Watson College of Education Announces 2016 Razor Walker Award Winners

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

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 organization in honor of their advocacy for education and underserved youth across the state: June St. Clair Atkinson, State Superintendent of the Public Schools of North Carolina; Hannah Dawson Gage, Wilmington businesswoman and UNC Board of Governors emeritus; Rev. Dr. Clifford D. Barnett Sr., pastor of the Warner Temple AME Zion Church in Wilmington; Wanda Marino, assistant director at New Hanover County Department of Social Services; and Community in Schools of the Cape Fear.

“It is an honor for the Watson College of Education to recognize and celebrate people whose work enhances the lives of children, families and communities,” said Dean Van Dempsey. “In this year’s honorees, we see that service in extraordinary ways from local communities and schools to their impact on policy and the quality of education for North Carolina as a state. Across that spectrum, the work of this year’s recipients speaks to, informs and makes better the work of people everywhere who ‘walk the razor’s edge.’ ”

  • June St. Clair Atkinson, the first woman elected state superintendent, has served in this position since August 2005. She oversees almost 1.5 million students in excess of 2,500 public schools. Atkinson has more than 35 years of experience in education. During her career, she has served as a chief consultant and director in the areas of business education, career and technical education, and instructional services within the NCDPI.

  • Hannah Dawson Gage established and managed radio stations for 25 years in southeastern North Carolina. In 2001, she was elected to the University of North Carolina Board of Governors and in 2008 became the first woman to chair the board. Gage has served on the Wachovia/Wells board for 25 years and is a former member of the Wilmington Rotary Club, the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust Board, the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce Board, the North Carolina Association of Broadcaster’s Board and the BEST NC Board.

  • Rev. Dr. Clifford D. Barnett Sr., pastor of the Warner Temple AME Zion Church, chairs the Southeastern Dropout Prevention Coalition at UNC Wilmington, is a member of the Cape Fear Coalition for a Drug-Free Tomorrow Committee, and a member of the D.C. Virgo Prep Academy Board of Advisors, where he also serves as a mentor to students. He is the vice-president of the New Hanover County Smart Start Board of Directors. Barnett spearheaded the annual First 2000 Days Summit, as well hosted Leadercast, the largest one-day leadership event in the world broadcasted from Atlanta. He is the founder of Bridges to Success, a program designed to offer assistance to students and their families who have been suspended from a middle or high school in New Hanover County.

  • Wanda M. Marino is the assistant director at New Hanover County Department of Social Services. She has worked throughout North Carolina since 1983 in various social service positions and has served for many years on the NC Department of Health and Human Services Child and Family Services Committee, assisting in the development of policy for the local departments of social services. She has been instrumental in developing North Carolina’s Community Child Protection Team State Advisory Board and has provided leadership for her local Community Team for almost 20 years.

  • Communities in Schools of Cape Fear provides services to at-risk youth in New Hanover and Pender counties. The organization is dedicated to making sure children get the support they need to succeed in school and in life. Communities in Schools’ goal is to increase the success of students by providing exposure to academic and career opportunities, access to resources and to enable the development of “life sustaining skills.” It offers programs in area schools and brings community resources, services, parents and volunteers together to help meet students’ needs.

Recipients will accept their awards at an invitation-only ceremony on April 18 at the UNCW’s Burney Center.

-- Venita Jenkins