Campbell Magazine | Spring 2023

Page 1


Generative AI designed this cover. Learn what else it can do and why it’s already having a profound impact on the world of higher education.


Rockets’ red (and orange) glare

Catcher Grant Knipp (23), pitcher Chance Daquila and pitcher Cade Kuehler take in the after-game Friday night fireworks at Jim Perry Stadium after the Camels’ March 17 win over Winthrop. Through April 25, Campbell had the nation’s longest Friday night winning streak, dating back to February 2022.

2 SPRING 2023
Photo by Brooke Brown, Campbell University




It’s only fitting as we focus on generative AI in higher education that we let AI create our magazine cover. This “head sublimating into colors, submersed by AI” illustration was created using MidJourney.



Generative artificial intelligence is all the buzz in 2023, and already, this “new frontier” of technology is having a profound impact on Campbell University and higher education as a whole. Illustration programs like MidJourney and Dall-E can create vivid graphics in seconds, and text-generating programs like ChatGPT can write complete essays and even pass difficult collegiate exams. Campbell professors share their excitement (and worries) about how AI will change their approach.


20 Orange rover, orange rover

Campbell Engineering’s NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge program is the perfect example of the school’s promise of a “hands-on” experience for all of its students.

26 A whitecoat in Coats

Patients in the small, rural eastern Harnett County town of Coats see a trusted, familiar face in Dr. Sarah Ryals Lassiter, a three-time Campbell graduate and resident doctor in the town’s lone family health clinic.

44 More than mentors

The Rose Center for Peer Mentorship program has had a positive impact on business students, improving retention and graduation rates, encouraging freshman engagement and creating connections between students and alumni.

PRESIDENT J. Bradley Creed


Britt Davis


Vincent Benbenek


Haven Hottel


Billy Liggett


Evan Budrovich


Ben Brown, Peter Donlon, Robin Gordon, Dan Hunt, Sarah Lominy, Bill Parish, Bennett Scarborough


Finalist: CASE International Robert Sibley Magazine of the Year (2020)

CASE International

Circle of Excellence Awards

Magazine: 2020 (Grand Gold)

Feature Writing: 2021 (Gold), 2022 (Silver), 2017 (Bronze)

Photography Series: 2021 (Gold)

Photography Portraits: 2022 (Silver)

Illustrations: 2020 (Gold)

Cover Design: 2018 (Silver)

Founded in 1887, Campbell University is a private, coeducational institution where faith, learning and service excel. Campbell offers programs in the liberal arts, sciences and professions with undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees. The University is comprised of nine colleges and schools and was ranked among the Best National Universities by U.S. News & World Report in its America’s Best Colleges 2023 edition. Campbell University publishes Campbell Magazine three times a year.

The University affirms its standing policy of nondiscrimination in employment and in all of its programs and activities, with respect to race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, religion, ethnicity or national origin, disability, genetic information, protected veteran status, military status and any other characteristic protected by law, except where exemption is appropriate and authorized by law.

Also: An athlete’s long journey back from a rare neuromuscular disease. Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation’s big impact on female students. Campbell sports legends lost in Gaylord Perry and Danny Roberts


Ensuring new technology doesn’t discourage critical thinking, students’ sense of belonging

Off I went to college, armed with the latest technology to be a successful student. Two devices were graduation gifts: a Smith-Corona portable electric typewriter and a Texas Instruments slide rule calculator. Most of our students haven’t even heard of a slide rule, but I learned how to use one in high school. The slide rule calculator was a technological leap in calculation that rendered the old mechanical device obsolete.

I used the portable typewriter in college, but since I studied the humanities and not the sciences, I never really put the calculator to use.

Since my days as a college student, successive and innovative technology applications have been introduced into the educational process, all designed to make our lives easier and learning more effective.

My first computer was a luggable word processor that I learned how to use while writing my Ph.D. dissertation, which was succeeded by Macs and PCs. I clearly recall sending my first email in 1994. When I pressed return, the message soared through cyberspace only as far as a colleague’s office next door. Instead of replying via email, he physically walked into my office and said, “It worked.”

After civilization survived Y2K — remember that? — and the millennium bug did not paralyze global power grids as was prognosticated, I begrudgingly concluded that the smart machine, a.k.a. computer, was here to stay, and I better make peace with it.

Information technology is a major component of operating a university today. Students have more computing, calculating and word processing power through their cell phones than I had with my slide rule calculator and electric typewriter. The

We asked image-generating software MidJourney to create “Roman Emperor Creed” to replace Campbell’s fifth president, and this is what it produced. The orange tie and white shirt collar are a nice touch.

cell phone, not the personal computer, is now the primary electronic device for 70 percent of college students in doing their studies and assignments.

Powerful learning resources are at their fingertips, but the phone that expands their base of information and connects them instantly to friends and family is ironically a culprit in increasing social isolation, depression and levels of anxiety among college students.

This issue of Campbell Magazine surveys the ever-expanding horizon of technological innovations and how they are changing the learning landscape in universities. AI-generated content and ChatGPT were the stuff of science fiction when I was in college, but it is now upon us, and we must deal with it.

Two issues should be prominent as we navigate our way through this brave new computer and internet world. The first is how technology impacts us as

human beings. Does it add to our human flourishing or diminish it? In the words of our university mission statement, does it “encourage students to think critically and creatively,” or “foster the development of intellectual vitality, physical wellness and aesthetic sensibility?”

What can artificial intelligence do to develop “moral courage, social sensitivity and ethical responsibility” in our students?

The other key concern is how technology impacts our experience of community and sense of belonging. Our mission is to forge a diverse community of learning — not individual masters of electronic devices — that is committed to the pursuit, discovery and dissemination of knowledge. Based on Biblical principles, we affirm that “the Kingdom of God in this world is rooted and grounded in Christian community.”

Does technology and its educational applications help or hinder humans in bearing the image of God? Does it bring us closer together into a vibrant learning community or push us away from each other more isolated and left to our own devices?

Are AI and ChatGPT allies or antagonists in our quest for human flourishing, seeking the common good and living purposeful lives? Answers to these critical questions are not always forthcoming, so it is imperative that we keep asking the questions. High tech must be answered with high touch, and the more we rely on machines, the more we need humans, for learning is a human endeavor.

Dr. J. Bradley Creed President, Campbell University

Relate, educate, vaccinate

Campbell programs reach out to Coharie Tribe to improve health outcomes in underserved area

Should his career in public health ever go awry, Dr. David Tillman has a future as a Baptist minister. Confident, enthusiastic and a careful storyteller, Tillman looked at home standing before the congregation at New Bethel Baptist Church on this unusually warm January evening (so warm, in fact, a tornado warning would serve as the night’s only hiccup).

In front of a few dozen members of the congregation — most of them members of the Coharie Tribe of American Indians, whose headquarters is a stone’s throw away

in northern Sampson County — Tillman shares the story of picking up his then 6-year-old daughter from a friend’s birthday party and noticing a zipline set up in the backyard. He asked her if she took part in the fun, and she told him, “No, it looked too scary.”

Always up for a teachable moment, Tillman told his daughter to be brave and face her fears. Inspired by his words, she got in line for the zipline and took the leap. Tillman couldn’t have been prouder.

“If only the story had ended there.”

The sweat from his daughter’s hands — likely from her initial anxiety — caused her hands to slip from the handle, and his daughter dropped to the ground. She would spend the rest of that summer in a wrist cast, unfortunately. It wasn’t the happy ending or the lesson Tillman had expected, but there was a lesson to be learned.

“The lesson is this — I’m not going to repeat that same mistake tonight,” Tillman told the group. “I learned it from my daughter and many times since, I’m

not here to make you or to convince you to do anything you don’t want to do. And I know this is a really difficult time to know who to trust or what to believe, because we’re getting all kinds of different information from different places. Our world is polarized and divided.

“We’re here to talk about vaccines, and we hope that you feel comfortable asking questions and getting answers from people you can trust — people that have been here and will continue to be in your community.”

The “we” included Dr. Amy Hinkelman, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology for the Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine. She joined Tillman, professor and chair of Campbell’s Public Health department, in January to offer her expertise on the COVID virus and vaccinations and to answer questions and debunk a host of myths and misinformation. Their appearance — and the meal and door prizes provided that night — were made possible by a grant from Interfaith America and the Duke Endowment.

4 SPRING 2023
Dr. David Tillman, chair of the College of Pharmacy & Health Science’s Public Health program, led efforts to educate members of the Coharie Tribe community on COVID-19 and vaccinations as part of a grant from Interfaith America and the Duke Endowment. Photo by Ben Brown

It was also part of a much larger outreach program by Public Health, the med school and other health science programs to reach the Coharie — one of eight state-recognized tribes in North Carolina — and provide care and education to the medically underserved rural part of the state.

Outreach efforts have included mailed flyers, door-to-door visits and automated calls regarding vaccinations, clinics and other COVID-19 information. Tillman and Hinkelman have also joined health experts from the American Indian community such as Dr. Ronny Bell of the Lumbee Tribe and Dr. Linwood Watson of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe to provide familiar faces so members of the community are comfortable to ask difficult questions. Mobile units have also visited Coharie headquarters to provide onsite vaccinations.

The efforts are important, Tillman said, as Native American communities across the country faced disproportionate rates of infection, hospitalization and death in the first two years of the pandemic. The susceptibility had roots in longstanding distrust caused by 250-plus years of federal neglect and marginalization.

Tillman and Hinkelman know that to change that, it takes more than a one-time visit. Earning trust means being present and learning cultures, listening and sharing personal stories and being honest.

“I’m a little tired of COVID, too,” Hinkelman said in her opening statement to the group. “But the reality is, it’s here

to stay. It’s changing us, and because it’s changing us, that means it’s still relevant, right? It’s still making people sick; sick enough that they’re still ending up in the hospital. And it’s doing strange things to people long-term, which is something we’re trying to better understand. It’s definitely still relevant, and the data indicates there’s a lot of benefit to being vaccinated.”

Their January visit not only touched on vaccinations and long COVID, but the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) as well. Questions from the group ranged from booster efficiency to proper diets. The Q&A session alone went nearly an hour.

The New Bethel visit marked the “finale” of the work funded by Interfaith American and the Duke Endowment, but it’s by no means the end of the relationship.

This year, the Lundy-Fetterman School of Business will launch a program in conjunction with the N.C. Commission of Indian Affairs to train tribal administrators to become better overall leaders. And Tillman said Campbell’s health science programs and Divinity School will continue to serve people in the region.

Coharie Tribal Administrator Greg Jacobs said Campbell’s presence in his community means a lot to him. “Having this opportunity to receive expert information and support in our own facilities makes us feel like an important part of society,” he said. “Historically, we have been invisible due to our small numbers. This is a great opportunity to be visible. It feels really good and gives us a sense of belonging.”



The Winter 2022-23 edition of Campbell Magazine introduced the University’s new Native American Leadership Development Program, aimed at training tribal administrators across the state to become better equipped and more empowered leaders. The feature also dove into the rich history of North Carolina’s American Indians and their decades of facing neglect and marginalization by the U.S. government.

Since the publication, interest has grown in the new program. In February, Lumbee Guaranty Bank, headquartered in Pembroke, gave the first financial gift in support of the effort. Bank CEO Kyle Chavis called the gift, “an investment that will pay dividends to the residents, businesses and governmental entities across our state.” Other gifts for the program have since followed.

The program is expected to launch this summer, led by School of Education & Human Sciences Dean (and Lumbee native) Dr. Alfred Bryant and LundyFetterman School of Business Dean Dr. Kevin O’Mara. The first cohort of tribal leaders and members across the state will engage in a multidisciplinary training opportunity coordinated and facilitated by Campbell professors, local officials and subject matter experts, resulting in future growth, success and nation building in the North Carolina tribes.

Dr. Amy Hinkelman, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology and assistant academic officer for Campbell’s biomedical sciences program, talks about COVID-19 and vaccination facts to members of the Coharie community in Sampson County at New Bethel Church in January. Photo by Billly Liggett
WINTER 2022-23
6 SPRING 2023

Overture, curtains, lights

For the first time since 2019, Campbell University Opera Theatre returned to the stage in Taylor Bott Rogers Hall to perform a medley of Broadway hits from musicals like “Oklahoma,” “Hairspray,” “Beautiful: The Carol King Musical,” “Anastasia” and “Waitress.” The Fine Arts department is home to several choral and vocal ensembles, including University Choir, Campbell Voices, Collegiate Singers, Choral Society and Opera Theatre. Photo

by Bill Parish

NATIONAL RANKING of Campbell’s baseball program (as of April 30), according to It’s the highest spot ever not just for baseball, but for any Fighting Camel sport in the Campbell Athletics’ Division I era.


Baseball took pride in its anonymity last season, but national exposure has Fighting Camels on everybody’s radar in 2023

The crudely put-together cardboard sign with the word “NOBODIES” scribbled in black permanent marker was a permanent fixture in Campbell’s dugout during their run to and impressive showing in Knoxville, Tennessee for the NCAA Regionals last season.

Even after losing two sophomores — players who would have been eligible for the next two seasons — to the first round of the Major League Baseball Draft in July, Campbell Baseball has made an even bigger impression on the College Baseball world through the first 39 games of the 2023 season. Ranked No. 9 in the nation through April 30, the 31-8 Camels have four wins over nationally ranked programs this year, including two over in-state rival (and No. 12-ranked) East Carolina.

Campbell cracked the Top 25 after a 6-1 start and kept the momentum going after a roadtrip through Louisiana and Boone, North Carolina, that saw them win another six out of seven games. The Camels have steadily climbed the rankings ever since, passing powerhouse programs like Tennessee, Oklahoma State, Texas, Southern California and Arizona State along the way.

RANKS 1 1 1 2 4 14

8 SPRING 2023
“Our final destination is Omaha. We can’t get bogged down by the bigness of that. We have to break it down into small things, and it might just be that one step right in front of us.”


Cy Young Award winner, Campbell Athletics Hall of Famer and baseball stadium namesake Jim Perry was honored by his alma mater with Jim Perry Day, which included the retirement of his number 31 (on March 31, no less). Perry, who attended Campbell from 1956 to 1959, pitched in the Major Leagues for 17 years, compiling 215 wins and 1,576 strikeouts during his storied career with four ballclubs. The three-time All-Star is also a member of the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame.


31 2

When Team USA needed a few extra players for an exhibition game leading up to the World Baseball Classic, the Los Angeles Angels lent one of its top prospects, Campbell All-American and Angels first-round pick Zach Neto. The surprise one-day call-up placed Neto on a starstudded roster that included another former Camel, AllStar Baltimore Orioles outfielder Cedric Mullins. Neto would make his Major League debut in April (the first of his draft class ) for the Angels in Boston’s Fenway Park.

MAX WELLER (20), celebrates a home run at home plate with Andrew Schuldt during a 9-1 win at Jim Perry Stadium over Winthrop on March 19. Through April 30, Campbell was fourth in the nation in home runs, second in slugging and first in runs per game.



Campbell’s Sound of the Sandhills Marching Band, the Basketball Pep Band, the Winter Guard program and Campbell Winter Percussion are among the groups now under the direction of Campbell University Athletic Bands, led by Director Dr. Mike Phillips. Two new groups will also join the fray this year — an all-percussion Rhythm Band primarily for soccer games and the Athletic Rock Band for volleyball and other events.

The move allows students to benefit through increased scholarship support and will allow the program to “grow, prosper and achieve quickly some of the programming that has been held back,” Phillips said. “This programming will enhance student engagement and the fan experience at Campbell to a new level. This move will allow Campbell Athletic Bands to better establish the heartbeat and traditions of our athletic events.”



Campbell’s No. 11-ranked baseball team is getting the headlines and much of the attention in Buies Creek this spring, but the Camels’ other diamond squad is also putting together a stellar season worthy of the national spotlight. Campbell softball owned a 30-13 overall record and 11-3 Big South mark through 43 games through April 20.

