Alumni News

Julius Chambers, four alumni honored by School of Education

The School of Education hosted its seventh annual Awards Luncheon on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2006 at the George Watts Hill Alumni Center on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. Five outstanding individuals were recognized for their contributions to education.

For his lifelong work to make quality schooling available to all children, Julius Chambers (L.L.B. J.D. ’62), a civil rights lawyer and former chancellor of North Carolina Central University, received the School’s highest honor, The Peabody Award.

The Alumni Achievement Award was bestowed upon Dr. Henry Johnson (M.A.T. ’75), assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education in the U.S. Department of Education, for his work to improve education policy and programs across America.

Dr. Nancy Farmer (A.B.Ed. ’69, M.Ed. ’70, Ed.D. ’82), educational consultant and former school district administrator in Orange and Pitt counties, received the Distinguished Leadership Award, honoring her many accomplishments as a career educator including her contributions to advancing struggling schools.

Seventh-grade science teacher Jan Schuettpelz (M.Ed. ’04) was honored with the Excellence in Teaching Award, recognizing her work as a teacher to improve science education.

The Outstanding Young Alumnus Award was presented to Travis Lewis (M.Ed. ’00), director of Pitt County Schools’ student services department, whose achievements as a school counselor  have helped children, especially those at risk, achieve success in school and in life.   

Nominations for the awards were made by alumni, faculty and friends of the School. A nine-member committee selected the winners. Dr. Ben Matthews, committee chair and director of the School Support Division of the Public Schools of North Carolina, presided over the awards celebration.

Photo of Julius Chambers
Julius Chambers

As a young boy, Julius Chambers attended an all-black elementary school without a library, and in high school, he was bused past the white high school to the all-black school more than 12 miles away.  These early experiences fueled his desire to change the system so that all children, regardless of race, could attend quality schools. 

Less than 10 years after graduating first in his class from the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law, Chambers helped make this desire a reality when he won the benchmark case, Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education.

In 1993, Chambers became the chancellor of North Carolina Central University.  After raising admission standards, strengthening the university’s curricula and launching a $50 million capital fund-raising campaign, Chambers retired in June 2001. Currently, he serves as director of the UNC Center for Civil Rights, a Center which is committed to the advancement of civil rights and social justice, especially in the American South.

In his acceptance remarks, Chambers recalled working in the Civil Rights era with superintendents around the country to develop plans for desegregation. “As you go through these experiences with others, despite all the things you do, you learn that there are new things you didn’t really know,” he said. “I look forward to working with you [the School of Education] in the years to come and making sure that the Constitutional mandate is observed ─ that every child will have the right to a quality education in North Carolina.”

Photo of Henry Johnson
Henry Johnson

Since becoming assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education in 2005, Henry Johnson has testified before Congress on the importance of balancing the Department’s commitment to the No Child Left Behind Act with the need for flexibility at the state and local level.  He regularly talks with educators and administrators across America and is a passionate and informed advocate for better education policy.

Prior to his appointment, Johnson worked for 30 years at all levels of education – from the classroom to school board chambers to state offices, including serving as the Mississippi superintendent of education and the North Carolina associate state superintendent of education.

Accepting his award, Johnson recalled a quote from Thomas Jefferson which he said aptly expresses the purpose of education. “Over 200 years ago, Jefferson said that the purpose of schooling is to train citizens to participate in a democracy,” Johnson said. “Education is important business, and that’s why I give so much to it.”

He related a formative experience that occurred when he took a course at the School of Education on the integration of theory and practice. “It re-affirmed so much of what I believed through my own experience and my own insights, my own intuition, my intellect, about teaching and learning,” he said. “I remember the profound impact that class made on me. . . . In that class and beyond, Carolina practices integrating theory with practice, and that’s how we get better at teaching and learning.”

Photo of Nancy Farmer
Nancy Farmer

A second-generation educator, Nancy Farmer earned all three of her higher education degrees from the School of Education. She was heralded as a goal-setter and achiever, a tireless professional who regularly surpasses expectations and a motivator who helps others realize their potential.

Beginning her career as a high school English teacher in Alamance County, Farmer later became a counselor, a building administrator and a district administrator in several schools and districts. After working for 29 years in the education profession, Farmer became an educational consultant, a move that enabled her to share her expertise with a wider audience.  She currently serves as a consultant for the Local Education Agency Assistance Program to aid struggling schools.

Farmer has been a longtime, dedicated volunteer for the School of Education and the University. She has served on the School’s Alumni Council for many years and was president from 1997-2001. She was appointed to the University’s Board of Visitors in 2002 and has been a member of the Carolina First Women’s Leadership Council since 2003. She has been one of the School of Education’s biggest advocates throughout the University and the state of North Carolina.

“One thing about public education is that you’re never really alone; you’re always part of a team,” Farmer said. “I have been blessed by knowing many great educators, and this University made that possible. Those of us who have come through some difficult times know that it’s rarely the single endeavor of one person but rather a group of people working in concert who can make a difference.”

Photo of Jan Schuettpelz
Jan Schuettpelz

Far from “teaching to the test,” Jan Schuettpelz, a seventh-grade science teacher at Durham School of the Arts, strives to open her students’ minds to new ideas, problem-solving and deductive reasoning.  Using the inquiry-based teaching model, Schuettpelz produces student-scientists who write proposals, design research, test theories and carry out their own experiments. 

Earlier this year, she received the prestigious Delta Education/Cambridge Physics Outlet (CPO) Science Award for Excellence in Inquiry-based Science Teaching. Among other honors, she has also received the Toyota Tapestry award for science in literacy and a grant from North Carolina’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives.   

Schuettpelz was praised for her ability to “put the whole package together” and achieve extraordinary effectiveness as a teacher. Said one colleague, “Jan truly cares about her students. They don’t want to let her down. She gives them 100 percent and they give her 100 percent.”

Photo of Travis Lewis
Travis Lewis

School counselor Travis Lewis was cited for his outstanding skill at helping students find their way through school and through life. He was praised for his strong interpersonal skills, effective leadership and good common sense, as well as his compassionate and caring nature.

Since receiving his master’s degree in 2000, Lewis has advanced from serving as a counselor in a Pitt County high school, to heading the school’s student services, to serving as director of the Pitt County Schools’ student services department, where he currently directs the work of the district’s school counselors, social workers, nurses and resource officers. He received the Barry Gaskins Ambassador Award in 2003, honoring him as the Pitt County employee who best exemplifies the attributes of grace, civility, humor, care and concern for all.

One former professor described Lewis this way: “He is the kind of caring, committed student advocate and leader that we would like all counseling and student services professionals to be.”

Each year the School of Education honors select alumni and individuals for their outstanding accomplishments and deep commitment to education.  Previous award winners have included UNC President Emeritus William C. Friday and Ida H. Friday, former North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt, former Senator Howard N. Lee, and former UNC men’s basketball coach Dean Smith and Linnea Smith.