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UNCP Provost Zoe Locklear honored with Distinguished Leadership award at UNC Chapel Hill


For four decades, the Alumni Association at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has observed the illustrious career of one of their own – Dr. Zoe Woodell Locklear. 

Locklear’s monumental career began in the classroom, however, most of her years were spent in higher education. 

At The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, she moved up the ranks from professor, department chair to dean. She currently serves as provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs. 

On October 29, UNC Chapel Hill School of Education recognized Locklear’s achievements, presenting her with the 2016 Distinguished Leadership Award.  

“It was such an honor to receive this award and recognition,” Locklear said. “The tribute was a complete surprise and a very humbling experience.” 

“The UNC School of Education has produced so many outstanding leaders for North Carolina and the nation, so to have been counted as one of the best among these is a wonderful feeling,” Locklear said. 

“The instruction I received from dedicated, talented professors with world-renowned reputations was excellent and laid the foundation for my career.” 

A host of family members, along with UNCP Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings celebrated with Locklear at the annual Distinguished Alumni Awards Dinner at the George Watts Hill Alumni Center. 

Dr. Larry Mabe, an education professor at UNCP and fellow Tar Heel graduate, offered glowing remarks about Locklear during the ceremony. 

“Dr. Locklear is most deserving of this prestigious award,” said Chancellor Cummings. 

“Throughout her dynamic career, she has made both her alma maters – UNC Chapel Hill and UNC Pembroke – very proud as she has harnessed the power of education to impact countless lives.” 

Upon completing her undergraduate studies at UNC Pembroke at 19, Locklear earned a master’s and doctorate degree, both in special education, from UNC Chapel Hill in 1979 and 1989, respectively. 

She taught students with disabilities in the public schools for several years and served as director of a school for students with disabilities. 

The Pembroke native joined the Braves faculty in 1988. She taught special and birth-kindergarten education, chaired the education department, and was founding dean of the School of Education, returning twice to serve in that role. 

Locklear has also worked as an assistant superintendent for Robeson County schools, as an associate superintendent at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction and at the UNC System’s General Administration. 

She has served on the State Board of Education, becoming the first female American Indian to serve on the board. She has also served as chairperson of the State Advisory Council on Indian Education. 

She received the UNC Pembroke Outstanding Alumnus Award in 2003, was a fellow with the Education Policy Fellowship Program in 2006-07, and was the N.C. Counseling Association Administrator of the Year in 2013. 

Locklear announced her retirement earlier this year. Her last day will be June 30, 2017. A search for her replacement is underway. 

UNC Pembroke is a constituent institution of the University of North Carolina system. For more information, contact Jodi Phelps, executive director of University Communications and Marketing, via email ( or by phone (910.521.6863). Connect with UNC Pembroke on social media or online at to learn how the university is changing lives through education.