Sophomore pitcher Isabella Smith (pictured) was second in the nation in innings pitched (157) and tied for second in the nation with 20 wins on the mound. The Raleigh native owned a 20-7 overall record with a 1.69 ERA, 14 complete games and

Campbell University ADULT & ONLINE EDUCATION ranked among the Top 20 percent of schools in the nation for its online bachelor’s program, according to the 2023 ranking released by U.S. News & World Report. Campbell ranked 74th nationally and 44th overall for “Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans.”

The DOCTOR OF PHARMACY program test-takers in 2022 posted an 88.2% first-time passage rate on the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination. This first-time passage rate places Campbell University in the top 25 schools nationwide and ranks above the state and national averages.

10 SPRING 2023

MARYCARR BENTLEY was one of two “high merit” winners in the graduate oral presentation category for her research on “Improving Literacy Through Primary Care.” Photo by Bill Parish


Campbell Divinity School had big plans to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its school in 2021 before, well, all large gatherings were put on hold during the pandemic.

The School — launched in 1996 with the goal of providing a meaningful theological education to men and women looking to make a career out of serving the Lord — was finally able to honor the first quarter-century of its existence with a gathering on April 13 that drew alumni from just about every graduation year. An afternoon worship service was led by founding Dean Dr. Michael Cogdill, who lauded the school for keeping its mission of being “Christ-centered, Bible-based and ministry-focused” for all 25 years.

“The big story of our program is that each of our life stories has connected to the Campbell Divinity School,” Cogdill said. “That’s 25-plus years of being connected on a much deeper level as our spirits are full of great remembrances.”

Pictured above are Jonathan Lazenby, a three-time Campbell graduate who earned his Master of Divinity in 2014, and Dr. H. Mac Wallace, senior professor of pastoral care (photo by Evan Budrovich).


Wiggins Memorial Library hosted its 13th annual Academic Symposium on March 29, with 120 students presenting their research and creative work from 30 disciplines across Campbell’s undergraduate and graduate schools and colleges. With 30 disciplines represented, this year’s Symposium was the broadest ever showcased, according to Sarah Steele, dean of the library. “We returned to the pre-COVID level of student participation. Our student presenters did a phenomenal job sharing their work; they were in their element. This event is, by far, one of the highlights of the academic year for the library.”

Fighting Camel track athletes joined other students throughout the campus to show their love to those who support Campbell athletics and academics for the annual Thank-A-Giver



Weekend they won’t soon forget

“I knew we had such great family pride and Camel pride; why not rally the troops and put something together?” she said.

A last-minute urge to submit

an application video lands Olsen family of Benson FOY honor

As Family Weekend approached this past spring, Campbell University Student Life & Christian Mission invited students to submit a video explaining why their family is special. On the final day applications were due, inspiration found junior Amelia Olsen.

Olsen rushed home to nearby Benson, where she enlisted the help of her mother, Elaine, her father, Billy, and brother, Jadon, a current senior at Campbell. Snatching every article of Campbell swag available, the Olsen gang organized a project featuring umbrellas, rain hats, t-shirts, pom-poms, souvenir cups and even a mini basketball hoop were pulled out of the closet to execute the video.

“It was our family being totally spontaneous,” said Billy Olsen. “I saw everyone getting involved and asked myself: ‘OK, what can I grab to be a part of this,’ and next thing you know, I’m holding an umbrella over Amelia’s head and laughing every second along the way.”

The video worked. The Olsen family was named Campbell University’s 2023 Family of the Year, honored at Family Weekend in February at a men’s basketball game (they were invited guests in the President’s Suite

that night). Jadon Olsen picked the brain of President J. Bradley Creed about church history and shared his experience as a local youth pastor, and the afternon wrapped up with a standing ovation as the family accepted their honor at center court during halftime festivities.


When it came to selecting a college for their oldest son, Nicholas Woods, Billy and Elaine felt an immediate connection wih Campbell Universeity, a school they felt stood head and shoulders above the rest.

“We were delighted with Nick’s decision to attend Campbell,” said Billy. “Not only because he got a great education, but because he met the love of his life [2009 graduate Chelsea] in school, and they are living their happily ever after together.”

When the Olsen family drove from Goldsboro to drop Nick off for his first day of school, a special package arrived on their front doorstep. Nick ordered a bouquet of

Elaine Olsen, Campbell University junior Amelia Olsen, Billy Olsen and Campbell senior Jadon Olsen were named Campbell’s 2023 Family of the Year, honored at halftime of a men’s basketball game during Family Weekend in February. Three of the family’s four children have attended Campbell. Photo by Evan Budrovich

flowers for Elaine, leaving the tear-jerking message: “If home is where the heart is, then my heart will always be with you.”

When Billy’s new job moved him across I-95 from Wayne County to Harnett County, his youngest children (Jadon and Amelia) needed a new home after finishing up school at Johnston Community College. Campbell again checked all their boxes. “We were tickled about the options for Jadon and Amelia at Campbell,” recalled Billy. Fast forward three years to Family Weekend 2023, and the newly anointed Family of the Year is hard at work. As families began pouring in to the Oscar N. Harris Student Union for a morning brunch, it was Billy lining up chairs and tables with the staff.

“I was thinking about the servant mentality we have and reminded myself: ‘Heck, that’s what we’ve done for the last 20 years as a family,’ preparing our local church for Sunday service.”

The church and a strong faith are embedded in the Olsen family’s DNA. Elaine Olsen jokes that when she was growing up, her parents named her Faith Elaine, “the perfect analogy for the tension” that exists between her name and her upbringing. Billy Olsen has spent the last 30 years of his life dedicated to the church, his latest stop as a traveling pastor landed him at Benson Global Methodist Church.

Every Sunday morning, the family pitches in and plays a small role in preparing the local church for service and celebration.

“Faith has informed our worldview,” said Elaine. “It’s how we choose to live our lives day in and day out. We are operating from an eternal perspective.”

The Olsens said the most rewarding part of their Family Weekend experience was connecting with other families and taking in the atmosphere of the events. Elaine said she loved the opporunity to sit down with President Creed and his wife, Kathy, to get to know them on a personal level. “There aren’t many places where higherups all across a university campus sit and break bread with you,” she said. “They were all very down to earth and warm.”

While Jadon and Amelia currently commute to class from Benson, mom and dad enjoyed getting a glimpse into their children’s lives on campus. And for the kids, they enjoyed being fully immersed into campus life and embracing everything that makes Campbell University unique. “It was such a refreshing weekend,” said Jadon. “I was surprised and blown away by the amount of effort that went into making all of us feel special.”

Adult & Online dean announces retirement

Dr. Beth Rubin, a longtime educator and leader in adult and online learning, announced she will retire as dean of Campbell University Adult & Online Education at the end of July. Nicole Winget, current assistant dean of student life and support, will be named interim dean upon her retirement.

In her six years at Campbell, Rubin and her team led Campbell through the COVID-19 pandemic, helping all schools through the transition from in-person to online learning and through the hybrid programs that followed. AOE also initiated the Second Chance Initiative under Rubin, guiding Campbell’s new prison education programs through three accreditation reviews. The program now serves 62 incarcerated and recently released students.

“Creating, nurturing and growing [the Second Chance Initiative] is absolutely the high point of my career,” Rubin said.

Michael Adams named next provost

Dr. Michael Adams was named the next vice president for academic affairs and provost at Campbell University, succeeding Dr. Mark Hammond, who is joining the faculty of the Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine after serving the last 10 years as provost and, before that, 12 years as dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. The University also announced Dr. Jeff Mercer will succeed Adams as interim dean of the College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences. All of these moves will be effective June 1.

CAMPBELL WOMEN’S GOLF made it seven in a row in April with another Big South Tournament Championship and the program’s 11th-consecutive berth in the NCAA Regionals. Now in his 32nd year in charge of the Campbell women’s program, Coach John Crooks has guided the Camels to 19 league titles, including a Big South-record 11 women’s championships.

Photo by Evan Budrovich


14 SPRING 2023


One of the more popular spots for campus visitors and new students is the large Campbell University store on the first floor of the still-young Oscar N. Harris Student Union. The Bazaar — a name voted on by the student body before the union opened — is home to apparel, memorabilia and pretty much all things orange and all things Fighting Camels.

Photo by Bill Parish


Flipping the script

Rare neuromuscular disease forced Austin Blake to relearn how to walk before he could run again on a Campbell football field

One moment, Austin Blake is a 21-year-old Division I football player at the peak of his athletic prowess whose only worry in the world in March of 2020 was how he was going to spend his spring break. The next, he’s being rushed to a Georgia hospital, unable to feel his extremities.

Admitted to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta — a facility nationally lauded for its treatment and rehabilitation of those with neuromuscular health issues — Blake was diagnosed with a rare disorder, Guillain Barre Syndrome, where the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s peripheral nervous system. The disease affects about one out of every 100,000 people and can take anywhere from six months to a year for recovery. Roughly one in 20 who are diagnosed die from complications.

A highly touted offensive lineman and weightlifting champion coming out of high school in his hometown of Dacula, Georgia, Blake was preparing to enter his third season on the offensive line for the Fighting Camels’ football team, starting 11 games as a sophomore.

“When I was diagnosed, I had three distinct goals,” he says. “First, I wanted to be able to walk again on my own power. Second, I wanted to get back to campus and return to being a student. And most importantly, I wanted to overcome the odds and be back on the field.”

Austin Blake was an 11-game starter on the Fighting Camels’ offensive line as a sophomore before he was diagnosed with Guillain Barre Syndrome, a rare neuromuscular disease, the following spring. The Georgia native had to relearn simple motor skills like holding a pencil and walking during his year-long rehab before returning to the field.

As the months wore on, rotating between various hospitals and intensive care units, Blake was separated from the real world. Due to the heavy onset of COVID-19 and his rare condition, visitors were limited to drive-by visits and daily interactions on his phone over Facetime.

An experienced leader on the field, Blake went into coach mode during his rehab, encouraging and motivating the morale of other kids in the Shepherd Center. During a typical lunch hour, Blake would grab the nearby intercom system and unleash his sense of humor — including his favorite, “What did the snail say when he was riding on the turtle’s back? … Weeeeee.”

After Blake was released from the hospital that summer, he was forced to relearn basic motor functions. Instead of preparing for the upcoming football season, he was relearning how to hold a pencil and move his ankle and working to regain his sense of taste.

One week before the start of the fall semester, Blake suffered an unexpected relapse, losing his vision and diagnosed with a complication known as chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, a chronic effect of GBS. His goals seemed farther away. Still, Blake would not be derailed. That August, he joined his father Todd, mother Shannon and sister Andie on a trip south to Statesboro, Georgia to watch his Camels begin their pandemicshortened four-game season, all against FBS programs like Georgia Southern. The trip was therapeutic.

“To see everyone’s faces and to see Austin interacting with his teammates meant the world to him,” says his mother. “It didn’t matter what his health situation was, that was a game he was not going to miss.”

As his recovery dragged into that fall, Blake reached a crossroads, searching for guidance through his training, his rehab and his faith.

16 SPRING 2023

“When you have a son who has been an athlete his whole life — and he’s so focused on being a team player — and you see a piece of that taken away ... it’s really hard,” his father, Todd, says.

“I’m at the lowest point of my life wondering if it’s time for me to go,” Blake recalls. “And I’m like, ‘I must be somewhat special. Maybe God has something greater planned for me.”

As the calendar flipped to January, Blake accomplished his second major feat — returning to Campbell University. His parents traveled to Buies Creek to help him move in, taking one momentous family walk around campus they never thought possible.

Separated from his family for the first time in months, Blake’s football family dug in deep and fully embraced their leader. Teammates helped Blake with daily reminders to take his medicine, kept up with his workout regimen and even transported him to and from class.

“We probably bugged him 47 times a day,” remembers Jackie Knight, head athletic trainer for the football program. “Initially he started doing workouts with me, the bike and basic movements, helping him develop some form of normalcy.”

“What impressed me was his mindset,” says teammate Quincy Jenkins. “I was shocked he was back on campus that soon, and I’m proud of what he accomplished just to even rejoin the team.”

Blake intensified his strength training and remained a vigilant observer and mentor on the sidelines during spring practice. He studied every player, followed the guidelines of his offensive line coaches and utilized his relationship with the players to administer thoughtful feedback.

“Austin is a guy who understands that no matter what comes his way, there is so much more to life,” head football coach Mike Minter says. “He’s the prototype that exemplifies everything we talk about in this program.”

Blake excelled with his rehab, thrived as a leader in the locker room and positioned himself for life beyond football. He earned Dean’s List honors that next semester, all while changing his field of study into health care management. Eleven months after his initial diagnosis, he checked the final box off his list: returning to the practice field.

Initially, he suited up for non-contact drills, and within weeks, he fully acclimated himself to the speed and physicality of the game (he had lost 75 pounds since his initial diagnoses).

As he regained strength, Blake embraced every second on the field.

“I was grateful,” he says. “Just to be on the field. It took a lot of time, tears, faith and just a whole bunch of things wrapped together.”

On Oct. 30, 2021 — 19 months after his life was turned upside down — Austin Blake climbed the literal and figurative mountain top. He checked into the game against Charleston Southern. He would eventually play in seven total games over the next two years.

“We knew only Austin could write the ending to his story, and it’s been even better than we could imagine,” says his father.

Blake was invited to Las Vegas the summer before his final season to be presented the 2022 Wilma Rudolph Student-Athlete Achievement Award by the National

Association of Academic and StudentAthlete Development Professional. That fall, he stepped on the field one last time and delivered a final pancake block against Robert Morris in a Campbell victory. “I cried so much after that last game,” he recalls.

“Not because of like, ‘Oh wow it’s over;’ I cried because of all the memories. That’s why I wanted to come back.”

That December, Blake walked across the graduation stage and embarked on the next step in his journey: grad school and coaching. He now serves as a graduate assistant coach working with the offensive line on the football team while pursuing his Master of Public Health degree. He wants to be the coach for those who were so instrumental in his life. Whether he’s dissecting an opposing defense, helping his players prepare for the mental hurdles or spending time with patients in local hospitals, Blake wants to help.

“It’s crazy to think what an inspiration he will be for others,” says Minter. “Austin will be a guiding light for so many people.”

Before his diagnosis, Austin Blake was a math major. After his experience at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta and his lengthy rehab from Guillain Barre Syndrome, he switched majors to health care management and is currently working toward a master’s degree in public health. Photos courtesy of Austin Blake


Supportive roomie can be a boost


College is a part of life where you discover who you are as a person and build lifelong relationships. Coming into a place with so many opportunities and new faces can make one nervous, and rightfully so. There are many changes associated with moving and workload. So, how does one control anxiety and stress that college brings?

One piece of advice is to get a roommate. Some people worry about their roommate being a distraction that stops them from studying and finishing assignments, but I say having a roommate can improve academic performance. Students have questions, and when a professor or tutor is unavailable, that student can turn to a colleague or a classmate. And when they’re not in reach, having a roommate who understands what you’re going through can be very helpful.

A 2015 published study by Indian business students Tarun Jain and Mudit Kapoor compared the grades of students who have the academic support of a roommate and the grades of students who solely have a study group with fellow classmates. Both groups of students were given the GMAT exam for General Management students. Their study revealed that students with roommates and otherwise poor academic support have higher grades than students who just participated in a study group.


Photos by Ben Brown

Even limited, voluntary interactions between roommates that seem minor at the time are significant. These conversations are especially important for a student to be positively influenced and have the needed inspiration to put more effort into their studies.

