Award-Winning Actress Returns to Speak In-Person at NCWC Commencement

ROCKY MOUNT, NORTH CAROLINA – In February, North Carolina Wesleyan College announced that award-winning actress Sharon Lawrence would be their April 2020 commencement speaker. Later, due to ongoing concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the College announced that the ceremony would have to take place virtually. Lawrence still took the time to send the graduates her congratulations and encouragement via video, with the hope that she would be able to address them in-person at the December ceremony. That hope is now coming to fruition with Lawrence scheduled to return in-person to address the Class of 2020 at NC Wesleyan’s Winter Commencement taking place on December 5.

Sharon Lawrence posing
Sharon Lawrence
December 2020 Commencement Speaker

Lawrence is an award-winning actress with roles on NYPD Blue, Dynasty and can most recently be seen opposite Kirsten Dunst in Showtime’s On Becoming a God in Central Florida. She currently appears on several different television series, including: Shameless, Criminal Minds, Grey’s Anatomy, the CBS comedy, “Me, Myself and I,” and the Apple + series Home Before Dark. A native of North Carolina, she was born in Charlotte and later moved to Raleigh where she graduated from Broughton High School. Lawrence attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, graduating in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.

“Based on her ties to North Carolina and success in the entertainment industry, we are overly enthusiastic to have Sharon Lawrence speak to our graduates in December. With our Entertainment Arts major and her ability to demonstrate that anything is possible with a solid education, she was a natural fit to be our commencement speaker,” stated Dr. Evan D. Duff, President of North Carolina Wesleyan College.

While at UNC, Lawrence was very active onstage with the college’s Playmakers Repertory Company. She is a proud founding member, and prior leading actress, at the North Carolina Theatre, which is still going strong after 36 years at Raleigh’s Memorial Auditorium. She is also the daughter of Tom Lawrence, former news reporter for WRAL News in Raleigh.

Lawrence is also an accomplished Broadway stage actress and a 2012 Lunt-Fontanne Ten Chimneys Fellow, recently starring in “A Kid Like Jake” at the Pasadena Playhouse. She previously chaired the Women In Film Foundation where she incubated and managed corporate partnerships with Netflix and the Dr. Scholl Foundation. Lawrence is still active in supporting women in the industry and currently serves as a Trustee of the Screen Actors Guild Foundation.

“Celebrating the Wesleyan commencement is a meaningful opportunity for me not only as a native North Carolinian, but because my creative roots are here,” stated Lawrence. “My passion and career were nurtured by North Carolina schools and churches, by its outdoor dramas, local and professional theaters and its commitment to the performing arts. Your investment in education and the arts is an investment in your minds and hearts.”

The College’s Winter Commencement will be on the front lawn of the Braswell Administration Building Saturday, December 5, 2020. This will be a closed event, open only to graduates, faculty and the platform party. This will allow the College to ensure physical distance and the safety of those participating in commencement. The event will be live streamed and recorded so that family and friends will be able to celebrate with their students virtually. 

Continuing to Respond to COVID-19

NC Wesleyan Establishes New Holiday Term

ROCKY MOUNT, NORTH CAROLINA – In response to the recent condensed spring and fall schedules, North Carolina Wesleyan College’s administration is pleased to announce the addition of a new “holiday” term. The fully online, 6-week term is set to begin November 30, 2020.

The fall 2020 semester at NC Wesleyan ends right before Thanksgiving, allowing students the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the new holiday term. The 6-week term is being offered at a reduced cost of $325 per semester hour and is available to traditional and adult studies students, as well as visiting students. A visiting, or non-degree student, is a student visiting from another degree-granting institution for purposes of taking a Wesleyan course for credit, fulfilling requirements at another institution, taking a course for teacher certification, meeting CPA or graduate school prerequisites or for achieving personal learning goals. Program requirements include a completed application for admission and a letter of permission from the degree-granting institution. 

The faculty at NC Wesleyan have developed several unique course offerings, including: Organizational Leadership, Principles of Management, The Entrepreneurial Mindset, Leadership During Unusual Times: Challenges During COVID-19 Pandemic, Computer Forensics, Physical Geology, Celebrating Christmas/Celebrating the Nation, Event Marketing, Conspiracy Theories, Introduction to Religion, Professional and Business Ethics, and Social Problems II – Problems of Social Inequality, to name a few. 

“The College is providing all students with an opportunity to earn more credits during an unusually long winter break. COVID-19-related precautions streamlined fall and spring terms and condensed class meetings using hybrid and online meeting times into shorter periods of time,” stated Dr. Molly Wyatt, Interim Provost. “This provided us with a six-week period for students to engage in some special topics and common requirements over the winter break. It’s perfect for students who may want to get ahead or catch up in their degree progress.” 

