Students Receive First Harper-Thomas Study Abroad Awards

Two College of Liberal Arts & Sciences students have received the first Harper-Thomas Legacy Endowment for Study Abroad awards, presented at an event at the Levine Museum of the New South hosted by the UNC Charlotte Black Alumni Chapter.

The Harper-Thomas Legacy Endowment for Study Abroad honors College of Liberal Arts & Sciences emeritus professors Mary Harper and Herman Thomas and is a scholarship of the College.

DeVante Thomas-Pittman and Kendra Shaw are the first two recipients of this annual merit-based award, which supports students’ international educational experiences with preference given to self-identified first-generation college students from underrepresented populations.

Thomas-Pittman is a sophomore who is majoring in French and German with a minor in Italian. He will study abroad in France this summer. Shaw is a junior biology major who is minoring in psychology and will study abroad in South Africa this summer.

Both students have been active on campus and in the broader community. Thomas-Pittman works in the Multicultural Resource Center as a student employee and is program coordinator with the Campus Activities Board. He also is an orientation counselor and is vice president of the university French club. Shaw has served as an ambassador with the Wellness Ambassador effort and is a biology tutor, as well as interning with Kaiser Permanente and acting as a scribe at Gaston Memorial in the emergency room.

Harper and Thomas were honored guests at the event, there to present the awards, and many members of the Black Alumni Chapter have been essential to the establishment of this endowment.

When Harper and Thomas arrived at UNC Charlotte in the 1970s, the winds of social and political change still lingered in the air, and hundreds of first-generation students were embarking upon an educational and intellectual journey for which they were surely excited if not unprepared.

“This is a time in my life where I am not as young as I used to be, but I am also not as old as I could be,” said Thomas, professor emeritus of religious studies, addressing a crowd that included many of his former students. “I always had your future in mind and the future has come. Continue giving on your journey from ordinariness to greatness and thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life.”

Harper and Terrell BlackmonWorking within classrooms, the halls of University administration and Charlotte’s boardrooms and churches, these professors spent more than 30 years helping to recruit, educate, prepare and retain talented but often underserved students. Their legacy and focus on students continues with this endowment.

“This night is certainly an honor for Dr. Thomas and myself,” said Harper, professor emerita of English. “I have met the recipients of this year’s award, and I am quite impressed with them.”

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles attended the event to congratulate and honor Harper and Thomas. “There is no better way to end my day than to be here to honor two people who have given so much to this community,” she said. “Dr. Harper and Dr. Thomas poured life experiences into their students.”

She also told the alumni in attendance that their ability to attend and graduate from UNC Charlotte is one of the reasons Charlotte is such a great and growing community. “You have made it possible for students to follow you, and you have honored those who came before you.”

Photos: Herman Thomas presents awards to Kendra Shaw, center, and Devante Thomas-Pittman, right. Mary Harper, left, with Terrell Blackmon of the Black Alumni Chapter.