My roommate, Paige Shibley, and I were randomly paired the summer before our first semester at Campbell. She has absolutely had a positive influence on my college experience, personally and academically. Throughout many assignments and exams, I found myself adopting new study habits from her — these new habits allowed me to build a steady and efficient work environment and ethic. This ultimately led me to a better understanding of my classes while teaching me to persevere through frustrating material.

Some may argue that conflict is bad and can only hurt an individual, but conflict is a way to strengthen critical thinking and social skills. Learning to live with another person is challenging and brings conflict from time to time. Having difficult conversations takes maturity and creativity in tone and actions. There are moments of uncertainty and fear — which are completely normal when getting used to a new environment — but having a roommate gives a student the opportunity to grow and improve in areas that are necessary for college and the professional world.

Sarah Lominy is a freshman from Rolesville, N.C. studying pharamceutical sciences and a student in Dr. Eric Dunnum’s ENG101 course. Read more essays at

18 SPRING 2023
show a good roommate can help improve a student’s grades
roommates Sarah Lominy (right) and Paige Shibley share a laugh in the Oscar N. Harris Student Union.




A hands-on education from Year One ...

The Campbell University School of Engineering’s ABETaccredited Bachelor of Science in Engineering program is recognized nationally for its hands-on curriculum that has students in the lab and taking on big projects as freshmen. Campbell engineers graduate ready to make an impact.



20 SPRING 2023


NASA’s annual challenge to build the nation’s best Mars-capable rover equips Campbell engineering students with team-building skills, leadership know-how and important hands-on experience (even for underclassmen). It also serves as a Super Bowl-like event for a young program hungry to prove itself to the larger schools.



Afour-time Top 25 finisher and a runner-up state champion in high school golf in her hometown of New Bern, Julie Fiedler thought her biggest competitive event at Campbell University would take place on a field of fresh, well-manicured green grass and not on a NASA-built obstacle course.

But Fiedler has happily traded in her orange skirt and visor for blue jeans and safety goggles in now her second year as a member of the School of Engineering’s Human Exploration Rover Challenge team, which competed in April at NASA’s annual HERC competition that draws nearly 100 of the nation’s top collegiate and high school engineering programs annually.

Fiedler, a New Bern native and current sophomore at Campbell, compares the event — which she experienced for the first time as a freshman in a virtual setting (this year’s challenge returned to NASA’s campus in Huntsville, Alabama) — to another much different, much bigger sporting event.

“I mean, it’s our Super Bowl,” she says, matter of factly. “It was big last year, and we didn’t even have that environment where we can cheer each other on and see the other teams. Going to Alabama this year, there’s a completely different set of emotions that will go into this. We’re really excited about it.”

As a freshman, Fiedler was “just” a team member, although she’ll point out that firstyear students in bigger programs don’t even get that kind of opportunity (more on that later). This year, she’s taking on a more of a leadership role — design leader, in charge of the blueprints for a machine built “to push the limits of innovation and imagine what it will take to explore the moon, Mars and other worlds.”

For the past two years, Campbell HERC teams have performed well on the national, albeit virtual, stage. NASA’s event was canceled in 2020 barely a month into the COVID-19 pandemic, and it returned in 2021

with an online competition where teams presented blueprints, photos and video of their rover and explained their process to the judges. That year, Campbell earned the Project Review and Ingenuity awards. Last year, Campbell earned the Task Challenge award and its first appearance — a third-place finish — in the coveted “Overall” category.

The teams have been directed by Dr. Lee Rynearson, associate professor of engineering and recipient of this year’s D.P. Russ Jr. and Walter S. Jones Sr. Alumni Award for Teaching Excellence, one of two top honors for Campbell faculty. Rynearson’s teams usually total about 30 engineering students who spend hundreds of hours outside of the classroom to design, build and test their rovers in the months leading up to the spring competition.

Because it’s been four years now since the last road trip to NASA’s sprawling Marshall Space Center in Huntsville, Alabama, none

of the members of this year’s team have experienced the challenge in person. Being there, he says, amplifies the excitement 10 fold, provides more obstacles and makes the competition feel more like a sporting event.

“A virtual competition allows you as many do-overs as you want,” Rynearson says.

“You can do run after run for practice and submit the video of the best run. In the live competition, you get two eight-minute chances to tackle the challenge course, and that’s it. If something goes wrong — either mechanically or due to driver error — the season can come to an abrupt halt with a broken rover or disqualification.

“It’s a huge difference in tension and atmosphere — all the teams are together in the pits, the scoreboard is getting updates as teams finish runs, and NASA is livestreaming with announcers and commentary. There’s shouting and cheering. It will be a big difference.”

22 SPRING 2023


Sophomore from New Bern | HERC lead designer

Julie Fiedler attended her first engineering camp in the seventh grade, and from there, she was hooked. She came to Campbell in 2021 to join the University’s stellar women’s golf program, but having access to an engineering program certainly sweetened the deal while choosing a college.

“The first thing that drew me in was the idea of small classes sizes. The other school people around here look at for engineering is NC State, and when I heard there would be hundreds in each class, that turned me away. I like the one-on-one experience with a professor. I like the hands-on part of the curriculum here. The ability to take on what’s considered a senior-level project at other schools in my freshman year here is just unheard of. It made me want to come here even more.”


Junior from Knightdale | HERC lead engineer

Engineers seem to live cool lives. At least that’s what Jalen Wilkes thought as a young boy — you get to create everything from buildings and cars to the video games he used to play. Then the Marvel movies entered his life, and he watched in awe as Peter Parker engineered his own Spiderman suits, and Tony Stark created Iron Man. It was all make-believe, Wilkes knew, but, you know … some of it could be real, he thought.

Wilkes chose Campbell’s budding engineering program because it was close to home, and he liked the idea of getting in the lab and rolling up his sleeves from Day 1. Before college, he thought he wanted to design cars one day. Now, he loves coding, wiring and circuitry and even the idea of aerospace design. In other words, he’s loving it all so far. “Campbell showed me from the jump all the firstyear projects they get to do. That was something I didn’t see from other schools.”


Hands-on learning

Ask any student in Campbell’s undergraduate engineering program what drew them in, and without a doubt — every single time — the words “hands” and “on” will be heard somewhere in their answer. That’s no mistake.

It’s what stands out about Campbell Engineering when comparing it to larger, more-established programs that often require students to get their “basics” out of the way before they ever step into a lab. Campbell’s program became the 45th in the nation accepted as a Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network partner in 2019, in large part because of its hands-on approach.

“I have stayed plenty of nights just working in the lab on the physical things that we do here,” says junior Harrison Smith. “Planning it out is one thing, but when you’re actually on the machines, building the products you’ve worked so hard to design, it’s much more meaningful.”

The big day is barely three weeks out, and Fiedler, lead engineer Jalen Wilkes and mission director Harrison Smith are joined by several other teammates inside Engineering Annex II, a metal building filled with enough tools and machinery to keep any mechanical engineer busy for years. For the HERC competition, NASA looks at more than just whether the rover can maneuver the terrain — teams are graded on design, excursion readiness, their Mission Readiness Review and their overall STEM engagement.

As mission director, Smith, a junior, is the “face” of the team — the student who will have the most interaction with NASA and the judges. He says the two biggest components for success are time management and communication.

“It’s not just my time management, but managing the team and keeping everybody on track to do what we need to do,” he says. “That’s why you need good communication and leadership skills, too. You need to know how to separate having a friendship with members of the team and act more like they are my peers, and we’re working together to meet the same goal.”

Wilkes called the 2022 competition a “time crunch” and says he wants to avoid the last-minute scrambling that can lead to an inferior machine.

“It’s tough this year, because we’re doing a whole lot of new things to this vehicle to make it better,” he says. “Our wheels are completely new, with the S-shaped crate suspension inside the wheel now, and the carbon fiber and other materials are making it a lighter-weight machine.”

For Wilkes, the entire experience is fun, but the real satisfaction comes at the end.

“Just seeing your concepts come to life,” he says. “To hear others compliment your rover. It’s always great to finish your project and be happy about it.”

Because of the last two years, expectations are high heading into this year’s live event. “Success” this time around will mean a return to the winner’s circle, Smith says. He’d also like to see Campbell crack the “featherweight” category because of all the lightweight additions. He calls the new materials “a renaissance in technology,” and he’s excited to see it in action.

“We just want to show a decent scoring overall,” he says. “We want to do well and show people what Campbell’s got.”

Adds Rynearson: “We have great potential, but there’s no telling what will happen during competition runs on NASA’s challenge course. Right now, we’re focused on dialing in our rover and preparing our drivers.”

24 SPRING 2023

So how’d they do?

Campbell University’s Human Exploration Rover Challenge team has taken home trophies each of the last two years in the annual NASA challenge, but both of those were virtual.

For the first time since 2019 — before the pandemic — Campbell joined nearly 100 other universities, colleges and high schools on NASA’s campus in Huntsville, Alabama, in late April to compete in person (prior to the printing of this magazine).

Find this story online or follow us on social media to see how they performed and whether or not they drove away with some more hardware for the trophy shelf.


Toys come and go in a child’s life. Some break, others are tossed and forgotten after some use and some leave a lasting impact. Legos and Lincoln Logs fell in the latter category for Harrison Smith, the son of two Campbell University graduates who thought about those toys when it came time to choose a major and a potential career path after high school.

Now in this third year in the engineering program, Smith has a plethora of experience in the lab. He was part of the HERC “pod team” as a freshman and worked on the rover’s steering system as a sophomore. This year, he’s the man in charge — mission director.

“I learned a lot from the previous mission directors, and I feel like every year we’re implementing something that carries over,” he says. “It’s been a great time being part of a process that feels like it’s building toward something great.”

Junior from Rockingham | HERC mission director



Three-time Campbell grad and resident doctor Sarah Lassiter is passionate about serving in a small, medically underserved town like Coats, where patients need and trust a familiar face.



Story by Billy Liggett | Photos by Ben Brown

It’s 9:30 a.m. on an unusually warm day in March, and Dr. Sarah Ryals Lassiter has already seen an elderly patient in for a Medicaid wellness exam, a young woman with questions about contraception options, a young adult taking medications for anxiety and depression, a pregnant woman in for a check-up and a patient asking if they needed a medication refill. This, she says — without a hint of irony in her delivery — is a slow day.

This diversity of need is common in family clinics, and doctors like Lassiter are absolutely critical in rural areas like Coats, a town of just over 2,000 people barely four miles from the Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine. She’s one of a handful of Campbell University doctors looking to complete their residencies in family medicine at Coats Medical Clinic, a Harnett Health physician practice. In the morning, she’s a family doctor. In the afternoon, she’s part of the OB/GYN team at Betsy Johnson Hospital in nearby Dunn.

By “serving the underserved,” Lassiter has been living the mission of Campbell’s med school in the year since earning her doctorate. She’s also living her dream — having grown up in the tiny community of Meadow (on the east side of I-95), Harnett County is and always has been her home. Many of her patients know her and her family. Those who don’t know her at least recognize the names “Ryals” and “Lassiter,” both common surnames the region.

Familiarity can breed trust, and trust is important in a physicianpatient relationship. And trust can be a life-saver in a rural area, where the population is five times more likely to die from leading causes such as heart disease, cancer, respiratory illness and stroke.

“We refer to family medicine as ‘cradle-to-grave care,’” Lassiter says from her desk, taking her first “break” of the morning to fill out reports. “We take care of you from the moment you take your first breath until the minute you die. And that’s the draw for me. I have some patients who I see the mom, the dad, the kids and the grandparents — you become more than just a doctor in those situations. You become a part of their little family unit.

“Because of that, trust goes a long way in medicine. If you trust your doctor, you’re more apt to listen to their advice, [or] to tell them your problems — no matter how personal — so they can treat you better and more holistically. I think that’s what Campbell University had in mind when they started the med school.”

It’s exactly what Campbell had in mind. It’s also what Dr. W. Donald Moore had in mind when he opened Coats’ first family clinic in

August of 1949, fresh off of a two-year mission trip caring for underserved families in rural China. Moore was a beloved family doctor in the community for over 50 years, and in 1979, his daughter, Dr. Linda Robinson, joined the practice, making them the first father-daughter family practice group in North Carolina.

Robinson took over following Moore’s death in 2004, and when Campbell University launched its med school nine years later, she happily opened her clinic to residents interested in family medicine. Today, the Coats clinic houses up to 12 Campbell resident doctors, with four attending physicians overseeing their work. And Robinson, now in her 44th year of family medicine, looms large as the symbolic matriarch of the operation.

“Even before I worked here, I knew who Dr. Robinson was. I saw patients or had family members who saw her, and they’d tell me about the impact she had on their lives,” Lassiter says. “It really shows you how important a family provider can be in a community. I’ve heard people say things like, ‘She saved my mom from having a heart attack, because she sent her to the hospital at just the right time,’ or other little preventative things that save lives. When someone has been practicing in one community for this long, you see the lives they change. You want the same things in your own career.”

Lassiter was 13 when she decided she wanted to become a doctor. It was an eighth-grade career development day, and students were asked to talk about what they wanted to be when they grew up. Lassiter wasn’t the best student at the time, and her declaration was met by a few laughs from her classmates. But she remembers her principal stepping in and instilling confidence in her that it wasn’t such an unreachable dream.

“If you trust your doctor, you’re more apt to listen to their advice, [or] to tell them your problems — no matter how personal — so they can treat you better and more holistically. I think that’s what Campbell University had in mind when they started the med school.”

“He said, ‘Well, you know, it’s really hard to be a doctor. But if that’s what you want to do, then I believe you’re going to do it.’ And he was the first person who believed in me and made me think this was really an option. I grew up in a farming community, and I would eventually become a first-generation college student. My parents always told me I could be whatever I wanted to be, but there was always this kind of unspoken … limitation, I guess. I refused to let it hold me back.”

28 SPRING 2023

The seed planted, Lassiter began taking more difficult classes in high school. She reached out of her comfort level in higher-level science classes. She applied to Campbell University, and in a moment of perfect planet alignment, she learned the news during her Accepted Students Day on campus that Campbell was planning to build the state’s first new medical school in over 35 years. For the first time, she heard the term “osteopathic medicine,” and for the first time, the idea of studying and practicing medicine in her home county seemed like an attainable goal.

“Campbell made it clear they wanted people to serve in rural communities,” she recalls. “They told me they were building this school for people like me. So at that point, it just felt like everything fell into place.”

From that point on, it was med school or bust. She piled on the premed courses and even worked as a certified nursing assistant at Johnston Health while an undergrad. Four years later, she applied for medical school during her senior year.

She didn’t get in.

Her MCAT scores were too low — an insight she’s not at all embarrassed to share seven years later. Nationally, about 60 percent of those who apply to med school are rejected. But Lassiter was excited to learn Campbell has a “backup plan” for students like her — the Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences program is a rigorous two-year curriculum taught by med school faculty, designed for students who need to enhance either their academic record or standardized test scores. Many of the program’s students are underrepresented minorities, come from low socioeconomic backgrounds or — as in Lassiter’s case — come from rural areas.

“It made me feel like Campbell had all this support for me, and they weren’t going to give up on me,” Lassiter says. “So I didn’t want to give up either. [The master’s program] made me a more wellrounded student, and it made med school a little less intimidating. I was more prepared to be flexible with my study habits. And I already knew some of the professors and what expectations they would have for me.

“You don’t get that kind of support from larger institutions.”

30 SPRING 2023
Dr. Jennifer Hill (left), a graduate of the School of Osteopathic Medicine’s second class in 2018, helps oversee Campbell University resident doctors like Dr. Sarah Lassiter at the Coats Family Clinic, just minutes from Campbell’s main campus. The Coats clinic, a Harnett Health physician practice, has up to 12 Campbell residents seeing patients throughout the year.
“It made me feel like Campbell had all this support for me, and they weren’t going to give up on me. So I didn’t want to give up either. You don’t get that kind of support from larger institutions.”

