New UCA President Allen Meadors Called a Uniter

by Jan Cottingham  on Monday, Jul. 13, 2009 12:00 am  

Still, it had a history of serving the Native American community, a history that was something of a hurdle for Meadors as a white man.

"They'd had an American Indian chancellor prior to my coming, and in the community there was a feeling - and still is - that they should have an American Indian" leading the university, Meadors said. Although he wasn't the school's first white chancellor, proving himself was a challenge.

When Meadors arrived at UNCP in 1999, he said, he came to an institution with morale issues, one that had lost enrollment during the 1990s. "People said that our location is bad. Wilmington has the ocean; Charlotte's a big city; Chapel Hill has the Triangle. Everybody had a reason why we weren't being more successful," he said.

"The biggest challenge was first changing a mindset. We had great faculty. They cared about the students. And there's something to be said for being in a town that's a college town versus a resort town or a big city. So one of the biggest challenges was just getting them to appreciate what we had to offer," he said. "The second one was getting the state to appreciate what we had to offer."

Meadors built on what UNCP had to offer.

"We doubled our faculty size. We went from 148 full-time faculty to 312. We kept our class sizes small. We had one of the best faculty-to-student ratios in the state. So even though we grew, we still kept that feeling of faculty-student connection," he said.

"We built new buildings. In fact, we added 20 facilities in my time there."

Before coming to UNCP, Meadors was CEO and chancellor of Penn State Altoona. "Both universities that I've had the opportunity to be a CEO of, we really turned them around. We created a pride in the university and in the community."

When he arrived at Pembroke, it was a "commuter university. Now it's on the verge of becoming one of the better college towns in America."

His two sons also faced a challenge in Pembroke. "When I came there, community leaders - even American Indian community leaders - suggested that my sons would be happier going to the high school down the road that was maybe 20 percent American Indian, 20 percent African-American and 60 percent Caucasian."

"But I think it really made a difference that my sons went to the local high school," Purnell Swett High School, which was 85 percent American Indian and about 13 percent African-American. His eldest, Tyson, now 26, was the first non-American Indian elected student body president. Meadors' youngest son, Jarrett, now 24, also was elected student body president. "They are still the only two Caucasians to ever be student body president," Meadors said.

"It was an incredibly rewarding experience for me to see that community, which was a very close community, accept them."



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