Those interested in applying for the holiday term should visit to fill out a Registration & Drop/Add Form. Once completed, this form should be emailed to the student’s Academic Advisor. Visiting students should contact Paige Wells, Director of Admissions, at or 252.985.5297.

NC Wesleyan Celebrates 64th Year with Founders’ Day

ROCKY MOUNT, NORTH CAROLINA – North Carolina Wesleyan College will celebrate its 64th year with its annual Founders’ Day on Thursday, October 22. Due to COVID-19, the health and safety of students, faculty, staff and community members are of utmost concern to the College. Therefore, the decision was made to alter the format of the day.

In lieu of the traditional activities, President Dr. Evan D. Duff announced the decision to focus this year’s celebration on emphasizing the College’s founding and the need to sustain Wesleyan’s future. Highlights for the upcoming week leading to Founder’s Day include a digital display of photos dating back to the groundbreaking for the College. In addition, there will be a series of videos published to the College’s social media accounts and website featuring the Honorable Phil Carlton, Dr. LaWanda Peace, Norris Tolson, CEO & President of Carolinas Gateway Partnership, Judge Brenda Branch and Wilson Police Chief, Thomas Hopkins. Both Judge Branch and Chief Hopkins are NC Wesleyan alumni.

“Our yearly Founders’ Day celebration pays tribute to our rich Methodist heritage, our liberal arts foundation and the community who dedicated immense time and resources to make North Carolina Wesleyan College the institution it is today. We also acknowledge those who are currently selfless with their guidance and financial contributions, raising our beautiful College to the next level,” stated Dr. Duff. Last fall, President Duff started a new tradition for graduating seniors to leave a lasting impression on campus. The occasion allowed seniors an opportunity to plant flower bulbs in a designated area on campus. This year’s senior tradition will coincide with Founders’ Day. Seniors will be able to leave their lasting mark by planting their bulb any time between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 22. These flower beds will be marked with a class sign and maintained for years to come. 

Five New Members Join NC Wesleyan Board of Trustees

ROCKY MOUNT, NORTH CAROLINA – North Carolina Wesleyan College’s Board of Trustees recently approved five new board members to join the Wesleyan family: Leslie Hall, Janice Byrant Howroyd, Kevin Jones, Melvin Mitchell and Constance Williams. These new members come from a variety of backgrounds and industries joining 19 others that serve on the North Carolina Wesleyan College Board of Trustees, chaired by Dr. Dan Crocker.

“This incoming class of Board members will add value to our existing Board through their rich life experiences, connections beyond Rocky Mount, diversity and the ability to resonate with our students,” stated President Dr. Evan D. Duff.

Leslie Hall is a retired Nursing Executive with more than 35 years of experience in nursing management, education and patient care. She holds a B.S. in Nursing and M.S. in Nursing from Syracuse University. Prior to retiring, Mrs. Hall was the Senior VP and Chief Nursing Officer at Nash UNC Health Care in Rocky Mount. During her time there, she participated in the development and implementation of multiple new clinical services including a new Emergency Department, Women’s Center and Heart Center.

Janice Bryant Howroyd, a native of Tarboro, NC, is a businesswoman, entrepreneur, educator, ambassador, author and mentor. She is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the ActOne Group, an award-winning, global talent and workforce technology enterprise. Her professional accomplishments include Presidential appointments (U.S. Ambassador for the Department of Energy’s Minorities in Energy, U.S. International Trade Advisory Commission Board, and the Board of Advisors for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities), plus recognition from world-renowned business organizations like Forbes and BET, who selected her as their first-ever Entrepreneur of the Year. She was also named in the North Carolina Twin County Hall of Fame. Howroyd is a tireless advocate for education and has dedicated her resources to funding scholarships and serving on several boards, including the Harvard Women’s Leadership Board of the Kennedy School of Government, her alma mater North Carolina A&T State University, University of Southern California and many others. Her passion for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is rooted in her belief that STEM will be one of the great equalizers in 21st-century employment and has led her to work with Girls in Tech, a non-profit that works to create STEM opportunities for underserved communities. She attended NCA&T State University and holds honorary doctorates from California State University Channel Islands, NCA&T State University and North Carolina Wesleyan College.

Kevin Jones holds a B.S. in Engineering from North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University. He is the owner of Katala Industries in Rocky Mount, a small business focused on construction and real estate development. He is also a Transportation Specialist with the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Founder/President of the Bulldog Alumni Community (BAC) Scholarship Fund. This nonprofit organization was created to help underserved children in Eastern North Carolina pay for college and gain the tools needed to compete in a global economy after college graduation. From 2014-2020, the BAC Scholarship Fund has awarded more than $160,000 in scholarships and technology resources to local schools while remaining engaged with scholars to assist with resume writing, career planning and effective relationship building.

