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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

UNCP gives alumni, service awards

Mac Campbell, of Elizabethtown, N.C., and Dick Taylor, of Lumberton, N.C., won top awards at the 2008 Alumni Awards Banquet on February 8 at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

From left: Outstanding Alumni Award winner Mac Campbell, Athletic Hall of Fame, Ginnell Curtis and Mike Olson, and Distinguished Service Award winner Dick Taylor

From left: Outstanding Alumni Award winner Mac Campbell, Athletic Hall of Fame, Ginnell Curtis and Mike Olson, and Distinguished Service Award winner Dick Taylor

Black Line

Also honored were the newest inductees of the Athletic Hall of Fame, basketball great Ginnell Curtis Birch and former wrestling coach Mike Olson, who built UNCP’s wrestling program into a powerhouse.

Campbell, a 1968 UNCP graduate, was recipient of the Outstanding Alumni Award, and Taylor won the Distinguished Service Award. Both contributed generously to the University and both support the University “in spirit and in person,” Chancellor Allen C. Meadors said in opening remarks.

Athletic Director Dan Kenney introduced both award recipients. He said Campbell represents an outstanding example of professionalism, community involvement, family values and loyalty.

Campbell was a University trustee when Chancellor Meadors was hired and he served on the Football Advisory Board that helped launch UNCP’s new era of football. His contribution earned naming rights to the Mac and Sylvia Campbell Wellness Center in the English E. Jones Athletic Center.

“I’ve been very blessed as a person for my family and for what this University did for me and my family,” Campbell said. “I thank you for this honor on behalf of all the outstanding alumni this University has produced.”

A petroleum retailer and distributor with outlets across eastern North Carolina, Campbell is vice chairman of the state Board of Transportation. He is a past president of the Braves Club and winner of the Volunteer of the Year Award from the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics.

Taylor, winner of the Distinguished Service Award, was praised for his personal engagement with the University and his leadership.

“Dick Taylor was the first to step forward in a really large way to give generously,” Kenney said of the Dick and Lenore Taylor Track. “He also gives generously of his time and talents.”

Taylor thanked the University for “letting me work with this great group of faculty, staff and students.”

“It’s been a terrific, gratifying and humbling experience,” Taylor said. “Lenore and I have come to love this University more and more.”

Ginnell Curtis Birch found her way into the Hall of Fame faster than any athlete in UNCP history, her former coach Sandi Mitchell Littleton noted.

“She wanted to win every game, every free-throw shooting contest and every sprint and every drill,” Littleton said. “Once when I was unable to coach, she told me not worry, ‘I will be an extension of you.’”

A 2002 graduate, Curtis was twice an all-American and four-times an all-Peach Belt selection. She finished number two on UNCP’s all-time scoring list and holds the single-game scoring record of 47 points.

“I want to thank the University for giving me the opportunity to play collegiate basketball, and for a wonderful education,” Birch said. “I want to thank coach Mitchell for believing in me.”

Olson took UNCP wrestling off the mat from 1971-82 to compete head-to-head against much larger schools including UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State. In all, he coached for 46 years at six institutions and had a career winning mark of 82 percent.

At UNCP, Olson coached 16 all-Americans, won five consecutive conference championships and nine district championships. He was introduced by his son Jim as “my father, my hero.”

“My father’s greatest accomplishment was molding young men into leaders,” Jim Olson said.

Coach Olson delivered an inspirational talk concluding with the audience participating in a “go Braves go” cheer. A large contingent of former UNCP wrestlers was on hand.

“My wife and I were talking the other day, and we agreed if we could go back to any place, this is where we’d be,” he said. “I always asked my wrestlers to see themselves doing their best, and most of them did better.”

“They dared to go beyond,” he said. “They dared to put Pembroke on the map, and they did.”

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