Home Lifestyle Former elite student-athletes to headline Fall Speaker Series at UNCP

Former elite student-athletes to headline Fall Speaker Series at UNCP

Pardon Ndhlovu

A star-studded alumni panel of former standout student-athletes will kick off a new speaker series presented by Campus Engagement and Leadership at UNC Pembroke on October 20.

Pardon Ndhlovu, one of the most decorated athletes in the history of UNCP cross country, will join former All-American volleyball player Melanie Grooms Garrett and Air Force Colonel and former baseball star Carlos Berdecia for the first of several engaging, thought-provoking discussions.

“We are excited to begin the fall speaker series with a strong emphasis on leadership and deliberative dialogue. The series will include major speakers and some more intimate fireside chats with the opportunity to engage in conversation with panelists. We are tremendously excited to welcome these UNCP sports heroes back to campus and excited for our current students to see the possibilities for themselves now and in the future” said Abdul Ghaffar, assistant dean of students.

A fireside-style chat will be held at the University Center Annex, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Dinner will be served.

Admission is $10. Students are admitted free with a student ID. Students are asked to RSVP through Handshake. For tickets, please call 910.521.6482. The event is co-sponsored by Campus Engagement and Leadership, Thomas School of Business, the Career Center and the Alumni Office.


Ndhlovu, a four-time all-American, competed against the world’s greatest athletes at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, placing 41st in the men’s marathon. He was a dominant force for the cross country and track and field teams from 2009 to 2013.

The Zimbabwe native was a four-time Peach Belt all-conference selection, two-time All-American, and two-time PBC Runner of the Year. He holds 15 of the 17 best times recorded in the 8k run, including the top seven times in school history.

Melanie Grooms Garrett

Regarded as one of the best volleyball players at UNCP, Grooms Garrett remains the Braves’ career and single-season record holder in service aces. She is the only player in school history to be named NAIA All-America. A two-sport athlete, the Fayetteville, N.C., native was a two-time all-league performer in softball. She later became the Braves’ head coach in volleyball and softball and was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Col. Carlos Berdecia

Berdecia, a 2001 graduate, serves as commander of the 437 Operations Group, Joint Base in Charleston, South Carolina.

He commands the largest and busiest C-17A Operations Group in the U.S. Air Force. The Puerto Rico native earned a commission from the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program at UNCP and was an ROTC distinguished graduate. While a student, he was a captain on the baseball team and president of Phi Kappa Tau.

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