Robin Cummings’ career path has always had an upward trajectory, but there was little about it that suggested he would one day ascend to the top leadership position at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
Although Cummings might not be perfectly credentialed to serve as UNCP’s chancellor, we believe he is a perfect pick — and that his selection is being roundly applauded in Robeson County, which is the exception, not the rule, makes us even more confident of his ability to steer the 128-year-old institution for what he says will be at least a decade.
Cummings understands the value of education, but he isn’t an academic, who have traditionally taken on the leadership roles at our state’s colleges and universities. He is, importantly, a proven leader.
Cummings touched a couple of bases by attending undergraduate school at the University of North Carolina and then earning his medical degree at Duke University — so his higher education is at two of the finest institutions not only in North Carolina, but in all of the United States.
But his work resume is the real home run, with a healthy blend of private and public service.
He practiced cardiothoracic surgery at Pinehurst Surgical Clinic and Moore Regional Hospital from 1992 to 2004 and worked later as medical director and executive director of Community Care of the Sandhills, a regional health care organization. Most recently he served as deputy secretary for health services and Medicaid director for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
Having been born and raised in Pembroke, he is well-acquainted with the university, although it was known as Pembroke State during the 59-year-old’s childhood. He also has as a key bullet point on his resume having served as chairman of UNCP’s board of trustees.
During his introduction last week, which for many in the crowd probably wasn’t needed, Cummings showed good timing and how to win over a crowd. When asked which university, UNC or Duke, had the most pull on his life, he said: “Without too much thought, I respond that the university that influenced my life the most was the university at Pembroke.”
That ability will play well for Cummings as a chancellor, whose primary job is to surround himself with qualified people while working to raise money for the university and its academic standing. His deep roots in the community should be a valuable asset when he makes his rounds with his hand extended and the palm up.
Cummings appreciates the important role of athletics, which is the front porch for a university, and pledged to take what is a solid program at UNCP and make it even better.
Cummings is also an American Indian, and while we would never say race should play a leading role in filling a position that carries such clout, it’s not a bad tiebreaker. Cummings understands the role that UNCP, which was established in the late 1800s for American Indians, has played in the predominantly Lumbee community of Pembroke, giving residents not only hope, but an education and professional skills.
Cummings’ life story is an inspiration, and we know that many Lumbee children who look at UNCP as their path to a better future will try to follow in his large footsteps.
Welcome home Dr. Cummings. We look forward to your work to make UNCP a better place.
— The Robesonian