Greg Bacot, UNC Pembroke, Alan Cummings, scholarship

Border Belt People Q&A with Greg Bacot: ‘So many opportunities in the world’

By Kerria Weaver

Greg Bacot, a 1985 graduate of UNC Pembroke, established the Lacy and Alice Bacot Higher Education Scholarship at the university to honor his parents in 2018. On Oct. 20, Bacot, 62, announced a $1.2 million planned gift that would enhance the scholarship.

The Border Belt Independent spoke with Bacot about his time spent at UNCP and his reasoning behind establishing the gift.

Q. How was your childhood?

I moved to Winston-Salem in January 1985. I’ve been over toward Chapel Hill, then up to Virginia, and then a little bit to Atlanta, and a little bit to New Jersey.

Q. Was UNC Pembroke the only school you attended and what was your major in college? 

I was at UNC Charlotte when my mother became ill, so I became a transfer student. I attended UNC Charlotte for a year and a half. When I came to UNC Pembroke, I was a sophomore. 

My major was business administration. It just seemed like everybody’s brother was doing business. I thought, ‘What else is there left for me to do?’ I can’t do biology. I’m certainly not going to do math or computer science. Business was a great major. There are a lot of great professors in the program.

Q. What was your favorite thing about attending UNC Pembroke?

It was the professor-to-student ratio. We usually had 18 or 20 people in a class.  At UNC Charlotte, the lecture halls would have 100 or even 150 people, and that could be an anthropology or math class. It was even hard to ask a question with that many students in the class. I also really liked the professors at UNC Pembroke. You could really get to know them.

Bacot, Chancellor Alan Cummings, UNC Pembroke
Greg Bacot speaks during the announcement of the Lacy and Alice Bacot Scholarship at UNC Pembroke. Photo submitted by UNC Pembroke

Q. Do you have any favorite memories while attending UNC Pembroke?

I would say I just have fond memories of teachers back then. I carry their teachings with me to this day. 

Q. What was the reason behind the establishment of the scholarship?

I always thought that for scholarships you had to do $70,000 or $80,000, which really is a lot of money. I didn’t realize there were two things – scholarships and awards. I remembered reading about it through a hard copy of a catalog. I learned about a scholarship award where you write a check and you commit to it for five years. It doesn’t have to be an endowed scholarship or a large amount of money. I mulled that over for some years, and I eventually started out with an award. I did the award for about three years and then decided to do an endowed scholarship.

There are just so many opportunities in the world. The school has grown exponentially in degrees and programs. I communicated with a vet student who graduated from N.C. State this past year and I thought that was wonderful. The country is going to need 44,000 veterinarians in the next six years. That’s a six-figure starting salary. It’s just unbelievable that when there are so many opportunities, people just have to get to school and get that piece of paper. My parents always said it’s something that can never be taken away from you. You’ll always have it in your back pocket as a tool.

I remember back in the day many years ago when students would graduate and just go home because there were no jobs. I don’t care if you went to Wake Forest, you would just pack up your stuff and go home because there were no jobs. Now there are just so many jobs. I hope it lasts for years and years. For students not to get a degree and have UNC Pembroke right in their backyards, they’re not using their brain power. Parents need to be convinced that even though they didn’t go to college, their kids certainly can.

Q. Are there certain requirements in order to be eligible to apply for the scholarship?

I like everyone, honestly. It didn’t matter to me, but I’m especially interested in those students who have hit a speed bump; a hiccup has occurred in their life and they just need a little kick. I think it’s a wonderful tool that the scholarship can help them. I guess you could say that I like the underdog.

The scholarship to me does two things. First, it certainly is an economic boost to the student. Second, they receive a letter or email that says they’ve been awarded this scholarship. This is like a third parent saying you can do this. These people believe in me. It’s just a win-win situation.

Q. What advice do you have for students whose goal is to attend college?

They need to expect that they’re going to fall down. Even in your 60s, 70s, 50s, and 40s, you’re going to have many falls. You just need to get up, dust yourself off, and start again, over and over again. There are no perfect people in the world. Life is not about being perfect. We’re all human beings that are going to make mistakes. Life is a series of ups and downs. If you don’t like the current position you’re in or don’t like your current boss, you have a worldwide web of opportunities because you have that degree. You have so many opportunities compared to before when you didn’t have the degree.

Greg Bacot, UNC Pembroke, Robin Gary Cummings, scholarship
Jayla Locklear, current recipient of the Bacot scholarship, stands with UNC Pembroke Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings, left, and benfactor Greg Bacot, right. Photo submitted by UNCP