UNCP graduate Brigadier Gen. Allen Jamerson speaks at his alma mater

Dr. Cliff Mensah (right) conducts a fireside chat with Brigadier General Allen Jamerson (Ret.) as part of the Distinguished Speaker Series on Feb. 21

David Lewis knew Brigadier General Allen Jamerson (Ret.) was destined for greatness when they met 40 years ago as students at what was then known as Pembroke State University.

Jamerson was on the wrestling team and excelled in the Air Force ROTC cadet program. After earning two degrees, he entered the U.S. Air Force in 1986 and was commissioned as a distinguished graduate. He worked his way up the ranks to brigadier general. At his retirement, Jamerson was director of Security Forces and deputy chief of Staff for Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection, responsible for the physical security of the Air Force's nuclear assets and 37,500 active-duty and reserve security forces worldwide. Today, he serves as chair of the UNCP Board of Trustees.

"It doesn't surprise me that he made it as far he did because even in college, he was one of those students who you could tell would excel in life," said Lewis, himself a three-time all-American runner on the cross-country team.

Jamerson, who lives in Virginia, returned to his alma mater on February 21 to speak as part of the Distinguished Speaker Series, sharing the formula to becoming a leader and the impact UNCP had on his life and career.

"When I came down here and drove across the tracks for the first time, I fell in love with this place," Jamerson said before a room full of students, alumni and community members. "I didn't need to be somewhere like UNC or North Carolina A&T. I wanted to be somewhere small, where there were not many distractions so I could focus on my education."

His success didn't come without setbacks early in his academic career. The lessons he learned after failing two courses proved to be the motivation that set him on a path to greatness.

"It's not every school where you can have a conversation with a faculty member in the dining facility. Those were the things that made a difference for me, and that's why I fell in love with this place," he said.

Following several domestic and international security police assignments, he served as chief of security police for Clear Air Station, Alaska and later served as commander for numerous posts. Gen. Jamerson has received multiple awards and decorations throughout his career, including the Distinguished Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal and Air Force Achievement Medal.

Jamerson would later serve as commencement speaker in 2014.

Senior Dave Bonnet said he was inspired by Jamerson's talk and expressed gratitude for programmatic offerings such as the Distinguished Speaker Series.

"This university offers many opportunities to network with professionals around the state and country. I want to thank Mr. Jamerson for coming out and speaking to us," said Bonnet, a business administration major. "He answered my questions and opened my mind to what I'm considering pursuing after graduation."