UF selects N.C. governor for distinguished alum honor

It’s a long, arduous journey from the University of Florida campus and Norman Hall to the North Carolina Executive Mansion, the governor’s official residence in Raleigh, N.C. Especially for a woman.


January 11, 2011



Posted Tuesday, January 11, 2011

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It’s a long, arduous journey from the University of Florida campus and Norman Hall (home of UF’s College of Education) to the North Carolina Executive Mansion, the governor’s official residence in Raleigh, N.C. Especially for a woman. But Beverly (call me “Bev”) Perdue, holder of two UF education degrees, traveled that road over the past three-plus decades before her election in 2008 as the Tar Heel state’s first woman governor.

Gov. Perdue is still a newsmaker at her Florida alma mater, with UF President Bernie Machen announcing Tuesday that Perdue will receive the university’s 2010-11 Distinguished Alumnus Award.

“Bev Perdue’s achievements as a long-time public servant, a champion of education and now as governor of North Carolina certainly make her one of our most illustrious and accomplished graduates,” said Catherine Emihovich, dean of UF’s College of Education.

Beverly Eaves Perdue is a “double EduGator” with two education degrees from UF. She earned a master’s degree in community college administration in 1974 and a doctorate in educational administration two years later. She also has a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Kentucky.

Perdue, a genuine coal miner’s daughter from Southwest Virginia, says she figured she was heading for a career in academics while pursuing her doctorate. But fate led her down a different path.

Before attending UF, Perdue had taught ninth grade at a Jacksonville middle school and 12th grade at Ocala Vanguard High School in central Florida. After completing her UF studies, she and her family moved to New Bern, N.C., where she worked in health care before becoming the first woman from her district elected to the state House of Representatives.

“The insiders all told me that a woman could never win in my eastern North Carolina district,” Perdue said. “Times have changed dramatically, but I’ve never given up the drive to break down those barriers (that women have faced).

“I have never been afraid of a challenge.”

During her 14 years in the North Carolina Legislature and eight more years as lieutenant governor, Perdue focused on creating 21st century jobs and improving public health, but she also was able to champion her pet cause: education.

She then campaigned for governor on a platform of health care and education. Taking office during the worst economic downturn since the 1930s, Gov. Perdue understandably has made North Carolina’s economy and jobs creation her first priorities. Drawing on her experience as a former teacher and her studies at UF, she also is working to transform North Carolina classrooms through increased technology and a statewide online school initiative.

The governor this summer announced North Carolina’s selection as one of the winners of a federal Race to the Top grant, worth about $400 million, to advance efforts in statewide education reform. She calls her education agenda “Career and College: Ready, Set, Go!”, which includes preparingevery student to graduate from high school ready for a career, college or technical training.

Perdue says she hopes to share the goals of “Ready, Set, Go” with the Southern Regional Education Board, for which she was recently elected chair. The 80-member board has 16 member states, including North Carolina, Florida and Virginia—all places that she has called home.

In nominating Perdue for the University of Florida honor, William C. Harrison, chairman of North Carolina’s state board of education, wrote that university “should be proud that one of your education graduates has accomplished so much at a time when investment in education is critical.”

Writer / Media Contact (UF): Larry Lansford, director, University of Florida College of Education, News & Communications Office; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137.
Media Contact (N.C. Governor’s Office):Chris Mackey, press secretary,christine.mackey@nc.gov; 919-733-5612