Program Write-up: Dr. Kevin Rome, NCCU

Everyone understands that Duke was founded and built with tobacco money. While it can reminisce fondly about that historical artifact it has moved far beyond any romantic notions about tobacco’s legacy. I think something similar is happening withNorth Carolina Central University, the other great university inDurham. NCCU’s roots as what is often referred to as an historically Black college are a permanent part of its legacy with its heroes like founder Dr. James Sheppard and Dr. LeRoy Walker, who was honored last year by our club with our annual community service award. But NCCU is becoming so much more than just one antidote to the persistent racial segregation of the last century.

Our meeting on April 16, on the NCCU campus provided lots of evidence of the ambition and achievement that now marks the University.  As its mission states, the university will serve its traditional clientele of African-American students and will also expand its commitment to meet the educational needs of a student body that is diverse in race and other socioeconomic attributes.

There was some disappointment voiced in the meeting room that Chancellor Nelms was not going to be able to speak to us as originally planned. However, that did allow the university to showcase some of the young administrative talent that it has brought in to guide its development including the speaker, Dr. Kevin Rome, the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management.  Dr. Rome was introduced by Rotarian Ingrid Wicker-McCree who became NCCU’s athletic director early in 2008.  Rotarian and Assistant Athletic Director for Development, Willie Jude also helped organize the event.  Also in attendance were Associate Athletic Director George “Bulldog” Smith, and former Rotarian Wendell Davis, now Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance.

Dr. Rome welcomed us to campus and recounted how in 2002 Chancellor Nelms had come to the campus and initiated a customer service program to immediately start building a broader constituency that would support the university. Dr. Rome was also candid about the necessity to upgrade programs and personnel to meet the university’s ambitious goals. As you might expect this hasn’t always been easy or free of pain. He also mentioned the commitment to upgrade the student body.  It must be tough to try to establish your identity in the shadow of an institution like Duke but NCCU is doing it with almost the same number of undergraduate students, bachelors degrees in nearly 100 disciplines, masters in 40 areas and now a PhD program in biotechnology taking it in a direction that may mean within our lifetimes that the Triangle will house four major research universities instead of the three that originally defined the Research Triangle.

Three years ago when we did the Million Meals at the NCCU campus I remember being a little startled by how much the campus had grown and how comfortable the students from Duke and NCCU worked together to get tasks done. On Monday driving over to the campus on Lawson Stpast the site of the oldHillsideHigh SchoolI was startled again by the growth that continues. What wasn’t surprising was the friendliness and helpfulness of everyone on campus. It’s been that way since the first time I visited there many years ago when I pinch it for someone else to talk to one of Dr. Walker’s sports administration seminars about public relations.

The Rotary Club owes NCCU a debt of gratitude for hosting the meeting and providing the program. There is much more to learn about NCCU on their website at NCCU.edu.

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