Melvin Mitchell is the President of Melvin M. Mitchell Agency Inc., which is affiliated with Allstate Insurance Co. He serves on the Board of Commissioners for Nash UNC Health Care in Rocky Mount, is a founding partner and a member of the Board of Directors for Providence Bank in Rocky Mount and is a past member of the First Carolina State Bank Board of Directors. In addition, he serves on the North Carolina Board of Transportation representing Edgecombe, Halifax, Johnston, Nash, Wayne and Wilson counties. Mitchell is a member of Alpha Omicron Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and is the fraternity’s 41st Sixth District Representative. He is a member of the N.C. Agriculture and Forestry Awareness Study Commission, and a member of the Fireman’s Relief Fund Board. He obtained a B.S. in Business Education from Fayetteville State University.

Constance Williams is a Senior Human Resources Executive and has served in senior level roles with Sony Music, Time Inc, and American Express to name a few. Ms. Williams was also a part-time Professor at North Carolina Wesleyan College from 2016-2018, credentialed to teach courses in Psychology, Business Administration and Organizational Administration at all levels. She has over 28 years of exceptional HR and business experience having contributed to the success of several blue chip firms in diversified industry sectors. A double Ivy League graduate, Ms. Williams holds an M.A. in Organization Psychology from Columbia University and a B.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University, as well as an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from North Carolina Wesleyan College. Ms. Williams has displayed a significant commitment to NC Wesleyan students by providing rich developmental experiences including one-on-one mentorship, speaking engagements and comprehensive on-site job shadowing. She resides in New York City, but also has a home in Rocky Mount and is a board member of Hunter College High School AA.

The combined skills, knowledge and expertise presented by these new board members will help chart a course for success at North Carolina Wesleyan College. Their fresh perspectives and new ideas will be an asset to the current Board of Trustees and to the students, faculty and staff of the College.

NC Wesleyan & College of The Albemarle Sign Memorandum of Understanding

ROCKY MOUNT, NORTH CAROLINA – North Carolina Wesleyan College (NCWC) recently signed an agreement that will help qualified graduates of College of The Albemarle (COA) transfer to Wesleyan. The agreement aims to provide a seamless transfer for students who enroll at Wesleyan following completion of their two-year degree at COA.

Dr. Evan D. Duff, President

Leaders of both colleges signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in late September. This new agreement adds COA to a list of over 30 other colleges and community colleges throughout North Carolina that have a transfer partnership with NCWC.

“We are excited to continue the partnership we have built with North Carolina Wesleyan College that allows COA students a smooth transition to a baccalaureate degree program,” shared COA President, Dr. Jack Bagwell. “Through the signing of this agreement, students who qualify will be guaranteed admission at NCWC, giving them an opportunity to attend a 4-year institution while living at home. It is a win for all parties involved when we have the ability to assist students in their pursuit of an academic degree.”

The agreement will enhance and expand the educational opportunities of Associate in Arts, Associate in Science and Associate in Applied Science graduates by offering COA graduates access to the benefits of the Wesleyan Works program, pre-admission advising, generous transfer credit and a clear definition of the transfer of courses from COA to NC Wesleyan. This MOU allows COA Associate in Applied Science students to transfer an additional 15 hours of general education credits for a total of 75 transfer credits.

“I am excited about the new agreement that will improve the transfer pathway resulting in a great education and career opportunities for students. Our partnership provides a great benefit to the students and community of Dare County,” stated Joy Smallwood, Executive Director of Adult & Professional Studies at NC Wesleyan.

Students who graduate from COA and transfer under this agreement may select any of NC Wesleyan’s programs of study or may transfer to the college’s Adult and Professional Studies program, taking advantage of the Wesleyan Works program. Students are required to maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0 and be in good academic standing. The agreement brings NC Wesleyan within the reach of COA students who may not have otherwise been able to attend the College.

Wesleyan Works is a transfer program designed for community college students who plan to continue their education at NC Wesleyan. Students who participate in Wesleyan Works will have access to academic advising and financial aid counseling through NC Wesleyan, as well as access to events on the College’s main campus. The program is ideal for students who would like to attend NC Wesleyan’s evening or online programs.

NC Wesleyan Homecoming Postponed

ROCKY MOUNT, NORTH CAROLINA – In July, North Carolina Wesleyan College and the USA South Athletic Conference announced the postponement of the College’s conference football games for fall 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, Homecoming will also not happen in an official capacity this fall. The College’s Student Activities may plan some events for students on campus with appropriate guidelines in place and alumni groups may get together, but there is no “official” Homecoming event planned. If the College is able to resume its football season in the spring, there may be a similar type of Homecoming experience at that time. NCWC values the health and safety of its faculty, staff, and students; therefore, the College does not want to risk having larger-scale events at this time.

