PRESIDENTS ROW – At the ribbon cutting for the Student Government Association President’s Wall of Honor from left are former presidents and their years of service: James Morree (1967-68), Renee Steele (1992-93), Wayland Lennon (1984-85), Brian Freeman (1991-92), Chancellor Kyle Carter, John Ray (1961-62), Robert Nunnery, current SGA president, Marvin Jacobs (2006-07), Philip Bowman 1999-00) and Arjay Quizon (2009-11).
With bronze etched images of every former SGA president dating back to 1947, the wall is located in the James B. Chavis University Center near the student government offices.
John Ray, SGA president from 1961-62 discussed how UNCP and student leadership changed his life. He is the former superintendent of Red Springs City Schools and he continues to live and work in the Robeson County community.
“I was poor country boy when I came here,” Ray said. “When I went home, the cows and chickens were missing from the yard. My parents had sold them to pay my expenses in college.”
Like the speakers that followed him, Ray said being a student leader changed him in important ways.
“I saw this old country boy could get involved and be a leader,” he said. “I developed a collegial approach to education administrators.”
Ray took his degree to graduate school and was successful there and in his career as an education administrator. Ray had attended another university before finding UNCP, and so had Wayland Lennon, who was president from 1984-85.
“I feel like I’m home,” Lennon said. “What PSU (Pembroke State University) meant to me was success because I had already learned what failure felt like.”
Lennon is a successful banker in the challenging mortgage industry. He lives in Fairmont and he continues to appreciate his time at the university.
“I know what it’s like to be given the opportunity to succeed,” Lennon said. “This school allowed me to make a difference.”
“Tommy” Brian Freeman, who is also an educator in Red Springs, laughed about his image on the wall.
“I had a lot of hair in that picture,” said the 1991-92 SGA president. “It brought back a lot of memories.”
As SGA president, Freeman successfully lobbied for a beach volleyball court. On the serious side, he also injected the voice of the students into university decision-making.
“We worked for academic excellence and lobbied for the recognition of outstanding students,” Freeman said. “We had student representation on every university committee. The student voice had not been heard like that before.”
Freeman, who was the National Education Association teacher of the year in 2003, encouraged the newest generation of student leaders to “improve the quality of student life, but also the quality of the academic experience.”
Marvin “Tubby” Jacobs was the first to attend college in a family of 99 grandchildren. But he nearly dropped out when his mother died just weeks after he won the election for SGA president.
“Chancellor Allen Meadors called me into his office and said ‘what can we do to keep you in school,’” Jacobs said. “They worked it out for me.
“I’ll never forget what they did,” he continued. “I believe that everybody who works at UNC Pembroke will do anything they can to help you succeed.”
The Office of Student Involvement and Leadership and the SGA put up the wall that replaced a photo exhibit of former presidents. Alumni Director Renee Steele, who helped organize the event, was SGA president from 1992-93.
“As a former president, I appreciate this wall as a nice tribute to the former presidents,” Steele said afterward. “Going forward, it reminds current and future SGA senators and presidents of their legacy.”
More, Chancellor Kyle R. Carter said, the wall is a reminder of how a university of choice is constructed, “one block at a time.”
“You can see that history of progress on this wall,” Chancellor Carter said. “The SGA is important for a lot of reasons. It reflects and needs and values of our students, and it prepares students for leadership positions.”
Current SGA President Robert Nunnery said UNCP is in an enviable position, in part, because of the contributions of the SGA and its presidents.
“I am reminded today that leadership is an action not a position,” Nunnery said. “I challenge all future Student Government Association leaders to use their office to continue to grow this university and to be a voice for students.”
The SGA office at UNCP may be contacted at 910.521.6482 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.