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WATSON COLLEGE OF EDUCATION

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Watson College Announces 2017 Razor Walker Award Winners

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Razor Walker Awards

Each year, the Watson College of Education presents the Razor Walker Awards to individuals whose vision, tenacity, courage and sacrifice have made a difference in the lives of young people. The awards, named in recognition of the “razor’s edge” that recipients walk to support education and youth, have been presented to advocates from education, government, business and community organizations since 1993.

This year, the Watson College will recognize four North Carolina leaders and one couple in honor of their advocacy for education and underserved youth across the state: Benjamin R. David, District Attorney for New Hanover and Pender Counties; Alan Faulk, superintendent, Columbus County Schools; Emma H. Jackson, career educator in New Hanover County Schools; community leaders Deloris and Nick Rhodes and Mike Ward, professor of educational leadership at North Carolina State University and former state superintendent of instruction.

“Vision, tenacity, courage and sacrifice take many different forms, and are narrated in our lives in a powerful array of stories and portraits,” said Watson College Dean Van Dempsey. “This year’s Razor Walker Award winners represent the range of impacts that leaders can have in the lives of children, families, communities, and across our state. They each as leaders and collectively as a chorus remind us all of the successes to be celebrated. They also inspire us to embrace the opportunities that lie within the challenges before us in the education and public service community. We are honored in the Watson College to recognize these leaders and what they have accomplished with the 2017 Razor Walker Awards.”  

Benjamin R. David has served as District Attorney for New Hanover and Pender Counties since 2004. He is a founding member of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Youth Violence and the Safer Schools Task Force, and has helped to introduce several programs to benefit youth and families including Teen Court, Watch D.O.G.S., Hometown Hires and an alternative sentencing program for minor youth traffic violations. Every year, he speaks to thousands of public school students on issues of community safety and positive life choices.


Alan Faulk is superintendent of Columbus County Schools. He has devoted his entire career to serving the children of Columbus County, working as a high school science teacher, principal and central office administrator prior to assuming his current position in 2011. He is a relentless student advocate known for eliminating the narrative of excuses and finding ways to help students succeed. During his tenure, Columbus County has moved out from under the shadows of a district deemed “low-performing” and decreased the district’s dropout rate to 1.97 percent.


Emma Jackson’s career with New Hanover County Schools spanned more than 52 years prior to her retirement in December 2016. In the role of teacher, assistant principal and principal, she served students at James B. Dudley Elementary School, Peabody, Alderman, Snipes, Wrightsville Beach, Bellamy, Pine Valley and Gregory School of Science, Math and Technology before becoming director of Instructional Services and Title I, and eventually, federal programs director. She has served numerous organizations at the local, state and national levels and received recognitions including the governor’s Order of the Long Leaf Pine award.


Nick and Deloris Rhodes are passionate community leaders and youth advocates. Following Nick’s career in the United States Air Force and in business, and Deloris’ career in education, they moved to Wilmington 16 years ago. Nick has served on numerous boards including the New Hanover County Board of Education, Smart Start of New Hanover County, Communities in Schools of Cape Fear, Kids Making It and 100 Black Men.

Deloris was outreach liaison for UNCW’s Watson College of Education from 2007 to 2014, and a founding member of UNCW’s Dropout Prevention Coalition and the Girls Leadership Academy of Wilmington (GLOW). She has served on the Governor’s Task Force on Safer Schools and local boards for many organizations, including the New Hanover County Arts Council, Community Boys and Girls Club and the Cape Fear Literary Council.


Mike Ward is an educational leader with more than 35 years of public education service. He served as North Carolina’s state superintendent of public instruction from 1997 to 2004. During his tenure, the state earned a reputation for rapid progress in the performance of its public schools. He currently serves as a consultant to state and local education leaders. A three-time graduate of North Carolina State University, he also serves as an executive coach to administrator interns in the Northeast Leadership Academy of NC State University.

Recipients will accept their awards at an invitation-only ceremony on April 25 at the UNCW’s Burney Center.