In her third and fourth years of medical school, Lassiter’s rotations took her to Johnston Health and at clinics in Smithfield, Clayton and Benson — this during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The experience was an eye-opener, as she saw first-hand the shortage of physicians in rural communities and the negative impact that can have on patients. The experience also justified her decision to stay local, stay rural and practice where the need is greatest.

“Even in Clayton, where it’s mostly suburbs now, there were so many patients I saw in the emergency room, because that was their last resort when they couldn’t get an appointment with a primary doctor,” she says. “Maybe it’s cliché, but these are my people. And if that was my mom or dad, I’d hate to see them throwing money down the drain by going to the ER when a clinic is right there. I’d want a doctor who’s willing to do more for them.”

Dr. Jennifer Hill, one of the full-time primary care providers in Coats and one of Lassiter’s attending physicians, hails from a much different background. Born and raised in San Diego, she had her sights on becoming a doctor in elementary school, embarrassing her mom once in a bank when — anatomy book in hand — she told the teller how a bladder works.

Hill traveled cross-country to Buies Creek, because Campbell was the first med school to accept her. She remembers getting lost on her first drive to the school (she blames Apple Maps) and pulling over to figure it out. “Multiple people stopped to check on me,” she says. “And, at first, it was kind of disturbing. But then I realized North Carolina is different — people are very friendly here. I’ve gotten very used to it now.”

Different backgrounds, but the same desire to serve. In addition to her work in Coats, Hill is the director of student medical education for the med school’s Harnett region. She and her husband fell in love with North Carolina, and she feels needed in Coats.

“Over half of our patients are on Medicaid and Medicare, and we’re able to provide them with resources they otherwise wouldn’t have,” she says. “And then I see our residency program — our doctors have more time with patients, especially in their first year. They really get to know them and have time to do more counseling. I think it’s really important to be able to empower patients to take ownership of their own health.”

In Lassiter, she sees a physician whose strength is connecting with patients. Her patients “adore” her, she says. And she’s a careful, thorough physician. Not bad for a young doctor whose friends in middle school laughed at the idea of her donning a white coat.

“I think it’s unique that I grew up in this area, and now I’m practicing here,” Lassiter says. “My family had a lot of health issues, and I understand better now the factors behind those conditions. I think as primary care doctors, we can come in and not only treat patients, but educate them and help them understand why they’re taking certain medications and why it’s important to check in regularly.

“I’ve learned that when these patients — my family, myself, my community — are non-compliant, it’s not because they want to be. Often it’s because they don’t always understand what we’re telling them. They can’t read our minds. Having more educational opportunities for them would just be so beneficial to everyone. I think this is where someone like me can make change or make a real difference in a community.”


Ninety-nine percent of Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine students graduating this spring “matched” with a residency program — 43 of them staying in North Carolina and the rest representing 29 other states (and Washington, D.C.). On the flipside, 400-plus Campbell residents — from medical schools all over the country — are currently training in six Campbellaffiliated hospital systems.

Residency is an important last-step of education for a DO or an MD. By the fourth year of a medical student’s med school journey, they usually know which specialty they want to explore — that’s when the application process begins. Schools like Campbell then celebrate their “Match Days,” often in late March, to announce where their students will be heading.

“Residency, for me, is where I’ve received the most hands-on experience,” says Dr. Sarah Ryals Lassiter, a 2022 Campbell med school graduate currently in her family medicine residency at Coats Medical Clinic for the Harnett Health system. “In your rotations, you’re out there, but you’re really not in charge of anything. You’re mostly doing a lot of shadow procedures. [Residency] gives you more responsibility and allows you to become a practicing physician in your own right.”

Campbell’s residency program has grown with the school since its first graduating class in 2017, according to Dr. Brian Kessler, dean of Campbell’s med school. “We believe that continuing to offer more residency and fellowship programs in specialties of need within the state will create additional opportunities to retain students in rural and underserved communities in North Carolina and the southeastern United States.”





[prompt: Head sublimating into beautiful shapes, colors and wires, consumed by artifical intelligence: AI-generated art created by Midjourney software]

The one computer in the room is stuck in screensaver mode. The smart phones have all been set aside on the table, glanced at only occasionally by those checking the time. Otherwise, the brain power gathered on this day in a second-story Wiggins Memorial Library meeting room is 100-percent organic.

Four human professors and a human librarian, all sharing a love of higher education and a budding curiosity about recent advancements in artificial intelligence.

Not just AI, but Generative AI. Technology’s “new frontier.” Programs now widely available to professors and students alike, able to create written content, images, music and videos with — considering the relative “newness” of it all — astounding levels of realism and difficulty.


Generative artificial intelligence refers to algorithms that generate or create an output — such as text, photo, video, code, data and 3D renderings — from data they are trained on. The premise of Generative AI is to create content, as opposed to other forms of AI, which might be used for other purposes, such as analysing data or helping to control a selfdriving car. The current buzz around Generative AI is due in part because of popular programs like ChatGPT and DALL-E, which can produce essays, emails, social media captions, images, poems, rap lyrics and more within seconds, drawing in people’s attention. Source:

[prompt: Student immersed in AI in style of surrealism and art nouveau by Frank Gehry and Dean Cornwell, book cover and aquatint print, trending on artstation and well preserved and high detail, stormy and smears. Generated art created by image generator]

34 SPRING 2023

The impact on higher education has been immediate and profound. For the humans in the room — English professors Sherry Truffin and Elizabeth Rambo, communication studies’ Brian Bowman, Justin Nelson from psychology and reference librarian Meredith Beeman — there is cause for concern. Students are already turning to chatbot programs like ChatGPT (and now ChatGPT-4) to pass off complex “written” assignments as their own. Image-generating sites like Midjourney and Dall-E are borrowing from copyrighted photography and art to create digital images within seconds. But the possibilities overwhelmingly outweigh the fears, at least in the classroom. Rather than seeing it as a threat, educators are discovering how to incorporate Generative AI into their teaching. Many see an opportunity to stimulate critical thinking, to improve writing skills (rather than use AI as a crutch), to improve accessibility and to reimagine the way they assign tasks for their students.

All of these thoughts are shared in the library room where five faculty and staff have gathered for what’s now a 90-minute meeting. Organized by Bowman, the goal of today’s meeting isn’t the creation of new University-wide guidelines or data for a research collaboration. It’s simply a shared curiosity. And this isn’t the only meeting like this happening on campus.

Generative AI is still new, and we’ve barely scratched the surface on its potential.

“My feelings on this have actually changed dramatically in a very short time,” says Bowman. “When I first started hearing about it, the first thing I thought was, ‘My gosh, they can use this to cheat.’ But as I continue to learn more, I wonder how I can partner with the students to better utilize this.

“As professors, we have to understand that our students are going to be using this anyway. So my goal for them is to be able to understand this technology and know how it works. Not necessarily the coding part, but really, how can they use it wisely? What can this lead to? What effect will all of this have on our society?”


I am a prospective college student. Can you tell me about Campbell University in Buies Creek and what students like most about the school?


I can tell you that many students enjoy the close-knit community and supportive environment at Campbell University. The small class sizes and personal attention from faculty are also frequently cited as highlights.

Additionally, students appreciate the university’s strong commitment to hands-on, experiential learning opportunities, as well as its vibrant campus life, with numerous clubs and organizations, intramural sports, and community service opportunities.

The university’s location in Buies Creek, North Carolina, is also a plus for some students, who enjoy the small town atmosphere and the proximity to larger cities such as Raleigh and Durham.

However, these are just general trends and individual experiences may vary, so it’s a good idea to research and reach out to current students and alumni to get a more complete picture.

We asked ChatGPT — one of many available chatbots on the internet that utilize Generative AI technology — what a student might like about Campbell University. Its answer was surprisingly accurate. For this reason, many college admissions departments are turning to similar “chatbot” software programs to communicate with prospective students.


AI image-generating software Midjourney was used to create digital representations (using different illustration styles) of each Campbell professor and other experts included in this story (based on their own profile images).

From top left, David Mulford, Sherry Truffin, Justin Nelson, Jennifer Seagraves, Alan Winters, Donald Flowers, Meredith Beeman, Brian Bowman, Sherri Yerk-Zwickl, Amanda Dockery, Elizabeth Rambo and Lucas Osborn.

01000001 01001001

Artificial intelligence is already embedded in our lives. Our digital voice assistants like Alexa and Siri use it. So does the face recognition software on our phones. The maps in our cars, the shows and products suggested by our Netflix and Amazon apps, the posts that appear in our social media feeds and the programs that simplify online bill paying — it’s all powered by AI.

AI goes as far back to World War II and the “Father of Artificial Intelligence,” Alan Turing. The British scientist solved the “Enigma Code” the Germans employed during the war to transmit coded messages (it’s estimated his contributions saved more than 14 million lives). After the war, Turing gave what’s considered the earliest public lecture on computer intelligence, saying, “What we want is a machine that can learn from experience.” He authored a paper in 1950 titled “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” which described a procedure now known as the Turing Test — a method of determining whether or not a computer is capable of thinking like a human.

It would be 64 years before AI would pass the Turing Test — in 2014, a chatbot developed by Russian and Ukrainian programmers convinced all 30 judges at a University of Reading event that it was actually a 13-year-old boy.

Nine years later, chatbot software — now known as Generative AI — has become so advanced, some consider the Turing Test to be obsolete. ChatGPT is the second program to have fooled the judges, officially doing so in summer 2022. In the short time since, it’s only become smarter.

And, now, widely available.

In January, ChatGPT reached 100 million active users just two months after its public launch. By comparison, it took the globally popular TikTok app two and a half years to hit that mark. That same month, Microsoft announced a $10 billion investment into OpenAI (creators of ChatGPT) and an AI-powered Bing homepage. In February, Google joined the race with the introduction of its own “experimental conversational AI service,” Bard.

36 SPRING 2023

“No field is more likely to be affected by these advances than higher education,” writes Ray Shroeder of the University Professional and Continuing Education Association in a February column for Inside Higher Ed . “The ability to generate text, images, music and other media with clarity, accuracy and adaptability is on target to enhance the way we deliver learning and facilitate access to knowledge. A revolution is underway, and I can guarantee that it will touch your workplace in 2023 and beyond.”

The impact on schools like Campbell University is already “huge,” says Sherri Yerk-Zwickl, Campbell’s vice president for information technology and chief information officer. There are concerns — ChatGPT has already passed a bar exam and earned a solid B on University of Pennsylvania Wharton MBA paper, so there’s the legitimate fear that students will use this to cheat or pass AI’s work off as their own. There’s also worry that ChatGPT will make some jobs in customer service, health care and, yes, academia obsolete. And there have already been missteps by universities in using the new tech. Vanderbilt University faced backlash after admitting a condolence post on social media after a mass shooting at Michigan State University was written by AI.

But Yerk-Zwickl, like Bowman, is more interested — and optimistic — about how the technology will improve higher education and the student experience.

“We have existing academic integrity policies that state passing off someone else’s work as your own is not acceptable. But we in information technology also have the responsibility of helping people understand these new programs and become aware of what they can do,” she says. “AI’s been a part of all of our lives and a part of education for a while now, but ChatGPT has kind of made people sit up and take notice. And we’re just scratching the surface of what this technology can do. The genie is already out of the bottle, so we need to help people not only understand its capabilities, but train them to use it in a way that is useful and doesn’t disenfranchise others.”

[Prompt: Professor J.A. Campbell in the early 1900s with glasses and a mustache watching in agony as a building burns down in front of him, with the reflection of the burning building shown in his glasses. Created by Midjourney image-generating software] [Prompt: A black and white dog with one orange eye wearing a Campbell University football jersey. Created by Midjourney]
38 SPRING 2023
[Prompt: An explosion of orange as a young hero looks ahead. Created by Midjourney; artist unknown]

01000110 01100101 01100001 01110010

As is often the case with new technology, students are ahead of the game compared to their professors and the rest of the 30-andolder crowd. According to a January report in Forbes, nearly half of all college students surveyed admitted to using ChatGPT for an at-home test or quiz, and nearly a fourth used the program to write an outline for an essay or research paper.

The same study revealed that roughly three-fourths of all college professors who are aware of ChatGPT are concerned about its impact on cheating, and over a third of them believe the program should be banned from colleges and universities. On the flipside, 5 percent of educators said they’ve used its to help teach a class, and 7 percent have used it to create writing prompts.

Campbell English Professor Elizabeth Rambo says at least two of her students (that she knows of) used it in their research papers last fall, months before it became so widely known. Her colleague Sherry Truffin has seen it, too. Those instances are only going to go up, which has professors on high alert and unarmed when it comes to trusted tools — powered by AI — that can detect AI.

“We have an honor code, and, you know, I’m tired of policing it,” says Truffin. “So when students ask me, ‘But how are you going to know?’ I say that chances are, I’m not. But one of our jobs is to teach critical thinking skills, and they’re not going to develop these and advance by turning in [AI-written] content that simply looks clean enough and close enough.”

Campbell University’s Honor Code has yet to include language concerning Generative AI, but it does state that students should be, among other things, “truthful in all matters” and should “encourage academic integrity among all fellow members of the Campbell community.” Among the actions the University labels as “academic misconduct” are “allowing one’s work to be presented as the work of someone else;” “using words, ideas or information of another source directly without

properly acknowledging that source;” and “inappropriately using technologies in such a manner as to gain unfair or inappropriate advantage.”

When academic misconduct is discovered, it’s up to the faculty member to determine the appropriate course of action. With Generative AI still still in its “Wild West” phase of lawlessness, many are unsure how to punish — or even whether to punish — these violators.

And students aren’t the only ones facing temptation, according to Campbell Psychology Professor Justin Nelson, who co-authored the tech-related paper, “Maladies of Infinite Aspiration: Smartphones, Meaning-Seeking and Anomigenesis,” with a Baylor University colleague in 2022. Faculty members, specifically junior faculty, “already feel the pressure to produce something that only rewards the end goal,” he says.

Cheating isn’t the only fear. Artists, writers and others in creative fields see Generative AI as a threat in their careers. There are similar concerns in the legal and health care professions. Speaking of “legal,” that’s the other big worry — Microsoft and OpenAI are currently facing lawsuits from code-generating AI system Copilot, and AI art programs like Midjourney have been accused of infringing on the rights of artists and photographers whose work they’ve been trained on.

“The problematic side of AI art is that AI can’t actually create; it can only reuse,” says Fuquay-Varina artist Amanda Dockery, whose illustrations have appeared in several recent editions of Campbell Magazine. “The issue for many artists is that it steals art without crediting the artists it uses to generate images. I can understand how that can be frustrating for many artists, but there’s the saying, ‘Good artists copy; great artists steal.’ Art has always involved mimicry or theft in some way.”

Fear of new technology and pessimistic predictions on its effect on mankind are nothing new. Destruction of jobreplacing machines was so prevalent in England during the Industrial Revolution that the act was made a capital offense


Provide an example of the use of a pun in William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”


One example of a pun in Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream can be found in Act 3, Scene 2, when Bottom the Weaver, who has been transformed into a donkey by the mischievous Puck, tries to communicate with his fellow actors who are horrified by his transformation. When asked to speak, Bottom replies: “I bray’d in my sleep last night and I woke up to find my ears transformed into those of an ass.”

Here, Bottom uses the word “bray” to refer to the sound that a donkey makes, while also using it as a pun on the word “braid,” meaning to plait or weave together, which is fitting given his character’s profession as a weaver. This play on words adds a humorous tone to the scene, as the audience realizes the double meaning of Bottom’s words while the other characters are oblivious to it.


After taking an antidepressant for about a week, a patient reports constipation and blurred vision, with no improvement in mood. What should the psychiatricmental health nurse tell the patient?


