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St. Aug's throwing a shindig to honor longtime prez, Prezell Robinson.

August 21, 2019

      When people go to St. Augustine's University, they tend to make it a family affair.

      Earlier this week, I spoke with Edna Stroud, a retired educator living in Raleigh, who graduated from the school on Oakwood Avenue in 1953. She enjoyed the experience so much that she encouraged her four younger siblings to attend, too.

      It was probably in their DNA anyway: Stroud's parent's met there as students in the 1920s.

      Stroud, 88, retired a couple of years ago after 66 years in classrooms across the state.

      Does she remember Prezell Robinson, I asked?

      "Sure," she said. "I didn't know him well, but I remember him as being tall and dignified, walking across campus."

 

      A lot of people - even I, who attended the school only about long enough to eat lunch - remember the same thing: Dr. Robinson striding purposefully across campus, sometimes ambling and stopping to talk to students. He struck not fear, but inspired reverence, even awe, among the students he encountered.

      When Dr. Robinson shows up at St. Aug's Friday, Aug. 23, it's doubtful he'll be striding quite so purposefully across the campus Quad as he did when he graduated from there in 1946, or when he served as the school's president from 1967 until his retirement in 1995.

      The school is honoring him with a benefit for the school on the Quad on his 99th birthday. Performing will be the school's band and cheerleaders and several well-known recording artists, including Emanuel Casablanca and Miss North Carolina, Alexandra Badgett.  

      Dr. Allen Mask of WRAL TV told me that his father, three uncles and an aunt all attended St. Aug's, and one uncle met his wife there.

       The one constant before and since much of that matriculating and matrimonying, through the educating and nuptiating, was Dr. Robinson.

        If anyone is as closely associated with St. Aug's as he, it is George "Pup" Williams, the internationally acclaimed track coach.

      But if you tell him he's as important to the school's renown as Dr. Robinson, you'd better be as fast as one of his sprinters because he might hit you.

      "Not even close," he said when I suggested that people associated him with the school as much as Dr. Robinson.

      "He had that Southern drawl that allowed him to go downtown and talk to and disarm those people" whose help he needed, Williams told me. "He's the backbone of St. Augustine's. You won't find a better man, a better person, than Dr. Robinson. He loves this school.

      "That's where all of my success comes from - Dr. Robinson. The only reason I've been here 43 years is because of him," he said.

      He's also the reason a lot of us will be on campus Friday honoring him and helping the school.

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