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UNCP honors alumni, Hall of Fame inductees

Alumni Awards
Caleb Malcolm, Alumni Association president (left) Barry Burch Jr., James Ayars, Mac Campbell Jr. and Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings

Three distinguished UNC Pembroke alumni were honored at the 51st annual Alumni Awards and Hall of Fame Ceremony on Friday, October 11.

This year’s recipients are Barry Burch Jr., Young Alumnus of the Year; Mac Campbell, Distinguished Service Award; and James Ayars, Outstanding Alumnus Award.

The 2019 Hall of Fame Inductees are Iris Bethea, basketball; Roger Carr, basketball; Richard Thompson, baseball; Ray Nixon, baseball and Coach Tommy Thompson.

The awards recognize alumni who have shown exceptional dedication to the university and whose contributions embody the university’s values and mission.

Burch serves as senior advisor for Federal Affairs and Government Relations for the Office of Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. He is also director of Board and Commissions for the city and county. Since moving to Denver in 2012, Burch worked as a public school teacher, a fellow in the office of City Councilman Albus Brooks, and special aide to Mayor Hancock.

At UNCP, Burch served as student body president, Kappa Alpha Psi president and resident advisor. After earning his degree in political science in 1999, he was selected by Organizing for America to increase voter turnout. Most recently, he graduated from the University of Denver with a Master of Business Administration.

After earning his degree in business in 1968, Campbell began working alongside his father, Mac Sr., at Campbell Oil Company. After his father’s death, Campbell took over the family business and worked until his retirement in 2011. Over the years, he has been heavily involved in his community, serving on several boards including the Bladen We Care Foundation, UNCP Board of Trustees, Elizabethtown Airport Board, N.C. Department of Transportation, UNCP Foundation Board, UNCP Football Advisory Board and Bladen County Committee of 100.

Ayars, a 1986 graduate, and his wife, Jennifer, have been owners of Sandhills Gymnastics in Aberdeen since 1991. A lifetime member of the UNCP Chancellor’s Club, Ayars was among the founding board members in the early 1990s. His philanthropy extends to the classroom as he and his wife established the Ayars Family Scholarship in Chemistry, Physics, Math or Psychology.

After earning his degree in chemistry, he worked as a high school teacher. He taught school in North Carolina for 27 years. He is a member of the Southern Pines Rotary and a judge for USA Gymnastics. He most recently was appointed to the UNCP Board of Visitors.

2019 Hall of Fame inductees

Bethea was a two-sport student-athlete, playing softball and basketball for the Braves from 1991 to 1997. She currently ranks fourth on the women’s basketball program’s all-time scoring list with 1,759 points. She earned All-Peach Belt Conference honors following both the 1992-93 and 1993-94 campaigns, while also picking up PBC Player of the Week laurels during the 1993-94 campaign as well.

Carr was a two-time all-American for the Braves from 1979 to 1983. He tallied 1,508 points over that stretch and helped pace UNCP to more than 60 victories. A two-time All-Carolinas Conference pick as well, he picked up the first of his two all-American awards as a junior in 1981-82 after averaging 20.8 points and 58.5 percent field goal shooting.

Richard Thompson was a member of the baseball team from 1962-66, earning both NAIA All-District honors as a senior in 1966 after posting a team-best eight home runs in leading the Braves to a 28-4 record. He still ranks as the highest Major League Baseball draft pick in program history after being selected in the 3rd round (59th pick) of the 1966 MLB Draft.

Nixon starred on the baseball diamond from 1965-68 and made nine appearances as a senior and registered a perfect 8-0 record with a 1.12 ERA and 70 strikeouts. He registered eight wins as a junior and helped lead then-Pembroke State to nearly 100 victories over his four-year collegiate career.

Tommy Thompson is the winningest coach in the history of the UNCP Volleyball program. He led the Braves to an 186-81 (.697) record from 1981-88, and earned both NAIA District and Carolinas Conference Coach of the Year accolades following a 1983 campaign that watched the Braves register a 29-9 clip and claim their second-straight conference crown. Thompson also led the women’s tennis team to 34 wins from 1988-92 before serving more than two decades as the chair of the Health, Physical Recreation and Education Department.