The nurse should inform the patient that constipation and blurred vision are potential side effects of the antidepressant medication and that these symptoms should be reported to their health care provider. The nurse should also explain that it can take several weeks for the medication to take effect and improve the patient’s mood and that it is important to continue taking the medication as prescribed unless advised otherwise by their health care provider.

[Examples of ChatGPT not only searching for common high school- and college-level test questions, but writing answers out in a coherent fashion.]


—punishable by death — in the early 1800s. The sewing machine, the horseless carriage, the assembly line, the computer, the internet — all of these advances led to fear of human irrelevance in the workplace. A highly publicized Oxford University study in 2013 predicted that half of U.S. jobs would be replaced by artificial intelligence by 2033.

If history is any indication — and it often is — human ingenuity will respond.

For artists and other creatives looking to stay relevant, “survival” will mean learning to adapt and embrace the Generative AI era, says Dockery.

“For some, this is a crippling development, and for others, it will make their career,” she says. “I think the greater challenge for artists is how to see this as a tool to aid in creativity rather than an evil to avoid. The one unique thing that artists bring to the table that AI cannot bring is intentional emotion and life experience.

“As great as AI is, even with all the best words and descriptions entered into it, AI can only imitate these things.”

And as students and the workforce learn to work with AI, professors will learn to adjust their curriculums to not only curb the temptation to cheat, but more importantly, prepare their students to compete in the real world.

“Students are more likely to cheat in high-stakes situations where they are not confident [in their abilities],” says Truffin. “One thing I’m trying to do is develop more low-stakes, build-skills assignments — teaching them to value the processes and steps that go into writing. And certainly in English 101, we want them to develop their skills and their style, become aware of their weaknesses and improve in their writing process.”

“How can we break down what used to be just the ‘end goal,’ to a series of possible assignments that allow us to integrate AI and have conversations about the process?” adds Nelson. “Students need to understand that the process is just as, if not more, important than the end result.”

40 SPRING 2023
[Prompt: A college student wearing an orange sweater walking toward a two-story glass and brick building on a college campus, and the building is being overcome by computer wiring and artificial intelligence. Created by]

01100110 01110101

01110100 01110101

01110010 01100101

It’s another day and another room — this one on the second floor of the Oscar N. Harris Student Union — and another group of faculty and staff are gathered at a table to talk AI. There’s Curriculum Materials Librarian Jennifer Seagraves, (now-retired) Director of Academic Computing Allan Winter and Instructional Technology Consultant David Mulford — all three deal with computing and AI on a daily basis, and all three are both fascinated and curious about this next generation of generative technology.

Mulford wastes absolutely no time getting deep on the subject and bringing up the name Ray Kurzweil, the American scientist, inventor and futurist whose books (published in the 1990s and early 2000s) have tackled the history of AI, his theories on AI development and the thought that machines could one day develop artificial “superintelligence.”

“Ray believes that at some point, you’re going to be able to upload your brain into ‘the Borg’ and live on,” Mulford says. “He calls it the ‘singular singularity.’ But there are philosophers and others who are educated on this who think this is complete bunk. No. 1, we don’t know how to do it, and No. 2, what is the soul? The idea questions what it even means to be alive and human, and I don’t think sentience can form in something that can’t think or feel or perceive things like a human can. Our brains are so much more powerful than an algorithm. Our brains are millions and millions and millions of algorithms working together. And each brain is unique.”

Again, heavy stuff.

But the conversation is fun. It’s insightful. And it’s all brought on by the recent advances in Generative AI and — for them — the impact it’s having on their workplace. But where fears of student cheating and AI-inspired shortcuts made up a big chunk of the conversation in Wiggins Library, this room is more focused on the possibilities (to be fair, optimism did abound in the other group, too).

In just the past few months, attitudes toward Generative AI in higher education have tilted


Create a 65-word reading about frogs at a first-grade reading level (and a sixth-grade level and a senior level).


First grade: Frogs are small animals that live in ponds, rivers, and wetlands. They have long tongues that they use to catch bugs to eat. Frogs lay eggs in the water, and these eggs hatch into tadpoles. Tadpoles are baby frogs that breathe through gills and swim like fish. As they grow, they develop legs and lungs and turn into frogs. Some frogs can change colors to blend in with their surroundings.

Sixth grade: Frogs are amphibians that can live on land and in water. They have smooth skin and long, powerful legs that allow them to jump far and catch prey. Frogs lay their eggs in water, and the eggs hatch into tadpoles that breathe through gills. As tadpoles grow, they develop lungs and legs and transform into frogs. Some frog species are endangered due to habitat loss and pollution.

Senior: Frogs are amphibians that belong to the order Anura. They have smooth, moist skin and powerful legs adapted for jumping and catching prey. Frogs are important indicators of environmental health, and their populations are threatened by habitat loss, pollution, and climate change. Researchers study frogs to better understand their ecological roles and to develop conservation strategies to protect their populations and the ecosystems they inhabit.

Teachers are discovering useful ways to utilize ChatGPT, which can create lesson plans and readings based on the reading level of their students.



Can we call the music, imagery, poetry, literature or anything else generated by artificial intelligence true art?

ALLAN WINTER (musician)

“As long as there are people who are willing to work hard to protect their art, whatever form that takes there, it won’t be entirely supplanted by AI. If you’re talking about a symphony orchestra, where you have 100 people who have dedicated their lives to music, then you’re not just hearing music. You’re hearing a performance. Just listening to something AI generated is not going to give me that experience.”


“The problematic side of AI is that it can’t ‘create,’ it can only ‘reuse.’ The one unique thing that artists bring to the table that AI cannot bring, is intentional emotion, and life experience. As great as AI is, even with all the best words and descriptions entered into it, AI can only imitate these things.”

CHATGPT (artificial intelligence)

“While AI-generated works can possess aesthetic and technical qualities, some argue that true art requires human intention, expression and interpretation. Additionally, art is often viewed as a means of communicating and reflecting human experience, raising questions about whether machines can create art that resonates with human emotions and values. Ultimately, the definition and criteria for art may need to be reevaluated in light of AI’s creative capabilities.”

We asked real humans and a chatbot to tell us their thoughts on the ability of artificial intelligence to create “true art.”

toward the positive. An April poll of higher ed professionals published by EDUCAUSE Review said those who were “optimistic or very optimistic” about the technology in their schools rose from 54 to 67 percent. Neutrality fell from 28 to 18 percent, and those who were “pessimistic or very pessimistic” dropped from 12 to 11 percent.” Over 80 percent felt Generative AI will “profoundly” change higher education in the next five years, and nearly 60 percent said it will make their jobs easier.

Seagraves sees it as a huge asset for librarians, a helpful tool that can help her teach information literacy and information fluency skills to her students and help her assist faculty with new ways to research and use certain databases in their classrooms.

“It gives our faculty the opportunity to make their connections with students stronger,” she says. “Believe it or not, it might make learning more human. Use this as an opportunity to assess your students and leverage AI to make the learning experience more personal to them. I think one of the reasons ChatGPT has triggered all of this conversation in higher education is because this AI can really help students. We have to look at it in that light.”

Winter agrees, calling these programs a “fantastic way” to get students leaning toward “the higher order thinking skills.”

“I think back to when I was a student, and we spent as much time learning how to do a research paper as we did on the subject matter of what our research topic was going to be,” he says. “How much better would it have been if we could have absorbed and synthesized and otherwise learned more of that content matter. Certainly, it’s important to be able to write well and be discerning about what you find in your research process. But at the same time, you have a tool now that presents some possibilities of really approaching those higher order thinking skills in the analysis and the synthesis, and AI can be applied in that regard. And not necessarily just be used by a student to write the paper for them.”

Up in Raleigh, Generative AI and its many debatable legal ramifications has been a hot topic in classrooms at the Norman A. Wiggins School of Law and in the school’s Innovation Institute. Professor Lucas Osborn, an expert

in intellectual property law, says the legal community is trying to keep up with the technology — questions of whether programs trained on other artists’ work that “borrows” from their styles (and even their art) are guilty of copyright infringement have complicated answers and make for great discussions.

But these discussions go far beyond the “what ifs.” Attorneys and other legal professionals see AI as a way of making their jobs easier. For example, if AI can write a clear, accurate legal brief, then why can’t attorneys save time by using a tool like this? Many firms have turned to AI programs like ClearBrief, which is designed to “strengthen legal writing by instantly finding the best evidence in the record to support a legal argument” and runs about $125 a month.

These programs are saving lawyers time and money. They’re also useful for law professors.

“The way we have to write our scholarly articles in law, we usually have to give a bunch of background that we already know. There’s only so many times you can rehash the same background before it gets a little boring and routine,” Osborn said. “So how great would it be to have something where you could say, ‘Hey, give me the overview of this area of law,’ which can save me 20 to 30 minutes? If this thing can craft the first pass of a legal brief, then great, let’s have it do this, and I’ll review it and clean it up.

“If it can save the client money and time, then I see it as a helpful tool. It’s like a calculator, and we should be teaching our students that this technology is out there.”

Admissions departments at colleges and universities across the nation are using AI to rate an applicants’ potential for success based on how they respond to messages (one service claims it’s 20 times more predictive of student success than demographics alone). Other chatbot services stay in constant communication with prospective and accepted students and “nudge” them toward taking the next steps in their enrollment process. Georgia State University is considered a pioneer in the use of admissions chatbots, and its program, “Pounce,” has reduced the number of students who enroll in the spring but fail to show up in the fall by 20 percent since 2016, according to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

42 SPRING 2023

Back on main campus, on the second floor of the library, talk has shifted from the worries to the possibilities. Beeman suggests professors would be paying their students a disservice to outright deny the existence of Generative AI or deny its use in the classroom. Rambo says that despite concerns that students will use it to write papers, perhaps professors can ask students to evaluate AI-generated writing (in turn, AI can evaluate and catch errors in their own writing).

And Nelson suggests that AI will force professors to challenge students to reflect on or critically analyze things — like a classroom discussion — that AI would have no way of knowing. “If I ask them to tell me about a theory of socialization, they can find that anywhere,” he says. “But if I ask them to tell me about how something applies to their own life, then their answers become personal, which AI can’t do.”

Donald Flowers, network security administrator for Campbell’s Information Technology and Security department, has this advice for professors and students: Embrace AI. This is only the start, he says. It’s only going to get better and more useful from here.

“Emphasize the importance of sharing this with our students,” he says. “It’s not going to define who you are, and it’s not going to encourage them to not be who they are, but still … embrace it. Don’t reject it. I don’t know why, but certain generations have a tendency to turn away from something new, because they don’t feel like it will apply to them or they’re not sure about it. But as teachers and mentors, it’s our responsibility to show our students what this is and the right way to use it.”

Yerk-Zwickl agrees — rather than treat AI as a taboo in the classroom, everyone benefits if professors recognize the value in programs like ChatGPT as tools for idea generation. Embracing Generative AI will mean a big shift for some faculty members, she says, and it falls on members of the IT department and library staff to help them along as they figure it out.

“I’m an optimist by nature, so I am optimistic about this,” she says. “But I also try to be realistic about the potential for harm that this can do. I think we, as an institution, need to prepare our students for that world that they’re going to be living in. I think we have a great opportunity to do that. It’s an exciting time to be working in higher education.”

[Generative AI can do some amazing things with digital imagery. Throughout the course of putting together this feature, however, we’ve discovered that it’s not always great at making camels. Here were some of our attempts. All images created using Midjourney]



School’s Rose Center for Peer Mentorship has improved retention and engagement while forming bonds between freshmen, alumni and underclassmen that stretch beyond campus

44 SPRING 2023
story by Billy Liggett photos by Bill Parish and Ben Brown
Rebekah Cheney (‘13 MBA) is the director of annual giving at Western Carolina University and an active participant in the Lundy-Fetterman School of Business’ Mentor Program.


Callie Houck didn’t have any specific goals or career in mind when she chose “business” entering her first year at Campbell University. In fact, she picked business because it meant options after graduation. But ask Houck today what she wants to be in the next five or 10 years, and her answer is clear.

She wants to be Rebekah Cheney.

And, really, who doesn’t? Since earning her trust degree and MBA from Campbell’s Lundy-Fetterman School of Business in 2013, Cheney has combined her business acumen with her desire to serve, working the past decade in philanthropic trust management, nonprofit funding management and higher education advancement in Louisiana, Tennessee and back in her home state of North Carolina. And she’s found time to give back by serving as an alumni mentor in the business school’s Peer Mentor Program, which has connected her with several bright, young students who can benefit from both her professional experience and her time as a Camel.

It’s the program that led her to Houck. The pairing was nothing short of “magical,” according to the junior from tiny Manchester, Maryland. Houck found someone in Cheney she not only clicked with immediately, but someone who truly wanted to see her succeed and pour all she had into the mentor role.

“Like Rebekah, I’m a big people person,” Houck says. “I just love connecting with people. So I see her career and how she connects with others, and I just know I also want to find a community, serve and fill a need … I just want to help people. I don’t know what that looks like in my career just yet, but I know I want to serve.

“So when I say Rebekah is who I want to be in 10 years, I just see the type of person she is, the wisdom and the authenticity she carries and the way she approaches every situation and every person in just the most genuine way. Meeting her, getting to know her and being her friend has just been a blessing.”

It may sound magical, but these successful mentor pairings — the ones that go beyond a semester or an academic year — are the norm in the business school’s program. Launched in 2009, the program was initially the cornerstone of the school’s inaugural on-campus first-year seminar, a freshman course designed to introduce new students to college life and provide encouragement and support. Upperclassmen played the role of mentors, and in 2015, the

curriculum began to evolve to include professional development and leadership training. In 2019, a decade after the launch, the school began inviting alumni mentors to take part.

“I feel like the business school here offers a more holistic program. The education is more than just products and profit; it’s really about purpose,” says Renee Green, director of student success and leadership development for the School of Business. “That’s my passion — growing each person professionally — but you can’t be a strong professional without also being a strong person. I think our faculty are trained to provide knowledge to our students, but these alumni mentors really help in applying what is learned in the classroom. It’s valuable to the overall education our students receive here.”

Each student who begins in the business school takes on a mentor, and the statistics suggest the program is working. According to a recent survey of those who’ve had a peer mentor, 70 percent say they feel “strongly connected” to the school and the business community

46 SPRING 2023
Junior Callie Houck and sophomore Gillian Kitchings connected through the School of Business’ Peer Mentor Program, and Houck’s guidance eventually led to strong friendship. The two continue to mentor freshmen business students in the program.

because of it. Nearly 90 percent say the program helped them grow personally and become more aware, and all of the mentors who’ve taken part have reported a positive impact on their “sense of community and collaboration.”

More importantly, school officials say the program has played a big role in its strong retention rate (over 80 percent, compared to the national rate of 67 percent).

Dean Dr. Kevin O’Mara and Green have presented the success of the program at the University of New Mexico’s Mentoring Institute and at International Mentoring Association conferences.

“It is very rare that a program can impact every single student in a business school in such a memorable way and at such an early stage in a student’s college career,” O’Mara says.

In September, the school announced the establishment and naming of the Rose Center for Peer Mentorship after a generous donation from Meredith and Chandler Rose, the team behind the Rosewood Family of Companies in Raleigh, which provides a full suite of construction, installation, project management and staffing services all over the country. For Meredith Rose, a member of Campbell University’s Board of Trustees, associating with the program aligns with the company’s vision of “multiplying blessings” and providing a work environment that encourages professional growth and a “spirit of excellence.”

The ‘Three-Gen’ Model

According to the School of Business’ peer mentorship program director Renee Green, the “Three-Gen” model is a unique aspect that continues to create connections and strengthen community. “Alumni mentors bring a strong sense of mission and tangible career development advice that benefit the peer mentors and firstyear students; they would not receive that without this program.” Learn more about the Rose Center for Peer Mentorship and how to become an alumni mentor to current students by visiting business at


“We all have something to give, whether it is words, time, knowledge, money or even your influence,” she says. “By giving, you are opening the doors for a young student to have access to new opportunities, to new insights, to learning and to grow and develop themselves. We believe the Rose Center for Peer Mentorship does just this. These mentors take their time, their experience, their knowledge and their connections and share them with the new first-year students to give them the chance to have the most fulfilling first year as possible. What a way to multiply your blessings.”

