HIGH POINT, N.C., Aug. 13, 2019 – During today’s campus-wide faculty meeting, High Point University President Nido Qubein presented Ammie Jenkins with an honorary degree. Jenkins is the first African American student to attend High Point College in 1962 after desegregation.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am that you have chosen to come and be with us today,” Qubein told Jenkins. “I’m convinced you have influenced so many people in your life. You may not have finished your degree at High Point University, so all of us here today wish to bestow upon you an honorary degree. This is exceptionally rare. We don’t provide honorary degrees often. This is a precious gift from our hearts to your heart to show that you have been a champion, and you have turned that into purposeful endeavors throughout your life.”
“It was the most pleasant surprise that I could have received,” said Jenkins, who joined Qubein on stage along with her family during the event. “I really feel humbled by the honor, and I’m so happy that this I something I can share with my biggest cheerleaders – my family and close friends.”
Many members of Jenkins family were also in attendance, and the HPU alumna spent the rest of the day touring campus and marveling at HPU’s transformation since her time here.
The great-granddaughter of a former slave, Jenkins is a community leader and social entrepreneur who believes in the importance of the preservation and protection of land for future generations. Her passion for the land is personal as her family lost its farm in 1954 after the death of her father. Homeless at the age of 14, she went to work and helped take care of her six brothers and sisters.
Jenkins came to High Point College in 1962 in the midst of civil rights protests as an evening student and was the first to be integrated into the college. While enrolled, she was a member of the university’s “Tower Players” where she once appeared in Tennessee William’s “A Streetcar Named Desire.” After college and before returning home, she had a successful career as a computer programmer and businesswoman.
Today, Jenkins is one of North Carolina’s most dynamic advocates for black farming and landownership. Jenkins is the founder and executive director of the Sandhills Family Heritage Association. Jenkins leads a grass-roots effort which celebrates and strengthens the heritage of black farming in Cumberland, Lee, Harnett, Richmond, Moore and Hoke counties.
Many African Americans, like Jenkins, lost their land through racial intimidation and suffered as a result, so Jenkins founded this organization to “address the issues of loss of land, livelihoods and cultural heritage.” Jenkins is particularly proud of the SFHA’s service learning projects for students, which allows them to develop business and life management skills. She is the author of two books entitled “Preserving Our Family Heritage” and “Healing from the Land,” in which she explores her findings concerning the independence and self-sufficiency of land ownership and its associated communities.
Today, Jenkins takes an interest in the younger generation hoping to instill values of entrepreneurship and hard work. These values are familiar to High Point University, and it is befitting that our first African American student should espouse and endorse them so wholeheartedly.