Home Local News Jerry McGee, Michele Fazio named Winter Commencement speakers at UNCP

Jerry McGee, Michele Fazio named Winter Commencement speakers at UNCP

PEMBROKE — Former Wingate University President Jerry McGee and Michele Fazio, a highly decorated professor of English at UNCP, will serve as keynote speakers during the 2020 Winter Commencement at UNC Pembroke.

A drive-thru ceremony for students receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees will be held Saturday, November 21. The ceremony will be livestreamed and available for viewing here. 

The remarks of both Drs. McGee and Fazio will be delivered virtually, with McGee speaking during the undergraduate portion and Fazio addressing The Graduate School graduates.

McGee, a native of Rockingham, shares a personal connection with UNCP. His late wife, Hannah Covington McGee, was a graduate, earning a degree in elementary education in 1970. McGee was the longest-tenured university president in North Carolina when he retired in 2015. He became president of Wingate in 1992. During his tenure, the former Wingate College gained university status, tripled its enrollment, added numerous facilities and programs, began a School of Pharmacy and became a doctorate-granting institution.

McGee devoted more than 40 years to his career in higher education. Prior to his time at Wingate, he served as a vice president at Gardner-Webb University, Meredith College and Furman University.

An avid sports fan and one of the nation’s most respected college football officials, McGee spent 36 years on the sidelines. He officiated more than 400 college games, including 20 bowl games.

He received his undergraduate degree from East Carolina University, master’s degree from Appalachian State University and a doctorate from Nova Southeastern University.   

McGee has written two books, and in September he and his two sons, Ryan and Sam, released “Sidelines and Bloodlines: A Father, His Sons and Our Life in College Football.” In 2006, he received North Carolina’s highest civilian honor – The Order of the Long Leaf Pine. He is a member of the Wingate University Athletic Hall of Game, the South Atlantic Conference Athletic Hall of Fame and the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

Dr. Fazio has been a member of the English Department for the past 11 years and is the 2020-2021 Faculty-in-Residence of the Esther G. Maynor Honors College. She also serves as co-coordinator of the Gender Studies Minor.


She is the 2020 recipient of the UNC Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching–the highest post-secondary award in the state. In 2018, Fazio earned both UNCP’s Outstanding Teaching Award and The Graduate School Faculty Mentoring Award. 

She received tenure in 2015 and was promoted to full professor this year. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Bridgewater State College, a master’s degree in English from the University of Massachusetts at Boston and a doctorate in English at Stony Brook University. 

She has been awarded multiple grants and fellowships to support her research on working-class culture and labor activism, and she served as visiting professor at the University of Calabria in Italy in 2016 and 2017. She is involved with numerous committees at UNCP, including the Pembroke Undergraduate Research and Creativity Center, the Graduate Council, the Diversity Committee for Communities of Interests, and the Social Justice Committee. 

Committed to student success, she has developed a new professional certificate program to raise greater awareness of the needs of first-generation college students on campus. 

She has partnered with several local nonprofit organizations to promote migrant farmworker justice in her courses. And through her involvement in study abroad, she has taught courses in Italy and Japan.

A strong proponent of service-learning and community engagement, Fazio led a service-learning project to record the work histories of the Lumbee Tribe. In 2013, her cultural exhibit, “Someplace like Pembroke: Work Histories of the Lumbee,” and the efforts of her students were recognized in receiving the inaugural Diane O. Jones Excellence in Service-Learning Award. In 2014, she co-wrote and co-produced the documentary, Voices of the Lumbee, which earned both the Studs Terkel Award for Media and Journalism and the North Carolina Folklore Society Brown-Hudson Award.

Active in her profession, Fazio has served as president of the Working-Class Studies Association and currently coordinates its mentoring program. She has written peer-reviewed publications on Italian American culture, graphic narratives, multi-ethnic literature, and anti-racist pedagogy. 

Additionally, her research on family history, community, and memory has been exhibited at the Harvard Law School Library and the American Labor Museum. She is co-editor of the Routledge International Handbook of Working-Class Studies and is working on a new book project exploring the music of Woody Guthrie and the cultural legacy of Sacco and Vanzetti.

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