It’s easy for anybody — especially when they’re younger and figuring out what direction they’re heading — to think of themselves as the “lead character” in the movie that is their life.

Choosing to also take on a supporting role in someone else’s journey takes a little more effort, says Cheney.

“So now Callie is the lead character, so how do I support her? How can I encourage her? What advice can I give her? What if I’m not the right person at this point in her life?” she says. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told Callie, ‘I just want to be meaningful to you.’ I just want to make sure what I’m giving her is what she wants and needs out of this mentor relationship.”

There are three reasons Cheney says she got involved in the Peer Mentor Program. First, she loves Campbell. Second, she loves the School of Business. And third, she loves people. She thinks back to her BADM course as a freshman and the Gallup Clifton Strengths assessment test she took that labeled her a “developer.” Gallup defines developers as “exceptionally talented [at] recognizing and cultivating potential in others.”

A few years ago, after moving back to North Carolina to take the director of annual giving role at Western Carolina University, Cheney decided to accept that “developer” role and take part in the mentor program at her alma mater.

“I take Campbell’s mission of servant leadership very seriously,” she says. “I just think that’s a very beautiful way to live. So when Renee approached me about this opportunity it seemed like a great fit, not only because of my love of Campbell, but to follow that path to become more of who I naturally am.”

If a program like this sticks around long enough, it begins to have a generational impact. Sophomore Gillian Kitchings of Goldston chose accounting for her major because she loves math and liked what she saw in the business school when visiting campus as a high school student. When she learned this major meant she would have a mentor in her first semester, she didn’t know what to expect.

“I met Callie through email first, and immediately, I thought, ‘This girl is going to be a fantastic help to me,’” Kitchings says. “We just clicked right away, and I can say that a year later, we’re still very close. I go to her about a lot of things, and I’ve realized along the way that this is what business school is all about. This is the kind of networking experience that I’m going to have after I graduate. Making those

connections now has made me realize that I’m in the right place, and this is what I’m here for.”

Houck became Kitchings’ mentor, taking a lot of what she learned from Cheney and passing it on to her. The new students aren’t the only ones benefiting from this model — Cheney says she is growing because of her supporting role, and students like Houck and Kitchings are learning valuable leadership lessons serving as guides for incoming students.

“Rebekah’s taught me that everybody’s different, and there are different ways to connect to different people,” Houck says. “In this program, I’ll get five or six freshmen, and they’re all unique. Maybe one is an athlete, and another is an international student. Maybe I have someone who lives 10 minutes from campus and another from out of state. I need to find ways to connect with each of them on a personal level, and I’ll need to use these skills in my career, too.”

A survey of School of Business freshmen in 2021 found that 95 percent of them were positively impacted by the peer mentor in the areas of offering encouragement, supporting the college transition, offering relevant feedback and offering overall support. Nine out of 10 students said they benefited from group discussions, help in navigating their academic process and taking part in a group project.

Last September, 83 percent of students said they felt “connected” to their peer mentor.

“Callie has opened so many doors for me and has helped me realize how many things I can be involved in here,” Kitchings says. “She showed me I can make a name for myself at Campbell and make a difference. It’s just wonderful to have people like her and Rebekah pouring so much into this program. Knowing them and learning from them is the reason I decided to become a mentor, too.”

“It’s a joy seeing these students get the support they’re getting,” adds Cheney. “Because it’s hard being a student and even harder being a young professional. It was hard for me, and I had a great network. But it wasn’t like this. It was nothing like this.”

48 SPRING 2023
“ I’m just really grateful this program exists. It is such a joy to see students like Callie and Gillian get this kind of support, because it’s hard being a student and being a young professional. And it was hard for me. I also had a great network, but it wasn’t like this. It was nothing like this. And so I’m just really grateful to be able to participate. ”
— Rebekah Cheney, 2013 BBA, MBA graduate


Campbell Magazine is your magazine ... and we’re always looking for ways to improve your reading experience. Scan the QR code on this page and please take a few minutes to complete our 20-question survey. Has the magazine kept you better up to date on your alma mater? Has it led you to attend a Homecoming or give back?

Your answers will give us a better understanding of which features work (and which don’t) and what actions it has led to.


Freshman Kaitlyn Facemire’s goal is to become a physician assistant. She says she identifies with the values — like service to others — and mission behind the Lettie Pate Whitehead scholarship. “Scholarships like this can help people [from less fortunate situations] and can help young women succeed in majors that they want to be in.”

50 SPRING 2023


Campbell University is one of 29 schools whose young women have benefited from Lettie Pate Whithead Foundation scholarships since the program launched in honor of the renowned businesswoman and philanthropist in 1954. Four current recipients share their stories.

For the past 69 years, the Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation has been providing annual grants for the education of deserving Christian female students at accredited educational institutions across the Southeast. Today, the Lettie Pate Whitehead Scholarship is awarded to young women with financial need at 195 schools including Campbell University, which was one of the 29 originally involved institutions when the scholarship was launched for schools in 1954.

Since then, the foundation has granted more than $54 million in scholarships to young women at Campbell.

The foundation is named in honor of renowned businesswoman and philanthropist Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans (1874-1953), wife of Joseph B. Whitehead, who found great wealth as one of the original bottlers of Coca-Cola. She took over the bottling business and real estate interests after her husband’s death and became one of the first female directors of any major American corporation when she was appointed to the board of the company

in 1934. She gave generously to educational institutions throughout her life.

Created by her youngest son, Conkey Pate Whitehead, in honor of his mother, the foundation was chartered in 1946 to benefit Christian women in nine states and has since awarded nearly $935 million in grants.

This year, 157 young women enrolled at Campbell are receiving support from the Lettie Pate Whitehead Scholarship. That’s more than 5 percent Campbell’s female population.

“I think it would have been impossible for the Whitehead family to imagine the enormous impact this scholarship would have over time,” said said Carrie Conway, LPWF senior program officer.

“When Conkey Whitehead wrote his last will in 1937, the professional opportunities available to women were very limited, and it was not common for women to achieve higher education. He was ahead of his time in his focus on women’s education. Today, roughly 60 percent of college students in this country are women.”


The Lettie Pate Foundation awards “needbased” scholarships. Many of the recipients fall into that category by way of growing up in a single-parent or foster household, growing up with financial hardships, or having some other circumstances.

“The founding history of the scholarship is rooted in a focus on need-based aid. That’s been our North Star from the beginning,” Conway said. “I’m always struck by the individual stories of scholars overcoming so many obstacles in pursuit of higher education.”

The following section highlights four Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation Scholars who currently attend Campbell University.


From the moment she first visited campus, Kaitlyn Facemire knew Campbell was right for her. She had a 4.2 GPA in high school and “could have attended other schools” but Campbell stood out among her visits.

“It may be a little cliché, but just the sense of community and family that they had on campus; really, it made me feel like this is where I need to be,” she said.

Facemire said she’s very comfortable with Campbell’s modest size and intimate classroom experience.

“Being in the second semester of my freshman year, I have been able to see that play a role in the academics — the family aspect and one-on-one with my professors,” she said. “Last semester, I had Dr. [Karen] Guzman for basic biology, and it was hard. But I got through, because I would go to her office and sit down with her, and she would help me tremendously.”

Facemire is taking classes in kinesiology to one day become a physician’s assistant, but that’s a recent development. She switched her major in March and was shocked by how versatile and applicable the credits she had already gained proved to be.

“I feel like this is where I need to be. And even changing my major, I didn’t realize how far I was on my track for life. So I sat down with my advisor, and I came into Campbell with 25 credits before starting because of high school dual enrollment,” she said.

Facemire’s family has endured adversity for

much of her life, and it’s led to a strong bond between her and her mother, whom she calls her role model. Her father died after a battle with cancer when she was 2, and her mom has raised her as a single parent since.

“She’s been very strong, so just having one strong parent do all that showed me I could do anything,” Facemire said. “My mom has always been there for me and my brother and wants us to do our best.”

Facemire, who is originally from West Virginia and moved to the Chapel Hill area, said she identifies with the Christian values Campbell instills and the Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation’s mission to help young Christian women.

“In my faith journey, I’ve done a lot missions work to rebuild houses in the Appalachian Mountains, which was super fun to me, and I got to meet some really amazing families,” she said. “But some of the [less fortunate] places I’ve been, you go there and you get a sense of — wow, this is their reality.

“Scholarships like this can help people in those situations and can help young women succeed in majors that they want to be in.”


College tuition can be difficult for families who have multiple children graduating high school at roughly the same time. That was the case for Campbell senior Elle Soistmann and her sister, born 16 months apart.

“When we were deciding on colleges, there was an issue with trying to find funding. So that’s a big reason I chose Campbell — because of the help I got from Campbell and the outside help I got from scholarships like the Lettie Pate Whitehead [Scholarship],” Soistmann said.

In fact, both Soistmann girls are Lettie Pate Whitehead recipients. Her sister attends the University of Virginia.

“My family is very appreciative of the Foundation,” she said. “My dad lost his job this past year, so these scholarships really helped us continue, because I was at a place where I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to come back this semester — which was really hard, because I only had one semester left.”

Fortunately, the financial aid she received from the Foundation allowed Soistmann, a communication studies major, to continue.

“We’re both graduating [this spring] and just looking forward to what comes next,” she said.

And what comes next for Soistmann is applying for graduate school, studying communications with a concentration in advocacy and social change.

“I’ve worked a lot with nonprofits in different internships ,and I love what they do. I love helping people to realize they have a voice.”

52 SPRING 2023
Most of the scholarship grants through the Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation support undergraduate higher education, though the organization maintains a special interest in health education. A significant number of grants target students in the medical, nursing and allied health fields like Kara Hardee, a freshman nursing major.

Soistmann said she ideally one day would like to be a communications coordinator or director for a nonprofit organization.

“It’s really a blessing for me to be here at Campbell with the opportunity for a future and have the funding from organizations such as [Lettie Pate Whitehead],” she said.


Kara Hardee had to grow up quickly. Inconsistent parental influence led to her “living in a camper” with her father and taking on a maternal role for her younger siblings.

“It was really hard, because at school I wouldn’t have the nicest things and people would look at you funny. But [at Campbell], no one cares what you’re wearing,” she said. “Nobody’s looking at me differently or picking on me for what I’m wearing.”

Hardee, a freshman nursing major, is a first-generation college student like so many other Lettie Pate Whitehead scholars. Her decision to attend Campbell was initially hard on her father, who wanted her to attend community college close to Newberry, S.C. home and continue to help around the house, but Hardee said “he’s slowly coming around.”

Hardee, who in high school was looking for a school with a good nursing program, had a teacher recommend Campbell.

“She said Campbell was a really good school and that her son went there, and it had a great nursing program,” Hardee recalled. “So I applied and got accepted. Tuition was a little bit on the expensive side, to be honest. But with a lot of financial aid, especially the scholarships that I have earned, including [the Lettie Pate Whitehead Scholarship], it helped me like afford to come here.”

The Lettie Pate Whitehead Scholarship has historically made a large investment in nursing education to support students just like Hardee , a fact that was not lost on her.

“If Mrs. Whitehead was a alive today, I would thank her for giving me the opportunity to receive a scholarship in this career she cared about,” she said.

“My family is very appreciative of the Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation,” said senior Elle Soistmann. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to come back this semester, which was really hard, because I only had one semester left.”


Shavannah Cartagena is a junior communications major who has a concentration in converged media, broadcasting and electronic media. Her major tells the story of exactly what she wants to do in her career, and Campbell already offers her the platform to do it.

“Right now I work for the AV/IT department,” Cartagena said. “So I do a lot of the streams for all the athletics on campus on ESPN, and now I’m working with athletics on content creation.”

She didn’t have her career aspirations figured out until well into her Campbell experience, but the immersive opportunities the program offered helped Cartagena find her calling.

“[Campbell] has a really good communications department,” she said. “It helped me want to be in the industry I’m in now. Before I just wanted to be a journalism major and maybe work for a fashion magazine. But my friend put me on to this on-campus streaming platform they do for sports, and I found out that this is cool.”

Like so many of her peers, Cartagena entered college with an advanced level of self-sufficiency due to childhood circumstances.

“I was raised by my grandmother. I didn’t really have my father in my life — not for a reason where, like, he left. He’s Hispanic, and there was a certain situation where he got deported,” she said. “My mother passed when I was very young. So I kind of had the mindset of having to solve things on my own. I felt that kind of made me driven to do certain things and always be the best at whatever I do at Campbell.”

Cartagena, a native of St. Pauls, North Carolina, expressed gratitude for the opportunity the Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation has given her.

“I think if [Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans] was alive today, she would be very happy with the progress of women,” she said. “We’re striving for what we want, and we’re taking the necessary steps to get there, as difficult as it may be. The Foundation really helps with that process.”

Shavannah Caragena says that if Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans was alive today, she would be “very happy” with the progress of women. “We’re striving for what we want, and we’re taking the necessary steps to get there.” 55% OF CAMPBELL UNIVERSITY’S STUDENT POPULATION IS MADE UP OF WOMEN 157 CURRENT CAMPBELL STUDENTS BENEFIT FROM THE LPWF SCHOLARSHIP

Find the Book

“Oreo The Token Black Kid,” written by 2010 Campbell University graduate Cranston Gittens, can be found on sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble ($18.99), and more information on Gittens, his work and his life can be found online at

“not Black enough,” depending on the social setting.

“People look at the title of my book and ask, ‘Why do you use those words?’ and I tell them it’s because I’m trying to tear down stereotypes,” Gittens says. “I use that title because despite the discrimination I faced, I learned to persevere, reach my dream and keep a passion for life.”


Persevere and dream

He grew up in a predominantly white community in Long Island, New York, and fell in love with a sport that was dominated by white athletes at the time. And when he chose to attend Campbell University in 2006, he still felt very much in the minority as a young Black man in a small, rural school in the South.

These experiences made Cranston Gittens (’10) the man he is today — a respected teacher and coach in Washington, D.C., and now a published author whose experience as “the outsider” is told in his book, “Oreo the Token Black Kid.” Gittens returned to Buies Creek in February — nearly 13 years after he last stepped foot on campus — to promote his book, tell his story and answer questions from students and faculty who gathered in the Oscar N. Harris Student Union’s theater for the first in a series of diversity development events hosted by Campbell’s Multicultural Council.

Gittens wrote his book during the pandemic as a way to deal with his isolation and to come to terms with his experiences and how they shaped his thoughts and attitudes toward race. He calls “Oreo” a book about accepting who he is and discovering his path to achieve what he always believed to be “the American dream.” It was a cathartic testimonial of sorts for a young man who’s been told he’s either “too Black” or

Returning to Campbell — and speaking inside a student union that didn’t exist when he was a student — presented some unexpected nerves as he took the microphone in front of roughly 30 students and faculty gathered to hear him talk. Speaking in public wasn’t the issue, but talking in front of some of the professors who helped shape him (specifically Dr. Tiago Jones, associate professor of Spanish, who is mentioned in the book) caused a few jitters.

Gittens overcame those butterflies and jumped right into his life — the son of South American immigrants who moved to Long Island in the 1970s. His mother became a special education teacher, so school was always a priority in their home. His father left when he was young, so Gittens and his three siblings grew up in a single-family home while his mother worked two jobs in addition to teaching. He wound up dropping out of high school and considered working full time while a teen to help at home, but his mother convinced him to stick with school.

