department Chair Dr. Tommy Thompson.

“I enjoyed the atmosphere at the University,” Paul said. “It has good physical education and teacher preparation programs.”

Paul said his training at UNCP and Lumberton High School paid dividends in his transition to the business world as a McDonald’s franchisee.

“It was an adjustment, but training and working with people, especially young people, was very similar to teaching and coaching,” he said.

Paul is excited about football at Pembroke and has met with head coach Pete Shinnick.

“I think they’ve made an outstanding choice in coach Shinnick,” he said. “There is a good foundation in the region to start a football program.”

The bottom line is that football and long-time friendships convinced the Willoughbys that this was the time to give back to their school.

“We try not to forget where we came from,” Paul said.

To learn more about the Campaign for Football and Athletic Excellence at UNCP, please contact the Office for Advancement at 910.521.6252 or email