Minimal COVID Cases at Wesleyan Due to State and Community Support

ROCKY MOUNT, NORTH CAROLINA – North Carolina Wesleyan College has been fortunate in maintaining a relatively low number of COVID-19 cases on its campus since students returned in August. As of October 2, there is only two active cases among students and zero among employees. Since August 1, there have only been 9 positive cases for students and 3 positive cases for employees. This is due in large part to the generous donations that the College has received from the community, as well as grants from Nash County and the State of North Carolina.

Dr. Robert Zipf, Jr., MD, a NC Wesleyan Board Emeritus and Forensic Pathology Specialist in Rocky Mount, provided $30,000 to pay for air purifiers to be placed in every classroom and all common areas on campus. A portion of this gift was designated to the Teaching and Learning Center (TLC) on campus. The TLC is now known as the Zipf Teaching and Learning Center, or ZTLC.

Also, NC Wesleyan applied for a grant offered by Nash County. This $2,000 grant is for non-profit organizations to help cover the cost of personal protective equipment (PPE). The College was successful in obtaining this grant and used it to help purchase facemasks for the campus community.

“Research released in July from the University of Maryland on the aerosolization of the virus led the College’s Reopening Committee and Viral Infection Response Team to seek air flow solutions for classrooms and other campus gathering spaces. Air purifiers with appropriate filtration and window exhaust fans were installed to alleviate a potential danger of stagnant air in areas where our students, faculty, and staff would spend a fair amount of time,” stated Interim Provost Dr. Molly Wyatt. “Being attentive to emerging scientific research helped us to be innovative and Dr. Zipf’s donation was crucial in allowing us to afford additional precautious for our campus that addressed this need. We are very grateful for his continued engagement with the College and his generosity.”

North Carolina funds were also provided to the College as part of state funding that was received through the CARES Act. The College just received an additional $466,000 from the State of NC

to support students and expenses as it relates to COVID-19. NC Wesleyan is already working with students to assist with their balances and offsetting some PPE expenses that the College has incurred.

In addition, the College just installed its first touchless water bottle filler in the Pearsall Classroom Building. The College will also be installing them in the Gravely Science Building, Taylor Recreation Center and the Athletics Fieldhouse soon. This will help Wesleyan not only reduce single-use plastics, but also provide a touchless option for filtered water in these buildings.

To learn more about how the College is being Wesleyan Wise and the plans that it has in place for managing COVID, visit

Annual Tackle the Tar Event Benefits Local Colleges

ROCKY MOUNT, NORTH CAROLINA – North Carolina Wesleyan College was recently the recipient of a $17,000 scholarship made possible by proceeds raised from the 5th Annual Tackle the Tar 5K Obstacle Course Race & Family Fun Day. Hosted by the Rocky Mount Rotary Club, this event raises funds so area students can attend local colleges. Due to uncertainties surrounding COVID-19, the race was canceled for the year, yet the mission of the event was still a success.

In the past five years, Tackle the Tar has given a total of $285,000 among Nash Community College, Edgecombe Community College and NC Wesleyan College. Scholarships provide significant support for many of NC Wesleyan’s students seeking to further their education.

This year’s presentation took place via a Zoom meeting between the Rotary Club and representatives of North Carolina Wesleyan College, Edgecombe Community College and Nash Community College. Rotary leaders presented a total of $51,000 in scholarship funds to the three Colleges. This year’s funds were raised through sponsorships for the 2020 5K Obstacle Course Race. Though canceled, Rotary officials polled those who had already paid or committed to a sponsorship for the event and the consensus was to allow them to keep the funds and distribute to the colleges.

“I continue to be amazed by the outpouring of support from our community and specifically the Rotary Club for their yearly fundraising event, Tackle the Tar,” stated NC Wesleyan President Dr. Evan D. Duff. “Their commitment to education in our region is demonstrated by their relentless dedication to funding scholarships for all three higher education providers in Nash and Edgecombe Counties. This is what makes a community resilient.”

Next year’s Tackle the Tar event is set for Saturday, May 15, 2021 at the Rocky Mount Sports Complex. The 5K race is packed with obstacles and offers competitive heats and fun runs.

Rotary International is a global network of 1.2 million neighbors, friends, leaders and problem-solvers who see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change – across the globe, in our communities and in ourselves. Rotary members provide service to others, promote integrity and advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through their fellowship of business, professional and community leaders.