The CIAA’s first full-time female commissioner made a stop in the Twin City last week to congratulate Winston-Salem State University on its athletic and academic accomplishments.
Jacque Carpenter gave high praise to WSSU during the remarks she delivered April 25 at the school’s 2013 Athletic Celebration Awards Luncheon at Benton Convention Center.
“Winston-Salem, you are the bomb,” she said to a crowd of hundreds. “There are people who are mad about what you do. You never missed a step in coming back into the (CIAA) conference (from the MEAC). Your teams are nationally known – Winston-Salem is on the map. You’re part of the top 20 teams in the country, not just for HBCUs … not just for athletics, but for academics.”
WSSU is currently home to three CIAA Championship teams – including the Men’s Tennis squad, which landed the title for the first time in school history – and 115 student-athletes made the Dean’s List this year, according to school officials.
“It’s been a great season, a historic season for the athletic department,” Athletic Director Bill Hayes declared at the outset of the program. “When I look at … all of the accomplishments this year, I believe we have returned to glory.”
Mayor Allen Joines also added his voice to the chorus of praises.
“What a great year, my goodness – from football to basketball to baseball,” Joines declared. “As mayor of Winston-Salem, I’m so proud to have Winston-Salem State University as part of the fabric of Winston-Salem. It makes Winston-Salem a special place.”
Carpenter – believed to be the nation’s first female sports commissioner – took the helm at the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association in September. The Hampton University alumna said she takes seriously her status as a trailblazer.
“Achievement, success and status is a work in progress,” she said. “As an African American woman, I don’t take my involvement and my position lightly. God opened the doors for me just to be where I am … I don’t take that for granted.”
The CIAA has faced financial challenges in recent years, but Carpenter said things are looking up for the 101 year-old organization.
“I’ve been here like eight months and it gets better everyday,” she remarked. “There are great things ahead for the CIAA and for the student-athletes.”
Carpenter, a strong proponent of HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities), told the audience that her experiences at Hampton, where she was an athletic powerhouse, helped to prepare her for the upward mobility she has experienced in her career.
“It taught me how to be confident; it taught me how to work in a world that may not always accept me, and going into the NCAA, I was prepared,” she said. “I was ready.”
Despite the prestige of her position, Carpenter said reaching the level of success she has achieved is secondary to the most important aspect of her career.
“All that (clout) is great, but it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make a difference in people’s lives,” she said. “I believe in higher education and what it does, and what it brings you … I’m humbled to serve in your presence and help realize your future as a student-athlete at Winston-Salem State.”
Like Hampton, Winston-Salem State is well equipped to prepare its students and student-athletes for success, Carpenter said.
“Winston-Salem is a place to learn, and you’re going to depart to serve, which is huge. We should all be striving for excellence like that,” Carpenter told the students. “…You are in a blessed place that has invested in you as students and also as student-athletes.”
Carpenter encouraged the students to take advantage of the many opportunities they have as college students and to remember that sports should always come second to an education.
“You have access to a degree; you have access to go and do something better,” she said. “Access creates opportunity, opportunity creates knowledge, and knowledge opens doors. Prepare yourself educationally to go beyond the game.”
Chancellor Donald Reaves said the school’s student-athletes have been sources of great pride for the school and larger community.
“I want to personally thank you for providing me with some outstanding memories over the last two years. There is simply no substitute for winning, and you have certainly given us some bragging rights,” he told players. “…We have seen successes on courts, on the lanes, on tracks and on fields and in all of our sports.”
Reaves also pointed out that student-athletes at WSSU are performing well in the classroom and graduating at a higher percentage than non-athletes at the school.
Dozens of awards were presented to student-athletes from every sport offered at the school, including the Mary Garber Female Student-Athlete of the Year and Mary Garber Male Student-Athlete of the Year honors, which went to Brittany Lane and Kameron Smith, respectively.