2019 Razor Walker Award Winners

Richelle Bragg Dombroski

Educational Leadership

“During my 40-plus years as an educator, I have never seen a teacher as dedicated to the profession as Ms. Dombroski. She is, and always will be, a teacher.”

Richelle Dombroski has been a teacher and chair of Laney High School’s social studies department for the past 29 years.

In 2000, she championed the introduction of New Hanover County’s first Teacher Cadet Program. Her idea was simple. She wanted to attract bright, talented students to the teaching profession with the goal of “growing our own in the school and district.” Since its inception, more than 250 students have participated in the program and more than 35 are currently teaching in North Carolina public schools.

Ms. Dombroski is also a valued partner to UNCW’s Watson College of Education. For two decades she has served as a Professional Development System partnership teacher and site coordinator. During that time she has hosted 24 Watson College student interns and coordinated numerous field experiences for pre-service teachers. Many of the students she mentored have gone on to teach at Laney.

Melissa Gillespie, New Hanover County Schools’ Teacher of the Year and North Carolina’s Southeast Regional Teacher of the Year in 2014, is one former student who credits Ms. Dombroki with her career success.

“The year I served as Ms. D’s student intern changed my life forever. She taught me how to be an amazing educator, a good friend and an advocate and champion for those without a voice. For many high school students and college education majors, Mrs. Dombroski is the determining factor in their decision to be a teacher. She is demanding, informative, caring and giving. But the thing I will always remember about Ms. D. is how she makes me feel. Ms. D. makes me feel I can accomplish anything. She believes in her students. She believes in education.”

At a time when North Carolina’s schools face many challenges attracting and retaining outstanding teachers, Ms. Dombroski’s contributions to the profession are invaluable. Through her unwavering support for students, future teachers and the teaching profession, Richelle Dombroski has exemplified herself as a true Razor Walker.

Dr. Jerry L. Jackson

Educational Leadership

“Everyone talks about solutions to the issues plaguing our youth, but Dr. Jerry Jackson, through the 100 Black Men of Coastal North Carolina Chapter, is turning talk into action.”

Dr. Jerry L. Jackson retired in 2010 after a 37-year career in education. He relocated to Leland, North Carolina, where he has been an active member of 100 Black Men of Coastal Carolina, an organization dedicated to mentoring young men and women of color.

Dr. Jackson is coordinator of the chapter’s Saturday Success Academy. The program engages at-risk youth in grades 9-12 in meaningful activities that enrich their lives, build character and stretch their minds to think critically with the hope that they will make sound choices in life.

A strong believer that young people will “be what they see,” Dr. Jackson has invited guest speakers to give Success Academy mentees an opportunity to meet adult professionals and tradesmen who look like them. He has taken students, many of whom had never traveled beyond Wilmington, to college and university campuses and to the 100 Black Men’s National Conventions in Hollywood, Florida and New Orleans. He has also grown parental engagement in the program, partnered with Cape Fear Community College to arrange a convenient and suitable venue for meetings, and secured financial support that enabled the organization to award five scholarships to Success Academy mentees for the 2018-19 academic year.

Dr. Jackson is a life member of the National Alliance of Black School Educators and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Wagner College, a master’s in special education from the College of Staten Island (CUNY), and a doctorate in education from Hofstra University. He began his career as a teacher and served 18 years as an administrator in the Central Islip Union Free School District, where he rose through the ranks to the position of Superintendent of Schools. Prior to his retirement, he was an assistant professor in the Educational Leadership Department at Kean University for five years.

Dr. Jerry Jackson has enhanced the lives of thousands of young people over the course of his career. With vision, strength of leadership and dedication for nurturing future possibilities, he continues to “walk the razor’s edge” in service to underserved youth in the greater Wilmington community.

Vernon C. Tyson

Public Service / Policy

“Reverend Vernon Tyson’s life was emblematic of love, social justice and the best of who North Carolinians can be.”

Vernon C. Tyson was born in 1929 in Buie's Creek, North Carolina, the son of a minister and tenant farmer. One of five brothers (all of whom became ministers), he received his B.A. from Guilford College and his M. Div. from Duke Divinity School. He held his first appointment as a Methodist minister in 1952, and over six decades served nearly 20 churches and communities in eastern North Carolina, including Wesley Memorial United Methodist in Wilmington.

Over the course of his lifetime, Reverend Tyson was a voice and activist for nonviolent solutions to divisive issues. Fellow ministers, activists and community members saw in him a person who fought for equal rights, civil rights, racial reconciliation and social justice. He took stances that were oftentimes unpopular, and did so with courage and gentle strength, showing a clear devotion to his church’s teaching of love, mercy, equality, and an obligation to the poor and vulnerable.

In 1963, as pastor in a church in Sanford, NC, Rev. Tyson invited an African American minister to speak on “Race Relations Sunday.” Despite protests, death threats and calls for his dismissal, he held to his conviction for racial equality and ultimately gained the support of his congregation.

In 1970 Rev. Tyson served as pastor in Oxford, North Carolina. That year Oxford experienced racial unrest when white assailants were acquitted of a black veteran’s murder. Rev. Tyson again took a controversial leadership role advocating for racial reconciliation. Issues surrounding the event are the focus of his son’s award-winning 2004 memoir, Blood Done Sign My Name.

Rev. Tyson remained a strong advocate for social justice throughout his lifetime. In 2013, at the age of 83, he was arrested during a Moral Monday demonstration in Raleigh. In a video interview after his release, he affirmed that he wanted to be “a witness” for those standing up for vulnerable citizens, adding, “I’m glad to stand with people who take a stand.”

Rev. Vernon Tyson received many awards for his work in the human rights arena, including the Gayle Felton Drum Major for Justice Award from the North Carolina Methodist Federation for Social Action. He passed away in December 2018, but will be remembered for a life lived by the tenets of vision, tenacity, courage and sacrifice, all hallmarks of the Razor Walker Award.

Special Thanks To Contributors as of April 1, 2019

Corporate Sponsor

  • AT&T

Razor Walker Scholar

  • Tannis F. Nelson ’03 in honor of Governor James B. Hunt
  • Tom ‘98 and Susan Rabon
  • Robert E. Tyndall, ‘00

Professor’s Circle

  • James H. Faison III, ‘13
  • Wayne Lofton, ‘18
  • Nick and Deloris Rhodes, ‘17
  • Intracoastal Realty, James Wallace, ‘07

Alumni Circle

  • J.H. Corpening II, ‘14
  • Anna E. Hattaway, ‘95
  • Joyce Huguelet, ‘01
  • Elizabeth Miars, ‘08
  • Eldemira Segovia
  • Eleanor B. Wright, ‘08

Honorees noted above are designated with the year they received the award.