Home Lifestyle UNC Pembroke honors 25 retirees during celebration dinner

UNC Pembroke honors 25 retirees during celebration dinner

Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings pictured with retirees during a special celebration dinner at the UC Annex on April 11, 2023. Photo by UNCP

Sara Oswald joined the UNC Pembroke faculty in the fall of 1987 when student records were kept in an ink grade book and the clickety-clack sound of mechanical typewriters could be heard throughout Dial and other classroom buildings across campus.

Oswald — a staple in the Department of Mass Communication and longtime student yearbook adviser — taught for 35 years, impacting the lives of countless students along the way. She was among 25 retirees honored with a celebration dinner at the University Center Annex on April 11.

“UNCP has changed very much since I first got here over 35 years ago, but one thing I’ve always loved that hasn’t changed is the emphasis on the students,” she said.

Many retirees have witnessed name changes, enrollment growth and infrastructure expansion. However, the one thing that has remained constant is the exceptional educational experience the university has provided students.

“You who have built this university into what it is today,” said Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings. “You’ve each played an important role in providing life-changing education for thousands of students. You all have had such rich careers at UNC Pembroke and truly impacted our region, our state and beyond.”

McDuffie Cummings Jr. worked his way up to chief of Police and Public Safety, dedicating 30 years to providing a safe environment for students, staff, faculty and visitors.

“Student Move-In was always a thrill for me. Parents would say, ‘Keep an eye on my son or daughter — then four years later, when I’m standing on the edge of that stage and that same mom and dad would walk by and wink or nod because their student didn’t have any issues while they were here,” Cummings Jr. said.


“Seeing them walk across that stage was always a thrill.”

Travis Bryant, who joined the police force the same year as Cummings, took pride in his relationships with the campus community. After a 17-year career, he retired as vice chancellor of Campus Safety and Emergency Operations.

“Chief and I are both proud graduates of UNCP,” Bryant said. “We were here long enough to see the children of students — we were in school with graduate — also come here and graduate. “We hope we’ve made an impact and positively changed the department and the university during our tenures.”

Dr. David Nikkel said he will always treasure the relationships he fostered with students during his 21-year career in the Department of Philosophy and Religion.

“It’s been a pleasure and an honor,” he said. “I tried to make a personal connection with the students to let them know that we care about them as far as their learning and about them as a person.”

Also recognized during the event were:

  • Dr. Larry Arnold, professor, Music and Media Integration;
  • Mary Baynes, The McKenzie-Elliott School of Nursing;
  • Dr. Charles Beem, professor, Department of History;
  • Debbie Lowery Bullard, Accessibility Resource Center;
  • Sherlene Chavis, Esther G. Maynor Honors College;
  • Sylvia Chavis, Thomas School of Business;
  • Regina Clark, Facilities Operations and Maintenance;
  • Dr. Judy Curtis, associate professor, Department of Mass Communication;
  • Pattie Dees, Facilities Operations and Maintenance;
  • Dr. Leah Florentino, professor, Department of Kinesiology;
  • Greg Harris, Facilities Operations and Maintenance;
  • Dr. Karen Helgeson, Department of English, Theatre and World Languages;
  • Joe Howell, Police and Public Safety;
  • Sidney Hughes, Controller’s Office;
  • Wanda Hunt, Division of Information Technology;
  • Brenda Jacobs, Department of Social Work

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