H. Martin Lancaster, former president of the North Carolina Community College System, is the 2010 recipient of the University Award, the highest honor given by the Board of Governors of the 17-campus University of North Carolina. UNC President Erskine Bowles and awards committee chairman Peaches Gunter Blank of Nashville, TN, presented the award, which recognizes illustrious service to higher education in North Carolina, during a banquet Thursday evening (Nov. 4) on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus.
Lancaster, who retired as NCCCS president in 2008, was lauded as a dedicated and visionary leader who led efforts to enlarge the role North Carolina’s 58 community colleges play in workforce training and statewide economic development. During his 11-year tenure, he secured additional state and private funding to modernize facilities and equipment, raise faculty salaries, and strengthen instruction. He spearheaded community college participation in the successful 2000 Higher Education Bond Referendum, which provided $600 million for community college, construction, repairs, and renovations. He also chaired the National Council of State Directors of Community Colleges and was recognized internationally for his leadership in workforce development.
In large part due to Lancaster’s commitment and determination, the Community College System and the University of North Carolina have strengthened working relationships and partnered to help make the transition between a community college and a UNC campus a seamless one for students. Tangible evidence of his leadership can be found in the expanded Comprehensive Articulation Agreement between the two public systems; the growing number of 2+2 degree programs offered by UNC campuses at community colleges across the state, and collaborative efforts in biotechnology training and research.
Born and raised in Wayne County, Lancaster earned undergraduate and law degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill before joining the U.S. Navy in 1967 as a Judge Advocate. After release from active duty, he returned to Goldsboro and entered the private practice of law. Over the course of his long professional career, he repeatedly sought out opportunities to service his community, state and nation. After serving four terms in the NC House of Representatives (1978-86), he was elected to four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives (1987-95). He later served as Special Advisor to the President on Chemical Weapons (1995-96) and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works (1996-97) before being named President of the NC Community College System in 1997.
During the evening, a tribute to Lancaster was offered by Philip A. Baddour, Jr., of Goldsboro, his college classmate and former law partner.