Kiwanis Builder's Cup Awarded to Dempsey
John Dempsey typically spends Friday nights at Vito’s Ristorante and Pizzeria, so he had an inkling something might be up when he got a call from his good friend George Little a few weeks ago.
“He told me I really had to come to the Builder’s Cup banquet this year, and I said, ‘George, it’s Friday night. That’s Vito’s night,’” Dempsey said.
When Little, a close friend and chairman of the Sandhills Community College Board of Trustees, insisted that Dempsey attend the banquet, the president of SCC really became suspicious. His suspicions were confirmed when he received the 2011 Builder’s Cup.
The award was presented during the 77th Kiwanis Builder’s Cup Banquet at the Fordham Room at Belle Meade of St. Joseph of the Pines.
Each year, the name of the recipient is a closely guarded secret until it is announced.
Dempsey said he was honored and humbled to have his name associated with so many other community leaders who previously won the award.
“It’s like winning the Masters, getting your name on the trophy and then seeing Ben Hogan’s name,” Dempsey said.
The Builder’s Cup, which was first awarded in 1927, is presented to a Moore County resident “who by unselfish service without hope of personal gain has outstandingly contributed to the upbuilding of the Sandhills.”
Winners from the past decade include Elizabeth Liddell (2000), Mr. and Mrs. George Little (2001), Dr. and Mrs. John Monroe (2002), Harry Webb (2003), Robert E. Lee (2004), William Samuels (2005), Marshall Berg (2006), Linda Hubbard (2007), Charles Frock (2008), Lawrence (posthumously) and Olive Johnson (2009), and Mark Wethington (2010).
The Builder’s Cup is not necessarily given out each year, and the winner doesn’t have to be a member of Kiwanis. Hubbard chaired this year’s selection committee.
Jay St. John presented the award to Dempsey, calling him a “block of granite in the community.”
“Think of the lives John Dempsey has changed, the college he’s transformed and the community he’s helped shape,” St. John said.
St. John described Dempsey as a pragmatic optimist, who, as Bruce Springsteen sang, “When they built you brother, they broke the mold.”
Dempsey also loves politics, golf, Philadelphia Phillies baseball, the cities of New York and San Francisco, writers F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, and movies such as “Casablanca” and “The Godfather.”
Dempsey became president of SCC in 1989. During his tenure, SCC has experienced unprecedented growth that has made it one of the most respected community colleges in the country.
During his acceptance speech, Dempsey thanked his wife, Evelyn, for being “his best friend, and there is no second,” and Little for his role as a “guiding star.”
“I have made a lot of mistakes as president of Sandhills (Community College),” he said “and George has had my back for each and every one. I will never forget that.”
SCC was the first comprehensive community college in North Carolina to offer a college transfer program.
Dempsey is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, holds a master’s degree in government from the College of William and Mary, and a doctorate in political science from the University of Mas-sachusetts.
Dempsey and his wife have two sons and two grandchildren. He is active in community affairs, having chaired or served on numerous boards, including the Boys and Girls Club, the United Way and FirstHealth of the Carolinas.
Dempsey served as president of Belmont-Abbey College outside of Charlotte before coming to Sandhills to replace the retiring Raymond Stone, the school’s only other president and a past winner of the Builder’s Cup.
He has received numerous honors. He was named Man of the Year by the Moore County Community Foundation and received the Distinguished Service Award of the the Pinehurst Civic Group. In 2004, Dempsey was the inaugural recipient of the United Way of Moore County’s Cornerstone Award.
Contact Tom Embrey at email@example.com.
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