UNCP to confer a record 957 degrees at Spring Commencement

Kelvin Sampson
Kelvin Sampson

The University of North Carolina at Pembroke will award a record 957 degrees to its largest-graduating class in university history on Saturday, August 8.

Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings will confer 725 undergraduate degrees and 232 degrees at the graduate level.

Including Winter 2019 graduates and summer graduates, UNCP awarded a record 1,604 degrees between the two commencement ceremonies.

A drive-thru ceremony for undergraduate and graduate commencement will begin at 8 a.m. on Prospect Road, which will be closed for the duration of the ceremony. The parade route will be strictly monitored by law enforcement.

The traditional processional with a Native American flute and Lumbee Ambassadors, speeches, traditional greetings and conferral of degrees will be available in a virtual format and combined with the livestreamed drive-thru portion of the ceremony available for graduates and families to celebrate their accomplishments at any time together following the in-person portion.

While many college and university commencements went virtual this spring, UNCP is one of the first and only universities in North Carolina to honor graduates with a modified in-person commencement. The Commencement tradition is an important part of the UNCP experience, and offering graduates the chance to cross the stage in person remained a priority.

Notable alumnus and Pembroke native Kelvin Sampson, head coach of the Houston Cougars men’s basketball team, will deliver the commencement address virtually.

As a 31-year head coaching veteran at Houston, Indiana, Oklahoma, Washington State and Montana Tech, Sampson has compiled a 639-330 record during his career. He has led his teams to 15 NCAA Tournament appearances.

In six seasons at Houston, Sampson is the only coach in school history to lead the Cougars to five consecutive 20-win seasons and is poised to become the second-winningest coach in program history during the 2020-21 season.

Sampson was an award-winning student-athlete at Pembroke High and later at UNCP where he played basketball and baseball. As a point guard, he led the Braves as team captain during his senior season and finished his collegiate career with four letters in basketball and three in baseball. 

Sampson received bachelor’s degrees in health and physical education and political science from UNCP in 1978.  He earned his master’s degree in coaching and administration at Michigan State in 1980 after serving during the 1979-80 season as a graduate assistant. In 1998, he was inducted into the UNCP Athletic Hall of Fame.

Sampson and his wife, Karen who is also a UNCP graduate and Pembroke native, have two children, Lauren and Kellen and two grandchildren. Karen Sampson currently serves as a member of the Board of Trustees at UNCP.

Commencement was originally to be held in May but was postponed and revised due to COVID-19 restrictions limiting large gatherings.

More information about graduate check-in and logistics is available at uncp.edu/commencement.

Media is invited to the drive-thru Commencement exercises. Please contact Mark Locklear for press credentials and instructions on location access and setup.