54 SPRING 2023
Alumnus’ memoir shares his story of being different, overcoming stereotypes and finding his passion
Photo courtesy of Cranston Gittens

Beyond high school, she wanted her son to go to college. And after one visit to Buies Creek, she wanted him to attend Campbell University.

“My first impressions as it was small, and maybe I wanted something bigger,” he recalls, “but my mom looked at me and said, ‘This is the place.’ I told her I didn’t see many Black people, and she said that was OK. ‘You will make it work. I promise.’”

Gittens dedicates three chapters in “Oreo” to his Campbell experience — the first about his arrival and the professors and tutor who guided him, the second about joining the wrestling program and the impact Coach Billy Greene and fellow wrestler Richie Apolinar had on him, and the third about his best friend and teammate Fred Chadwick (“Fredwreck”) and the lessons he learned from their bond.

While race and discrimination are prevalent in his book, Gittens’ never considered his Campbell experience to be a negative one. His book is written in three parts — the first 10 chapters go into his background and culture, the struggles of growing up in a single-family home and his decision to return to school. Chapters 11-13 introduce the college years, a time that more than anything shaped his desire to become a teacher and a coach. It’s the final part — chapters 14-20 — that go into racial stereotypes, the discrimination he faced and his eventual decision to move to Washington, D.C., to chase his dream.

“I teach at a private high school, and I’m the only Black English teacher there and one of three

overall,” says Gittens, a former Teacher of the Year at a previous school, where he also coached multiple state champion wrestlers. “And I teach a class called ‘Minority Voices,’ so when I took the job, I was a little hesitant at first, because I didn’t want people to think, ‘He’s only teaching here because it’s a class called Minority Voices.’ What’s he going to teach me, right?

“But where I teach, it’s a diverse school, and D.C. is very diverse. It’s important that our teachers represent the student body and look like them, and what I’m teaching is very important to our students’ overall education. Positive Black role models in America come in many forms and have the power to influence our young Black students. I’m doing what I love, and I feel like I’m living the American dream. I just want to share my journey with others.”

After his testimonial, Gittens sat down with Dr. Michelle Perez, associate vice president for student success, who facilitated an audience Q&A. He said even 13 years after his Campbell experience, he still recommends the school to his students because of the positive impact it had on him.

“I tell all of my students they should look at Campbell,” he says. “It’s a smaller school, but the people understand you and care for you. That goes for Black students, too. I walk around on campus now, and I love to see there are more minority students here. It brings joy to my heart, because I know they will be taken care of really well.”


DR. STEPHEN R. PICKARD (‘71) retired as an educator having been a teacher’s assistant, classroom teacher, and consultant in areas of leadership and adjunct professor. Pickard served eight years as a national board examiner for what was known as the National Accreditation of Teacher Education.

MICHAEL RAYNOR (‘79) released his new book “Shakers and Movers: FaithBusiness Preneurs,” which can be purchased on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

LEANN RIGGSBEE (‘79) retired from a career in the insurance wholesale brokerage field in Texas, North Carolina and Georgia. She has moved to Haw River, North Carolina and is loving retirement.



GEORGE “ROBBY” HICKS (’90 LAW) became Cumberland County’s first Republican elected to the county’s Superior Court bench in November and was sworn in on Jan. 1. Hicks first became a prosecutor for the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office in 1994.

LT. COL. RONALD FOLEY (’90, ’95 PHARMD) retired from the U.S. Army after a fourdecade career as a military pharmacy clinician. He retired as pharmacy clinician manager for the United States Army.

Cranston Gittens answers questions from Dr. Michelle Perez, students and faculty at a Black History Month presentation on his story and his book, “Oreo: The Token Black Kid,” at the Oscar N. Harris Student Union in February. Photo by Evan Budrovich.


DR. PETE CAMPBELL (’91 EDD) published a book, “Temperament and Psychological Type Approaches in Clinical Social Work with Individuals,” which studies approaches and interventions that are applied in clinical and social work practices. Campbell is a retired clinical social worker, family therapist and professor.

GLEN PIERCE (’92) was honored with the prestigious President’s Award by the Middle Atlantic Section of PGA of America. Pierce is director of golf at Heron Ridge Golf Club and Virginia Beach National Golf Club in Virginia Beach, Va. Pierce played golf while a student at Campbell from 1987-1992. He was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2006 and has been actively involved in the MS Society, working tirelessly to encourage fellow patients to not give up and keep working hard.

DR. HERNAN MORALES (‘94) obtained his doctoral degree in Business Administration in August 2022 from Florida International University.

BRYAN CHADWICK (’95) was named town administrator for Archer Lodge, North Carolina. Chadwick started his 22-year career in government as a police officer before moving into management. He has been town manager for Indian Beach, Topsail Beach and Newport, all in North Carolina.

SCOTT CONRAD (’96 LAW) was appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper as District Court Judge to Judicial District 25, serving Burke, Caldwell and Catawba counties. Conrad is the solo practitioner at the Law Office of Scott D. Conrad PC and serves as town attorney for the Town of Maiden.

Passing the gavel

Ben Thompson guided Campbell University through some of its best moments as chairman of the Board of Trustees — the inauguration of a new president; the launch of an engineering school and the state’s first medical school in 35 years; numerous new academic programs; significant growth in athletics and the construction of a

new campus centerpiece (the Oscar N. Harris Student Union) in 2020. He also helped guide Campbell through the pandemic, arguably one of the most challenging stretches of the University’s 136-year history.

Thompson’s decade-long tenure as chairman ended on Dec. 31, though the two-time Campbell graduate who was a member of the charter class of the Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law from 1976 to 1979 says he will remain an active member of the board, which he has served on since 2004. Named a Distinguished Alumnus in 2010, Thompson has been partner and chairman of the Litigation Practice Section at Wyrick Robbins Yates & Ponton LLP in Raleigh since 1997. Prior to that, he practiced law in Harnett County for 18 years.

After he “passed the gavel” to new chairman Gene Lewis, Thompson sat down for a lengthy interview to talk about his time on the board, Campbell’s growth, his experiences with three

56 SPRING 2023
After a full decade as chairman of the Board of Trustees, Ben Thompson talks about successes and his biggest influence
Photo by Ashley Stephenson

of Campbell’s five presidents and what the future holds for himself and his alma mater. Full interview available at

You’ve been a part of the Board of Trustees for 16-plus years and its chairman for 10 of those. Looking back, what has stood out the most to you in your time on the board and leading it?

Ben Thompson: What’s really stood out to me is the development of our health science programs — anchored by the medical school and certainly our physician assistant and physical therapy and nursing programs, which followed the success that the pharmacy program has had for the last 30-plus years.

I think [former president] Dr. Jerry Wallace was very innovative in his thinking and his vision for these programs. Health sciences was an underserved area in this state, and we knew that Campbell could play a role in addressing those concerns. I’m extremely proud of the success of the health science programs, our School of Nursing and those beautiful buildings on Highway 421. They are a wonderful addition, both in terms of programs and facilities to Campbell.

Can you provide a “peek behind the curtain” of what a board of trustees’ function is and what the chairman’s role is?

Thompson: The board of trustees, generally, is the fiduciary body of the university and has oversight responsibility for developing policies and best practices. The administration is charged with the responsibility for carrying out those policies and practices.

I think that the Board of Trustees at Campbell has evolved tremendously in the last 20 years, and it has become a more integral part of the governing process of Campbell. That’s consistent with what I see at other universities and other organizations. I think that generally members of a board of trustees have come more aware of the legal responsibilities.

The most difficult thing, really, is to strike the appropriate balance between oversight and administration. It’s very important that we don’t blur the lines. It’s not the board’s responsibility to engage in the day-to-day operations at Campbell when we have very capable people here doing just that. So, the Board establishes the policies that we expect the administrative officers to carry out, and the administration has done an excellent job doing that.

One of the things we’ve done in the last two years

is look critically at the way the board is organized and how committees are structured. We focused on making sure that each member of the Board of Trustees more thoroughly understands the role of serving in a fiduciary capacity as it relates to the university governance, and the role of Board committees working with the administration. That means enrollment, planning for future facilities and strategic planning as it relates to programs. It’s become a more collaborative process, and I believe the Board structure is working very well.

What was the biggest influence Dr. Wiggins had on you? It seems he not only left a legacy at Campbell, but he had quite an impact on your life.

Thompson: Well, I wouldn’t be a lawyer if it wasn’t for Dr. Wiggins. My father got sick when I was a senior in college — when I was looking at law schools — and in my first year of law school, he passed away. And with my father’s health being a real concern at the time, we were unsure there was going to be money for me to even attend law school. But I remember the statement Dr. Wiggins made to me at then — “There’s a law school for you somewhere.” Of course, he knew that school would be Campbell, and it hadn’t dawned on me at the time [because the law school had not been formed], because quite frankly, I was focused on going somewhere else.

But anybody who’s worked with Dr. Wiggins knows that if he has his mind set to do something, there’s no stopping him. And I think it was very obvious from the beginning that Dr. Wiggins was going to be the driving force — along with Dean Larry Davis — behind making that law school a success.

There used to be a joke at the law school in those early that that nobody wanted to leave the library at night while Dr. Wiggins’ car was still parked outside of his office. And that got more and more difficult, because I’d leave the library at about 11 at night, and Dr. Wiggins’ car would still be there. Now, little did I know — and I didn’t find this out until many years later — that Dr. Wiggins routinely went home in the afternoon to take a nap before coming back. That’s something we law students didn’t have the chance to enjoy.

But he just had this presence. It’s like those old E.F. Hutton commercials — “When E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen.” That’s how it was with Dr. Wiggins. I never had any question the law school was going to be successful. And when it was time for our first class to take the bar exam, we were prepared, and the results reflected that. The law school has done an excellent job of training lawyers in North Carolina and throughout the country.

BEN LUCAS (‘05) is a senior vice president, credit officer and the manager of the Small Business Department at First Bank, a $12 billion community bank with 118 branches in North Carolina and South Carolina. Lucas has been with First Bank in Sanford, North Carolina since 2013. He is married to Martha Franklin Lucas and has two beautiful daughter, Brinkley and Chesley

DR. MEGHAN KAMRADA PRYOR (’08) was named to The Roanoker Magazine’s 40 Under 40 list in 2022. Kamrada is a clinical pharmacist at the Carilion Clinic at Roanoke Memorial Hospital. She’s currently pursuing a master’s degree in public health with a concentration in health care policy and management from California-Berkeley.


WILLIAM MARTIN (’09 PHARMD) was selected for promotion to commander in the U.S. Navy and will transfer this summer to serve as Officer in Charge of the Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Unit in California.


JONATHON SHATTUCK (‘10, ‘16 MDIV) accepted a job as senior pastor at Grove Park Baptist Church in Clinton, North Carolina.

DAWN BATTISE (‘10) and her husband Stephen announced the adoption of their sons, Richard (6) and Ezel (3) on Sept. 6. Dr. Battise is an associate professor of pharmacy and was promoted to director of pharmacy skills lab at Wingate University School of Pharmacy this year.


RYAN “CHILI” DAVIS (’11) delivered a presentation at the 2023 American Football Coaches’ Association convention in Charlotte. Davis played cornerback for the Camels from 2008-2011 and was named a coordinator at Florida A&M University in 2022.

MELISSA HUBBARD (’11 MSA) was named principal of Clayton High School in Johnston County. Hubbard is in her 26th year of working in education, most recently serving as principal of Archer Lodge Middle School.

TYLER BRITTON (’11, ’14 LAW) was honored with a $25,000 gift from the Trust Education Foundation to establish the J. Tyler Britton and Family School of Business Trust Endowed Scholarship Fund during the 32nd annual Trust Advisors Forum in Pinehurst. The scholarship will benefit students of the trust and wealth management program, the nation’s first and only undergraduate degree program of its kind. Britton serves as director of the Master of Trust and Wealth Management program at Campbell.

MEGHAN LOCK (’12 LAW), the assistant district attorney in Caswell County, was certified as a Specialist in State Criminal Law by the N.C. State Board of Legal Specialization. In 2022, she was featured on an episode of NBC’s Dateline titled “The Day the Music Died,” which examined a murder case in Asheville that she successfully prosecuted.

58 SPRING 2023
ANNA PARKER JACKSON (’22) and LANCE JACKSON (‘22) were married in Wilmington, North Carolina, on May 21, 2022, a week after graduating from Campbell. They met in high school and came to campus together. ALEXANDER WILLIAMSON (’19) and Caitlin Ingram were married on June 26, 2021. Alex proposed to Caitlin in Denver on a rooftop suite during the Botanical Gardens Christmas Lights. CAROLINE SALM (’20, ’22), a rotational colleague at Pfizer Pharmaceutical, is engaged to QUINTON FOSTER (’21), who works for Pilkington Glass. They were engaged in 2022 on the highest reachable peak in Bonaire.

KEVIN FRANEY (’12) was named head golf professional at Meadow Brook Golf Club in Reading, Mass. Prior to the new role, Franey was lead assistant golf professional at Ferncroft Country Club, where he ran more than 50 annual events, provided golf instruction and managed and trained golf staff.

HUNT WILLIS (’13 LAW) was named a shareholder of the Raleigh firm Martin & Jones PLLC. Willis has been with the law firm since 2013. Prior to his role, he was commissioned as a U.S. Army officer and served during the Iraq War.

A.J. ARTIS (’15) was named strength and conditioning coach at Georgia Tech University in December. Artis previously was director of strength and conditioning at the University of South Florida. He began his career as a strength and conditioning intern at Campbell while a student. He also played tight end and wide receiver.

MARY ANN MATNEY (’17 LAW) was named the new director of competitive advocacy for Campbell Law School. Matney, a welldecorated advocate, took over Campbell Law’s award-winning program for Interim Director Dan Tilly, who also serves as the law school’s associate dean for academic affairs.

HEATHER BAKER MCGANN (’19) married Bryan McGann on June 2, 2019. The couple have a daughter, Mika Jade, born in June 2021. Heather began her job as a resource nurse in the emergency department at Central Harnett Hospital in Lillington in January of 2022.

GERALD “LUKE” QUINN (’22) and MADISON WARREN QUINN (’21) were engaged in April 2021 and were married on Dec. 18, 2021. Luke works at Wells Fargo in Winston-Salem as an associate fiduciary specialist. Madison works at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist as a recruitment marketing specialist. REV. AMY MCCLURE (’13 MDIV) married Dr. Karen Brown on April 2, 2022, at First Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, where Amy serves as associate pastor. CHELSEA LARIMORE (’19) married Zachary Larimore on Oct. 8, at a gun range in Ashburn, Va.. Also pictured is Chelsea’s son, Eli Tiberius, born on Sept. 26, 2015.


SHANIQUA SIMUEL (’19 MSPH) started a wholefood meal preparation program in Asheville, North Carolina, called Change Your Palate, to address food insecurity with those who have Type 2 diabetes or hypertension. While at Campbell, Simuel worked with the Harnett County food pantry and helped people with those conditions who were willing to be part of her research for the meal kits.

ELLIOTT ANDREWS (’19 LAW) joined the Raleigh law office of Hall Booth Smith PC, the firm announced in February. Andrews represents long-term care facilities, physicians, insurance carriers and businesses through all stages of litigation in aging services, business litigation, general liability and medical malpractice matters.


JESSICA SCHAVONE (’21 PA) started her career as a physician assistant with WakeMed Urogynecology.

Prior to attending Campbell, she was a certified dermatology technician at Southern Dermatology in Raleigh.

BRITTANY EVANS JACKSON (’21) started her career in nursing as a clinical nurse at Duke Raleigh Hospital’s emergency department.

HOPE IRWIN (’21 PA) married Stephen Chan on Jan. 7, 2022, and started a job as an advanced practice provider with Alteon (now USACS) at Virginia Hospital Center’s emergency department in Arlington, Virginia, three days after her wedding.

