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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

UNCP hosts the 44th Annual Alumni Awards Banquet

Five outstanding alumni were honored during homecoming week at the 44th annual Alumni Awards Banquet at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Pembroke veterinarian Dr. David Brooks ’75 was named Outstanding Alumnus; South Carolina Court of Appeals Judge James E. Lockemy ’71 received the Distinguished Service Award; and Kenneth L. Bowen ’02, ’07, a high school principal, won the Young Alumnus Award.

Inducted into UNCP’s Athletic Hall of Fame were soccer player and coach Chris Little ’02, ‘04 and Russell Clark ’86, a two-time All-American in track and field.

From left: James Lockemy, Chris Little, Russel Clark, Kenneth Bowen and Dr. David Brooks

From left: James Lockemy, Chris Little, Russel Clark, Kenneth Bowen and Dr. David Brooks

Black Line

Chancellor Kyle R. Carter praised the award winners and thanked 20,000 UNCP alumni who built an outstanding university over its 125 years.

“We have a lot to celebrate in our 125 years, and for 14 months, we are taking every opportunity to celebrate,” Chancellor Carter said. “Tonight, we recognize a group of individuals who have demonstrated excellence in their professions and excellence on the playing field.”

OUTSTANDING ALUMNUS

Dr. David Brooks has practiced veterinary medicine in the Pembroke community for 34 years. He is a past member of the Alumni Association and a lifetime member of the Chancellor’s Club, UNCP’s elite society of donors.

“His outstanding veterinary practice and his service to this university and the community are exemplary,” said Dr. Charles Jenkins, a longtime university administrator and faculty member.

“Dr. Brooks’ work has reflected well on the university, and for that we are all appreciative,” Dr. Jenkins said in his introduction. “During very challenging times, it took real courage to leave Pembroke in 1974 to enter vet school in Alabama. He is truly one of our most outstanding alumni.”

Dr. Brooks, who was named the 2012 Distinguished Veterinarian by the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association, said the university has played a significant role in uplifting the lives of “regular people like myself.”

“What a legacy, what a heritage this university has,” he said. “All of you have helped shape my life.”

Dr. Brooks said he has tried to live his life as a role model because “you never know who is watching you and who you may be affecting,” he said. “This kind of laying on of hands ensures that your heritage is passed on to the next generation.

“I am grateful,” Dr. Brooks said. “Thanks for laying hands on me.”

DISTINGUISHED SERVICE

Judge James Lockemy is a Dillon, S.C., native and has had an outstanding career in the military, law, politics and civic life.

Lockemy retired as a full colonel from the National Guard. He served two terms in South Carolina’s legislature and in the courts as a circuit and appeals court judge. He is longtime Boy Scout leader and youth sports coach.

“Judge Lockemy worked three jobs to earn enough money to get his college degree from UNCP,” said Bobby Brayboy in his introduction. “Today, he is a larger than life individual.”

In accepting the award, Lockemy thanked his family and the people who supported him throughout his career.

“These accomplishments are in no way singular ones, but, like all worthwhile deeds, the result of involvement, faith and the work of many people including my family,” Lockemy said. “I hope that I deserve this honor, and I will strive to earn its worth in the future.”

Like many first generation college students, Lockemy’s success was never guaranteed.

“In 1968, after finishing one year at The Citadel pursuing my dreams of being a military officer and studying history, I decided to get married, he said. “I do not challenge nor regret that decision today.”

Lockemy resigned from The Citadel, and with a family to support, his parents encouraged him to attend UNCP and offered to pay his tuition.
           
“I studied hard at school, during breaks at work and even on the steering wheel while driving to Pembroke,” he said.

Lockemy never forgot his dream. After graduation from the University of South Carolina School of Law, he joined the military and retired from 30 years of service that included an active duty stint in war-torn Kosovo. And, in 2012, he earned a history degree from The Citadel. Before that, there was Pembroke.

“Today, I acknowledge that the fear of not being a military officer was pushed away at Pembroke,” Lockemy said. “The concern that I would not study history was shattered by my degree.”

“I must now not forget this honor of the opportunities afforded me by this school and the dedication of my father and mother – thank you Pembroke,” Lockemy concluded. “I will not forget.”

YOUNG ALUMNUS

Kenneth Bowen, principal of Eugene Ashley High School in Wilmington, N.C., has been successful quickly in the education profession and an effective leader at every stop, said Cherie Graham in her introduction.

“Kenneth has done everything possible to help his schools and students be successful,” Graham said. “He is a trendsetter, a man of firsts, who is passionate about students, passionate about making change and about holding educators accountable.”

Bowen thanked the university where he is currently working on a third degree in education.

“This is one of the greatest honors of my career,” he said. “I had a great experience here as an undergraduate and as a graduate student. I’ve been fortunate to have great mentors.”

Bowen is also a believer in education for a lifetime. He is nearing completion of a doctorate in education degree from East Carolina University as part of a cohort taking classes at UNCP.

From Scotland County, Bowen started his career in South Carolina, where he rose to become principal of Marlboro High School. At every stop, his schools have met or exceeded state and federal standards.

Success has followed Bowen to Wilmington. In his first year at Ashley High School, the school improved high-stakes test scores and graduation rates.

HALL OF FAME

Retired UNCP soccer coach Mike Schaeffer said he launched a letter campaign across the Atlantic Ocean to recruit Scotsman Chris Little, and he has never regretted it.

“Chris is one of the all-time great players at UNCP,” Schaeffer said. “He was a team leader from the first practice.”

Little’s name is in the record books for career goals (5th) and career assists (2nd). Team captain for two years, he led the Braves to their first-ever Peach Belt Conference Tournament finals and a national ranking.

As a graduate assistant coach for UNCP, Little helped recruit the two most successful teams in school history, Schaeffer said. He has continued to thrive in coaching at Cumberland College, Elon University and in youth development programs.

“How I ended up in Pembroke is a long story, but I am a great believer in fate,” Little said. “Mike Schaeffer took a chance on me, and I’ll never forget that.

“Over time you forget about what you did on the field, but you remember the experiences you shared,” he continued. “What we have here is a very special place.”

Retired track and field coach Larry Rodgers won a recruiting battle against the biggest universities in the state to bring high-jumper Russell Clark to UNCP.

“He was the big fish that almost got away,” Rodgers recalled. “He had a great career and graduated in four years. His life is a testimony to what a true student-athlete should be.”         

Clark, who lives in Phoenix, Ariz., said it is an honor to be mentioned in the same breath with other UNCP greats.

“It’s good to be home,” Clark said. “This place was the defining moment of my life.”

A mass communication major, Clark took his athletic and academic talents to the military where he continued to compete in track and field and was a combat journalist. He still holds UNCP’s high jump record at 7-feet 2.

Wendy Lowery, vice chancellor for the Office of Advancement, summed up the evening.

“I believe this is our most important event of homecoming week because we honor our alumni, our family,” Lowery said. “On what has been our best homecoming, this has been a wonderful evening, a moment we will carry throughout our lives.”

The awards banquet was held on October 26 in the University Center Annex. For more information about the Alumni Awards or other alumni programs, contact them at 910.521.6252 or email alumni@uncp.edu.

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