Wingate President Emeritus Jerry McGee awarded honorary degree from UNCP

Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings, left, Dr. Jerry McGee and Provost Diane Prusank at The Graduate School ceremony at Spring Commencement on May 3, 2024

Dr. Jerry McGee, president emeritus of Wingate University, dedicated nearly 45 years of service to higher education in the Carolinas, impacting the lives of countless students, faculty and staff.


McGee began his illustrious career in education as assistant to the president at Gardner Webb University in 1975 before serving as vice president at Meredith College and Furman University. However, Wingate University is where he left his mark, propelling the university to unprecedented success during his 23-year tenure.

McGee, a North Carolina Sports Hall of Famer, was among the nation’s most respected college football officials. He was the only college president to double as a football official. During his 36-year refereeing career, he officiated over 400 college football games, including 20 major bowl games and three national championships.

In honor of his lifelong contributions, McGee was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at UNC Pembroke’s Spring Commencement. 

“To me, this is the most prestigious honor we give as a university,” McGee said. “And this puts you in a category of well-accomplished individuals, so it is very meaningful to be included in this group.”

McGee shares a personal connection with UNCP. His late wife, Hannah Covington McGee, was a graduate, earning a degree in elementary education in the summer of 1970. She taught grade school for more than 20 years in the Carolinas.

“UNC Pembroke has always held a special place in our (family’s) hearts,” he said. “My wife was part of a group of seven young married women from Rockingham who commuted to Pembroke for three years to get their teaching degrees. She was very proud of her UNCP degree. So, this award is special for me because of my admiration for this university,” he said. 

McGee is no stranger to campus as he gave the keynote address during the Winter Commencement ceremonies in 2023 and 2020.

“Dr. McGee's lifelong dedication to education and public service is noble work that has benefitted countless lives,” said Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings. “We appreciate his longstanding support of UNC Pembroke and consider it a privilege to honor his remarkable career and his contributions to North Carolina.”

Raised by a family of farmers and textile mill workers in Rockingham, N.C., McGee, a first-generation college student, received his undergraduate degree from East Carolina University, where he was a relief pitcher on the baseball team. He also holds a master’s degree from Appalachian State University and a doctorate from Nova Southeastern University.  

During his tenure at Wingate, Dr. McGee served on the NCAA Division II Presidents Council and twice as the national chairman of the Football Issues Committee for NCAA Division II. He also served as chairman of the South Atlantic Conference Presidents’ Council. The Division II Conference Commissioners Association awarded McGee the 2020 D2CCA Award of Merit.


He is a member of eight athletic, academic and business Halls of Fame, including Wingate University and the South Atlantic Conference. McGee was the longest-tenured university president in North Carolina when he retired in 2015.