He laid the foundation

Campbell loses its all-time winningest men’s basketball coach and former Basketball School director at 88

Danny Roberts, a 2003 inductee into the Campbell Athletics Hall of Fame who led Campbell’s men’s basketball and golf teams to national prominence, passed away on Feb. 5 at the age of 88.

A former two-sport athlete at Campbell, Roberts led the Camels to the 1977 NAIA men’s basketball title game and through the program’s transition to the NCAA Division I level. He served as head men’s basketball coach of the Camels from 1969 through 1983 and guided the program to 233 victories, most ever among Campbell Basketball coaches.

Roberts led the team to four 20-win seasons through 1977, then guided Campbell through its first six years as a Division I independent. He was a three-time Coach of the Year and was director of the Campbell Basketball School from 1969-83.

He also served as head golf coach from 196369 — leading his squad to national top five finishes three times. After leaving his basketball responsibilities, he returned to coach the golf team from 1983-87.

More than the accolades, however, Roberts will be remembered for the impact he had on the young men he coached and mentored.

“Coach Danny Roberts had a tremendous impact on my life as a player, a student and as a young man,” said Campbell Hall of Famer Fred Whitfield (’80), president, vice chairman, alternate governor and minority owner of the Charlotte Hornets. “Coach gave me an opportunity in life when I needed it, and he impacted so many young people in positive ways through the Campbell basketball camp, the varsity team and throughout the community and across the region.

“He was a second father to me, and I loved him dearly. He will truly be missed.”

A native of Siler City, Roberts was an all-state performer in both baseball and basketball in high school. His long and fruitful association with Campbell began in 1953 when he enrolled to play basketball and baseball. After earning his associate’s degree, he went on to Pfeiffer College and graduated with a degree in physical education in 1957. He served two years in the U.S. Army, then earned his master’s degree from the University of North Carolina in 1959.

60 SPRING 2023
Danny Roberts (right), shown going over a plays at a basketball practice in 1979, is Campbell University’s all-time leader in basketball wins with 233 during his career, including a 1977 appearance in the NAIA title game.

Roberts began his coaching career at the junior high and high school level before returning to Campbell in 1963 to become assistant basketball coach to Fred McCall and head golf coach. His golf teams were outstanding in the 1960s. He was three times named NAIA District 29 coach of the year and guided the Camels to 12 tournament titles plus three NAIA top-five finishes in an eight year span.

“I still have a letter that Coach Roberts sent to me on Feb. 24, 1967, telling me that Campbell was a perfect fit for me,” said Sam Brewer (’71), a Campbell Hall of Famer and former golf AllAmerican. “I went to Campbell because of him. His way of dealing with his players helped make us grow and become champions. It was an incredible experience participating on this team he put together. A common comment that I’ve heard from teammates after reflecting on his passing is what a Christian man he was. They remembered.”

Roberts took over for McCall as head men’s basketball coach during the 1968-69 Christmas break. Not only did he guide the Camels to 233 wins over the next 15 seasons, but he served as director of the Campbell Basketball School, which at the time was the nation’s oldest and largest summer basketball camp.

Three times chosen as NAIA basketball District 29 coach of the year and Area 5 coach of the year in 1970, Roberts led the Camels to a pair of NAIA national tournament appearances in 1970 and 1977. The 1977 squad made history by becoming the first unseeded team in NAIA history to reach the finals.

He guided the Camels to double-figure win totals in five of the program’s first six years as an NCAA Division I member — all while competing as an independent. He retired from college basketball coaching two years before the Big South Conference played its inaugural season (1985-86).

Fellow Campbell Hall of Famer and current senior associate of athletics Wanda Watkins (’79) called Roberts “legendary” and said he laid the groundwork for Campbell’s transition into Division I athletics.

“His many sacrifices and hard work paved the way and laid the foundation for all who experience the success of Campbell Athletics as it is today,” Watkins said. “He touched the lives of so many; those he taught, coached and mentored over the years.

“He will forever be in our hearts and his memory will live on as we cling to our lasting and cherished memories of him always.”

J. ALEX PULLY (’14 LAW) was appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper to serve as a district court judge in Judicial District 3B, serving Carteret, Craven and Pamlico counties. He is pictured with his brother, WILLIAM PULLY (’15 LAW) and his father, BILL PULLY (’79 LAW); all three men from the Pully family have earned a Campbell Law degree.

ALLISON HILLIARD (’21 DPT) started her career as a pediatric physical therapist at Now We’re Talking Pediatric Therapy in Garner.

Danny Roberts not only coached basketball alongside some of the greatest ever, he also coached a nationally ranked golf program from 1983-87.

ERIN BASINGER (’22 MBA, LAW) was named senior executive vice president and chief counsel officer at Guess & Co. Corporation in Raleigh, the company announced in December. In the role, Basinger is responsible for managing all legal affairs and legal exposure for the corporation.

CONNOR DENNING (’22) was signed by the Tri-City ValleyCats, a professional independent baseball team based in Troy, New York. Denning his 24 home runs and drove in 99 RBI in two full seasons at Campbell. He earned first-team All Big South Conference honors as a senior in 2022.


GAYLORD PERRY (1938-2022)

Model of durability

Gaylord Perry, a two-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher who won 314 games and struck out 3,534 batters over his 22-year professional career and an inaugural member of Campbell Athletics’ Hall of Fame, died on Dec. 1 at his home in Gaffney, South Carolina. He was 84 years old.

Perry attended then-Campbell College from 1958 to 1960 in between stints as a Minor League pitcher in the Texas League. He was called up to the majors at the age of 23 with the San Francisco Giants in 1962, where he pitched in 13 games and compiled a 3-1 record as a rookie. He would go on to become one of the most durable and unique characters in the sport, known for his “spitball” and a deep arsenal of pitches.

A native of Williamston, North Carolina, Gaylord Jackson Perry and his older brother Jim grew up on a tobacco farm and learned to pitch during breaks while working in the fields. Both were star pitchers in high school and both signed to play professional ball straight out of high school — Jim in 1956 with the Indians’ farm system and Gaylor in 1958 with the Giants.

The two would go on to become the first (and still only) brothers to win a Cy Young Award, and their 529 combined wins is second only behind Phil and Joe Niekro’s 539.

The farm boy

Gaylord and Jim Perry grew up on a tobacco farm in Martin County and worked the fields as young as 7 years old to help the family. When not working, the boys turned to sports — Gaylord was a three-sport athlete in high school.

“At 6’4” and about 200 pounds, he was an imposing figure, and he had a blazing fastball. Talent wise, he was in another league,” fellow pitcher Parker Chessons told The North State Journal

Jim Perry, who joined his brother as the first two Campbell Athletics Hall of Famers in 1984, released a statement on his brother’s passing:

“As I think about the passing of my brother, I am reminded of the many good times we shared. Growing up together on the farm, we made up a homemade ball and learned the game of baseball playing with our Dad during noontime breaks from picking tobacco. We were both proud to attend Campbell as we transitioned from high school to the professional ranks.

“As his big brother, I tried to set a good example for Gaylord and I was proud to see him follow in my footsteps and to watch him forge such a great career. In the major leagues, it seemed that we often pitched on the same day and one of the greatest days in both of our careers came the same day Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon. I won two games on the same day and Gaylord hit his first career home run!

“We were the first brothers to pitch against each other in the All-Star game, the first to both win 20 games in the same season, and the only brothers to both win the Cy Young Award. We took pride in our durability and perseverance in finishing what you started during a time when that was considered the mark of a great pitcher.

“My brother was a true character and ambassador of the game. He will be missed. My wife, Daphne, and I send our heartfelt condolences to Gaylord’s children as we share the grief of his many fans and supporters.”

62 SPRING 2023
Baseball loses a ‘true character and ambassador of the game;’ half of most successful brother pitching duo
Photo: Cleveland Indians


Medicine & Ministry

Johnnie and Colon Jackson have not only been longtime supporters of Campbell University, they have experienced the value of a Campbell education through children and extended family members who have graduated and gone on to successful careers.

Johnnie is a licensed nutrition counselor and a registered dietitian who holds a master’s degree in Christian education from Campbell Divinity School. A 2006 graduate, she went on to establish a faith-based private practice, Health and Hope Matters, credentialed through Blue Cross and Blue Shield. She serves others through both a theological and a medical background, offering support for both physical and spiritual healing for her clients. Joining her husband in his ministry career, Johnnie was also able to work with him in the many churches he served over the years.

Following a meaningful 25-year career as a Navy Chaplain, Colon Jackson continued his ministry across North Carolina in several churches — Emerald Isle Baptist, First Baptist Erwin, First Baptist Dunn, Garland Baptist, Jonesboro Heights in Sanford and Calvary Baptist in Beaufort. He served First Baptist Erwin early in his ministry and retired after serving First Erwin again 50 years later. He was a marriage and family therapist, a diplomat in the American Psychotherapy Association and an adjunct instructor teaching both education and psychology courses. He was a former Campbell trustee, a strong advocate for the University and a huge Campbell Athletics fan.

Colon Jackson passed away nearly two years ago, still sorely missed among his family, friends and colleagues.

I had the honor of working with Colon and Johnnie on their philanthropy for several years. They had a particular interest in being the best

stewards of the blessings they received. As they neared retirement, they had the overall goal of structuring a steady income stream as part of their financial planning. This planning included creating two charitable gift annuities which have been a tremendous help financially. They have appreciated the fixed income payments their annuities have provided, despite the current challenging market conditions.

“As we got older, we realized we may not have as many years left to ride the financial wave,” Johnnie said. “Anyone considering an annuity with Campbell can know that it is an investment that will benefit both your own future financial goals as well as the future of Campbell and the students.  It is an option that is a win for you and a win for Campbell.”

In addition to their annuities, Johnnie and Colon established the Dr. Colon Jackson and Johnnie Lamm Jackson Endowed Divinity Scholarship Fund. Many have given memorial gifts to the scholarship in Colon’s honor, and Johnnie continues to be thankful.

Secure Act 2.0

With recent changes in the charitable giving law — the Secure Act 2.0 — there are now more creative ways to both provide retirement income and reduce taxes. The option to create a Charitable Gift Annuity through an IRA rollover is new for 2023. To learn more email Peter Donlon at


Campbell University lost an alumna and a longtime friend on March 18 with the passing of

MCGAHA (’15) at the age of 29. Shortly after earning her degree from Campbell, the Brevard native returned to her alma mater to serve as senior admissions counselor. In her role, McGaha made many students feel at home at Campbell, and she built lasting friendships with admissions counselors both in Buies Creek and from other universities. She moved back to her hometown in 2020 to work for Skyterra Wellness Retreat in

Forest. Her greatest joy in life was her dog, Copper, whom she rescued from an animal shelter in 2019. A faithful believer of Jesus Christ, McGaha was memorialized at a service at Biltmore Church in Brevard.



(’72) already had a nursing degree when she arrived at Campbell College in the late 60s to study English. She would become features editor for the Pine Burr yearbook and work for the Creek Pebbles newspaper while a student before earning her bachelor’s degree. She combined her two loves to become a teacher at the Watts School of Nursing, and she earned her master’s degree in counseling from Duke University in 1977. The mother of two authored a book, “Quick Reference to Critical Care Nursing” through Lippincott publishing in 1983 while a full-time mother. She died on Feb. 6 in Chapel Hill at the age of 75. According to son Brian, she looked back very fondly on her years at Campbell and was elated when he followed in her footsteps two decades later.

After career of service, stewardship and healing, Jackson family supports future Divinity students through scholarship
Longtime Campbell University supporters JOHNNIE JACKSON (’06 MDIV) and the late Colon Jackson established the Dr. Colon Jackson and Johnnie Lamm Jackson Endowed Divinity Scholarship Fund. Pisgah

When the kid finally wins

The day many dads know is coming — yet fear nonetheless — will arrive for me soon. Much sooner than I ever expected. I’m going to try like hell to stave it off, but I discovered recently that when it does arrive, it’s not going to be nearly as depressing as I thought.

I’m referring to, of course, the day I lose in a sport — really, any kind of competition that doesn’t require chutes and/or ladders — to one of my kids.

It nearly happened last month. In pickleball. Yes, this was the first time I ever played it (although, I’ve played a lot of tennis, ping pong and whiffle ball in my life, so I got the gist of it). And yes, I was coming off a three-day mancold that kept me in bed and away from human contact before playing. The excuses were there. And I still took the first set rather easily, 5-1 (we played short games).

But that second set. My daughter plays middle school tennis, and she’s not bad at the sport, if I may say. She summoned the power of all that he has learned to send me on a gauntlet of a second set that had me running side to side, reaching uncomfortably for short lobs and dashing unsuccessfully for cross-court smashes.

I lost the second set, 5-3. To my kid. In a game that I really tried to win. Sure, I ran the table in the third and decisive set, but the damage was done. And she could tell. My wife was thrilled for her, despite the vows she proclaimed to me 20 years earlier saying she’d always take my side until death do us part. Her little brothers were even happy for her, possibly because they saw the dent in the armor. Dad wasn’t invincible — that’s something they could surely expose in the coming years.

Speaking of the boys — they’ve both taken an interest in chess, thanks to a program in their elementary school that lets them learn from a coach and play classmates after school or during lunch. Their old man is a big fan of the game, and according to his online record against evenly matched foes, he’s not entirely terrible at it. I have roundly whipped both of them in every game of chess we’ve played at home for the last two months. Already, though, the checkmates are taking longer to arrive. Already, they’re learning my habits — catching set-up moves and not taking the bait when I dangle a bishop just so I can slide in with a queen two plays later. They haven’t beaten me yet, but they’re also 11 and 9.

The day is coming, and soon.

I never got to experience the joy of taking down a parent for the first time. My dad was an athlete through high school and even in the military, and I remember going to see him play in rec softball and volleyball leagues growing up. Of course, these were beer leagues — the volleyball court shared the same roof of an actual bar — but I still watched in awe when I saw him stretch out a double or spike a ball.

But volleyball and softball aren’t really sports you can “best” a single opponent at. You can become better than them, but unless you’re playing oneon-one in either sport, you’re out of luck.

By the time I hit high school, he’d already begun a decades-long battle with bad backs, bad legs and the consequences of years of drinking and smoking. My first real “win” against him came on a golf course when I was in my 20s. And that really wasn’t as satisfying, because we both stunk at it. I just stunk a lot less.

Back to pickleball — which, by the way, the hype is real ... it’s a great sport — my reaction to my daughter’s second-set win was unexpected. While I mustered all I could to take that third set and send her home a loser, I was inwardly thrilled and proud of what she did a few minutes earlier.

It dawned on me that this is how I should be feeling as a parent. You want good things to happen to your children. You want them to succeed. You want them to be better than you — career, happiness, money, family ... all of it. Their happiness is your happiness, and if that means losing to a 13-year-old in something that requires athletic ability — or having one of your knuckleheaded boys pull out a surprising move and a checkmate in chess — then so be it.

These losses are coming, and I’m ready for them. I hope they get better grades than I got. I hope they become better writers (or doctors, or engineers, or roller coaster designers), and I hope my grandchildren are even better than them one day.

I never thought I’d enjoy that moment of defeat like I did. Honestly, it felt way more like a win.



Just a few years removed from the release of the classic film, “Easy Rider,” the 1973-74 Creek Pebbles newspaper staff, chose to show their wild side for the yearbook by mounting motorcycles outside of Dunny Cycle Center. Pictured (left to right), Bessie McBennett, Bill Poole, Mary McBennett, Greg Bruhn, advisor Mr. Delano, Wanda Norris, Mike Harris, Chris Hatcher, Dang Choompol, Sherry West and George Sereduk.

1973-74 Pine Burr Yearbook

Post Office Box 567

Buies Creek, NC 27506

Nonprofit Organization U.S. Postage PAID PPCO
Prompt: College student walking through campus toward an orange-hued sunset. Image generated by Midjourney

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.