First Posted: 1/15/2009
PEMBROKE -- Few people are more synonymous with an institution than Lumberton Mayor Dr. Ray Pennington is with The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
That bond will grow a little stronger when Pennington, along with 1992 UNCP graduate Melanie Grooms-Huddleston, is inducted in the Braves' Hall of Fame on Feb. 22 during the school's homecoming weekend.
It's an honor that has been over 30 years in the making for Pennington, who first joined UNCP as head baseball coach in the 1960s.
“I've had the opportunity to coach so many gifted athletes over the years,” he said. “I've also had the privilege to hire and work with some of the greatest coaches in UNCP history. This is quite an honor to be included in such an elite group.”
Pennington is a more than qualified inductee.
The UNCP baseball team compiled a .781 winning percentage during his five-year stint that produced four All-Americans.
Pennington moved on to coach the university's golf team twice, from 1970 to '75 and 1985 to '90.
He took a more significant role at the school in 1984, when he began a 15-year stretch as UNCP Director of Athletics. He oversaw an immensely successful run in which UNCP won over twenty Carolinas Conference and District 26 Championships.
Grooms-Huddleston was one of UNCP's highly-decorated athletes during her tenure as director, competing four years for both the volleyball and softball teams.
UNCP's career and single-season record holder in service aces, Grooms-Huddleston is the only Lady Brave volleyball player to be named All-American. She was named all-conference three times.
Grooms-Huddleston also earned all-conference honors three times in softball, and was named all-district as a senior.
She returned to UNCP in 1995 as a coach, guiding the volleyball team for three years and softball team for two years.
“I feel very blessed to be receiving this award,” she said. “It is a top honor to be among such an elite class in UNCP athletics. I am humbled to be included in the same category with so many outstanding members and I hold this as one of my greatest accomplishments.”