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UNCP celebrates 124 years at Founders' Day


Friends, family and alumni gathered on March 15 to celebrate Founders' Day at UNC Pembroke.

Approximately 350 attended the celebration of 124 years of University history. Special guests were graduates from 1951 to 2010 and family members of campus buildings' namesakes.

he event was held in the Paul R. Givens Performing Arts Center. Gregg and Aaron Givens, son and grandson of UNCP's second chancellor, attended.

"We have a lot of great memories about this place," Gregg Givens said. "Every Thanksgiving we played football on the lawn.

"My father loved Pembroke," he said. "The family had a great time here."

Mary Alice Teets, a 1958 graduate and daughter of the late Walter J. Pinchbeck, also attended. UNCP's maintenance complex is named for Pinchbeck, who was a long-time employee.

"It's wonderful to hear our new chancellor and the other speakers remind us of our unique heritage," Teets said. "We are all looking forward to another great 125 years of growth that is grounded in our history."

Teets and Dr. Harry Mathis were catching up on old times and exchanging addresses. Mathis, a 1959 graduate, was one of the first white students to attend the University, and Teets befriended him.

"Mary Alice and I were lunch buddies; it was very kind of her," Dr. Mathis said. "I have not been back in 20 years, so I was glad to get an invitation to Founders' Day."

Dr. Mathis was a non-traditional student who worked his way through college as an accountant. Like many on this Founders' Day, he had a story.

"While I was here, I thought I was one of the white students," he said. "I found out later my grandmother was a Waccamaw Siouan Indian."

The University's history as the only state-supported American Indian college in the nation as well as its pioneering role in desegregation of higher education were recalled during a reading by Anne Coleman, assistant dean of the Mary Livermore Library.

"Before 1964, UNCP was the only desegregated university in the South," Coleman said. "The G.I. Bill and the decision to open the doors of the college were important factors in the rapid growth of the University after World War II."

Lumbee Tribal Chair Purnell Swett, a 1957 graduate, brought greetings from the tribe. He recalled the mission of the University's founders.

"I am doubly blessed to be here today because I am a proud graduate," Swett said. "We can only imagine what our founding fathers would say about the modern University.

"This is a University dedicated to service and the life-changing value of education," he continued. "This University has transformed our tribe."

The individuals whose names appear on campus buildings were honored in a special program. Many of them were founders; all were extraordinary people.

"Many of our buildings' namesakes were founding fathers like W.L. Moore, and others continued and enriched the University's legacy," said Lawrence Locklear, who works in the Office of University and Community Relations. "Besides their contributions to this University, they founded churches, started businesses and promoted education generally in the region and beyond.

"Their legacy continues here today and in the spirit in this hall," Locklear said.

Chancellor Kyle R. Carter has been at UNCP for eight months but has become a student of its history.

"Knowing about our history is important as we chart the future," Chancellor Carter said. "Founders' Day is a way to make sure we remember why the University was founded in the first place.

"That reason was to make education available so that people can improve their lives," he continued. "I invite you to come back to help us celebrate our 125th year and begin the next chapter, the next 125 years."