Chowan Confers Honorary Degrees on Thomas, Stephenson
As part of the 2015 Commencement ceremonies at Chowan University, honorary degrees were conferred on two noteworthy community members. Murfreesboro Town Councilman Hal R. Thomas received an honorary Bachelor of Arts degree, and local historian E. Frank Stephenson, Jr. received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degrees.
Hal Rayland Thomas is known among the Murfreesboro community as a dedicated, loyal, and selfless servant. Known both for his honorable service on the Murfreesboro Town Council and virtuous community service, he has set an example for others to follow.
While his own college studies were interrupted so he could serve his country, Thomas has empowered others through his volunteer service to Chowan University, exemplifying all that is good and true about this institution and those who embrace its values. For these reasons, the Chowan University Board of Trustees voted unanimously to award Hal Thomas the honorary degree of Bachelor of Arts.
Chowan’s second honorary degree credits the work of E. Frank Stephenson, Jr., an individual who has served Chowan University since 1966, first as Director of Admissions and now as Director of Upward Bound.
“The pre-eminent reason he is being honored this morning is the breadth and the depth of his service to, and outstanding achievements within, the university and community. His inspirational vision and selfless determination have touched and immeasurably improved the lives of countless individuals,” stated Chowan Provost Dr. Danny Moore at the ceremony. “He has made sustained and original contributions to the University for nearly fifty years. As Director of Admissions, he still holds the honor of recruiting the largest cohort of students in Chowan’s history.”
In 1971, Stephenson played a key role in lobbying the General Assembly of the state to adopt the North Carolina Legislative Grant program, a program that still exists today as the North Carolina Need Based Scholarship program. Through his guidance, Upward Bound, a summer program for college-bound students, has produced medical doctors, engineers, attorneys, professors, and so on.
Mr. Stephenson’s tireless commitment to preserving the history of the rural South is remarkable as well. He played an important role in restoring Murfreesboro’s residences and buildings that date back to the 1700s. In addition, he has authored twenty-seven books on local and regional history and culture. Indeed, he has preserved just the sort of stories that historians have often ignored because the lives they describe seem so insignificant. Consequently, his documentation of northeastern North Carolina history and culture in the twentieth century will be invaluable for future historians.
A genuinely caring and inspiring individual, Frank Stephenson offers a highly desirable, but all too rare, combination of attributes that make him a gifted colleague, a dedicated scholar, and a generous citizen. For this and for his extraordinary service to Chowan University and to the community, both local and statewide, the Chowan University Board of Trustees voted unanimously to award E. Frank Stephenson, Jr., an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters.
Congratulations to these two outstanding individuals. Thank you for your remarkable contributions to Chowan University and the greater community.