Menefee, Thomas Family Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship, retires from UNCP

PEMBROKE — Dr. Mike Menefee wrote the book on entrepreneurship.

He was kind enough to share a few chapters with his colleagues and students at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke before retiring as the Thomas Family Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship.

Menefee played a major role in the development of UNCP’s Regional Center for Economic, Community and Professional Development – known today as the Office for Regional Initiatives.

He is also credited with starting the entrepreneurship program at UNCP in 2007. Today, UNCP offers four entrepreneurship programs: an undergraduate certificate, a minor in entrepreneurship, a concentration for business majors and an entrepreneurship track in the Master of Business Administration program.

Menefee’s influence on UNCP’s business professors, students and local businesses is unmistakable. During his tenure, 83 UNCP students earned an entrepreneurship certificate — 12 have opened businesses in North Carolina.

“Dr. Menefee is a legend,” said James Freeman, interim director of the Entrepreneurship Incubator.

Menefee is a household name in the business and entrepreneurship field nationwide. He dedicated 42 years of his life to researching and teaching the subject. He authored 200 journal articles, eight books and won numerous local and national awards.

Shortly before his retirement this year, Menefee was presented with the 2016 UNC Faculty Champion Award of Social Entrepreneurship. Menefee is the first faculty member in the UNC System to receive the prestigious award.

He received the award during the UNC Social Entrepreneurship Conference in Greensboro. He was there accompanying a team of UNCP students who competed in the finance competition.

“This was a big honor,” Menefee said. “It is a pretty big honor for this university, as well. I was surprised. This was a very nice award to receive and I greatly appreciate it. We have a great entrepreneurship program here at UNC Pembroke and winning these awards validates that.”

UNC Pembroke and the Thomas Family Center for Entrepreneurship benefited greatly from the expertise of Dr. Menefee, according to Dr. Cammie Hunt, associate vice chancellor for Engaged Outreach.

“As an active scholar in the field of Entrepreneurship and as an Entrepreneur himself, our students learned first-hand success strategies that would allow them to reach their goals,” Hunt said. Dr. Menefee always had a smile on his face and was willing to listen to his students and colleagues as they shared their goals. Personally, I am thankful to Dr. Menefee not just for his service to UNCP, but for the time he gave me as he served on my dissertation faculty committee. We will miss Mike Menefee, but he leaves the TFCE poised for excellence.”

Dr. John Parnell first met Menefee in 1990. Parnell, a veteran professor in UNCP’s School of Business, spoke glowingly of his colleague during a ceremony honoring recent UNCP’s retirees.

“Mike has really put UNCP on the map in the entrepreneurship world,” Parnell said. “He has really lifted the stature of this university and leaders for the School of Business and the Thomas Family Center for Entrepreneurship.”

Parnell said he admired the way Menefee took charge in his classroom.

“He was a master storyteller,” Parnell said. “He’s the guy I like to stand in the hall and listen to when he is giving a lecture. He mastered his content and his delivery. He was entertaining and captivating in the classroom. Mike was popular and well respected among his students.”

“He is a man of outstanding character, he said. “He is someone who will be missed here. His impact in the community is something that will not be forgotten.”

Menefee was born in Illinois, but most of his early years were spent in Tennessee.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in management from Northern Illinois University. He also holds a master’s degree in civil engineering and management, and a Ph.D. in administrative science from Purdue University.

He earned certificates as a financial analyst from Dunn and Bradstreet; corporate accounting, human resource management and mediation from UNCP and Bible studies and counseling from Moody Bible Institute.

Menefee’s long and distinguished career in higher education began in 1974. He came to UNCP in 1990 and was instrumental in the development of the Regional Center. He left UNCP in 1994 and accepted a job at Purdue University.

He established an entrepreneurship program at Purdue and was named professor emeritus. During his career, he also taught at Tennessee Tech University. He returned to UNCP in 2007.

For years, Menefee has organized and hosted regional entrepreneurship workshops and summits for universities, businesses and startups. He mentored James Freeman and his business partner, Jason Kennedy, when they decided to open Mighty J’s, a restaurant in Pembroke in 2007.

“He encourages people to take a chance,” Freeman said. “I came to him when we had the idea for Mighty J’s and he accepted us with open arms. He educated me about the fundamentals and basic principles of starting a business. He helped change my life.”

Menefee estimates that the Thomas Family Center for Entrepreneurship has assisted 250 businesses across the region since 2007.

For his work, Menefee has earned numerous accolades, including the Thomson-South-Western Outstanding Educator of the Year, National Business Professor of the Year by the Federation of Business Disciplines, Innovative Educator of the Year by the Decision Sciences Institute and the U.S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship Outstanding Service Award.

He was named a research scholar by the Kettering Foundation. He was also named a Burton Morgan Fellow, Sam Walton Fellow and Peterson Faculty Fellow of Entrepreneurship.

At UNCP, he was named best professor in 2014 and received the Adolph Dial Award for research and community service in 2015. That same year, he received the Dean’s Award for Impactful Scholarly Achievement.

He was recognized by the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance for his work with the entrepreneurship program at UNCP. Menefee serves on several boards including the North Carolina Council on Economic Education and Sandhills Council on Entrepreneurial Leadership.

“I had a great run at the Thomas Center, but it doesn’t happen alone,” Menefee said. “I had great people working by my side.”

Mike Menefee Menefee

By Mark Locklear


Mark Locklear is the public communication specialist for The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.


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