UNCP celebrates its founding 123 years ago


Founder’s Day at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke was celebrated on March 17, 2010, in the Paul R. Givens Performing Arts Center.

 founders day

Clockwise from upper left: Chancellor Jenkins, Dr. Cheryl Locklear, Dr. Linda Oxendine and Dr. Freda Porter

Approximately 200 relatives of founders and early graduates of the University attended the mid-morning event. Founder’s Day 2010 celebrated the founding Board of Trustees and the graduates up to the class of 1950.

Dr. Gilbert Sampson, retired chair of UNCP’s Mathematics and Computer Science Department, is related to four of the seven founders, including one of the first students, O.R. Sampson.

“This was very informative and a great thing for the University and the community,” Dr. Sampson said. “This is a good day.”

Wendy Moore is a descendant of W.L. Moore, the man who was hailed as a “founder, erector, teacher.”

“I thought I knew a lot about this University, but I learned a lot today,” Moore said. “I’m glad I came.”

Magnolia Oxendine Lowry, a retired faculty member, is also related to several of the founders.

“I never realized there was so much history here,” Lowry said. “I am ever grateful to the founders.”

The University was founded in 1887, said Dr. Linda Oxendine, the retired chair of the American Indian Studies Department and co-author of the centennial history of the University.

“W.L. Moore and Hamilton McMillan shared a vision for this University,” she said. “The history of this institution is so unlike any other.

“That this University had Indian control is what made it so visionary,” Dr. Oxendine said. “I think that having local control was key.”

State Representative McMillan authored a bill to appropriate $500 to pay faculty of the school, but it was up to the local American Indian community to purchase land and building materials and erect the first buildings.

“The $500 appropriation was for salaries and came with the stipulation that the community would provide the buildings or the legislation would be repealed during the next session of the legislature,” Dr. Oxendine said.

Dr. Oxendine and Lawrence Locklear, a member of the Founder’s Day Planning Committee, discussed the early history.

Chancellor Charles Jenkins, who has worked 38 years at the University, welcomed guests to the Founders Day celebration of 123 years of the school’s history.

“This is a seminal event that we hope will become an annual event,” Chancellor Jenkins said. “We all have a great deal to celebrate, and this event will lead up to a larger celebration of the 125th year.”

Chancellor Jenkins said the school’s founding and history speak to the “courage, tenacity and strength of our founders.”

“The founders of this University were men of good will,” he said. “The Lumbee Indian community, which built this University, are people of good will.”

Speakers offered their thoughts and shared their personal histories with the University.

Dr. Cheryl Locklear, a 1975 graduate, former trustee and member of the UNC Board of Governors, said “there is no university in American with a more unique history or a story so compelling.”

“The founders may have lived in a place that people considered poor, but their ideas were rich with possibilities,” Dr. Locklear said. “There is no limit to what can be done if we are willing to do the hard work, fight the good fight and believe in ourselves.”

Dr. Locklear noted that her parents and daughter are graduates also.

Dr. Freda Porter, a 1978 graduate, faculty member and chairwoman of the Board of Trustees, called the founders’ work an “unrelenting personal sacrifice.”

“The history of our University is a story of ordinary people with extraordinary ambitions,” Dr. Porter said.

“By celebrating our history, we honor ourselves, and we have much to celebrate at UNCP,” Dr. Porter said. “Many life changing opportunities were made possible by attending this University.”

Student Government President Arjay Quizon drew a parallel between his parents’ immigration to the U.S. and the quest for a better life that University founders dared to dream.

“My family moved here for a chance at a better life,” Quizon said. “The same goes for the founders who hoped this University would provide an opportunity for a better life for this community.”

Purnell Swett, a 1957 graduate and chair of the Lumbee Tribe, called the University’s history one of “123 years of service.”

“This University is a great source of pride for the Lumbee community,” Swett said. “So long as this University flourishes, so will the Lumbee Tribe.”

Dr. Anthony Curtis, chair of the Faculty Senate, brought greetings from the faculty.

“This is a time to reflect on our University’s history and its mission for the future,” Dr. Curtis said. “The faculty gives you its pledge to continue the hope, excitement, promise, pride, purpose and accomplishments.”

Floyd Locklear, a 1986 graduate and president of the Alumni Association, thanked the audience for “celebrating 123 years of education.”

“This is a time to find out about this University’s history, and I encourage you to get involved and give back to its future,” Locklear said.