125 Difference-Makers VI
by Chuck Gordon

Advocate for Black Writers: Patrik Bass

Patrik Bass

Like many people, Patrik Bass ’87 saw his career sputter through a couple of false starts before he found his calling. After trying his hand as a newspaper reporter and enrolling in Pratt’s School of Architecture, Bass stumbled into the publishing business. He has spent his career championing Black writers and causes. For 18 years he was the books editor for Essence magazine, working with a wide range of writers, including multiple Pulitzer Prize winners, as well as Maya Angelou, Colin Powell and Terry McMillan. He also authored Like A Mighty Stream: The March on Washington, August 28, 1963 and other books capturing multiple elements of Black culture. Bass is now an executive editor at Amistad, a renowned HarperCollins publishing house that specializes in the works of African American themes. He has written and edited for The New York Times, the Washington Post and The Paris Review and has served as an adjunct professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University. As a communication student at Wingate, Bass formed the Black Awareness Club, the precursor to the current Black Student Union, and proposed a class on Black literature that Dr. Pam Thomas ultimately taught as ethnic literature. “I felt well-equipped intellectually and emotionally when I graduated from Wingate,” he says, “and look back at my time there with a great sense of fondness from meeting smart and interesting people, of which I’m still close to several to this day.”

Cheryl Barrineau driving to the basket

Coach on the Floor: Sweet Pea Barrineau

A supremely talented point guard, Cheryl “Sweet Pea” Barrineau ’88 was concerned first and foremost with winning. “She could score anytime she wanted to,” says former Bulldog assistant Doug Jones ’84, ’86, ’10 (M.Ed.), “but she knew her role. She knew what she needed to do to win the game.” A two-time All-American, Barrineau led Wingate to a 108-21 record in four seasons, including 33-2 her senior year, when the Bulldogs won 33 straight games and she was named first-team All-American. She averaged 6.4 assists for her career and was even named to the All-District 26 team in volleyball. She continued assisting after she left Wingate, working as a police officer in Charlotte for 30 years before retiring recently. 

Moral Gadfly: Jim McCoy

The Rev. Jim McCoy

The Rev. Jim McCoy arrived on campus a few months after the College’s first senior class had graduated in 1979, the second full-time campus minister in Wingate’s history. Simmering in the background as he helped students’ faith grow and mature was the “threefold model” introduced by Quaker theologian Elton Trueblood: “the rational life of the intellect, the inward life of devotion, and the outward life of service,” a triumvirate that dovetailed perfectly with Wingate’s motto of “Faith, Knowledge, Service.” “I saw myself as an encourager for students to keep these facets of life connected and complementary,” McCoy says. Spurred on by the job description to be a “moral gadfly” (“I loved the wide-ranging freedom that description gave me!”), McCoy goaded many a student into looking beyond their own lives and toward the needs of others. He departed Wingate for the pulpit in 1991, leaving behind UCAN, a student service organization he helped found that became one of President H.W. Bush’s “thousand points of light.”

Pam Thomas head shot

Lively English Teacher: Pam Thomas

A Wingate professor for nearly 40 years, Pam Thomas loves English literature, and she taught it with a zeal that inspired her students. “No student has ever fallen asleep in one of my courses,” she once joked. Thomas took a special interest in marginalized groups, developing courses in ethnic literature and women’s studies that raised “essential questions of human dignity.” Thomas was granted a Spivey Instructorship in 1991 and won the Corts Teaching Award in 1996. She went to great lengths to open students’ eyes to the beauty of literature, even taking groups to New Zealand in 2010 and 2015 to study special topics.

Grammy-Winning Tenor: Tony Griffey

Tony Griffey portrati

Anthony Dean Griffey ’90 wasn’t thinking of becoming an opera star when he entered Wingate College in 1986. He just wanted to be a church music director. But fate had other plans. At Wingate, Griffey was encouraged to become a performer, and his drive, determination and world-class tenor voice did the rest. “He seemed more comfortable on the stage than he did walking the halls,” says longtime Wingate music professor Judy Hutton. “He was a natural performer.” Griffey went on to study at the prestigious Eastman School of Music and Juilliard and ultimately became a four-time Grammy winner who has performed all over the world. He is also grooming the next generation of voice talent as a professor at Eastman. 

BIll Nash head shot

Utility Player: Bill Nash

Depending on when you were a Wingate student, you might remember Bill Nash ’71 as a fellow student, or as dean of students, or as the baseball coach. As an employee, he’s worn many hats in his 40+ years at the school, including director of the Bulldog Club, his current role. Many students remember him as the approachable disciplinarian, back when he was associate dean of students. “The student center was under me,” Nash says. “Heck, I didn’t know how to fix the bowling alley, so I traded student discipline for the bowling alley.” Nash’s versatility, he says, isn’t unusual at Wingate. “I have a title, but the most important piece of my contract is there at the bottom where it says, ‘Other duties as assigned,’” he says. “That’s been both the culture and the strength of this school.”

Chris Ringuette portrait

Nonprofit Devotee: Chris Ringuette

A communications major at Wingate, Christine Odom Ringuette ’90 is an artist at heart. And what a heart. Ringuette has spent her career serving others, whether on a year-long mission to Ghana, as a social worker or as a nonprofit leader. She found a way to use her many talents to serve a wider range of people in 2000, when she first secured a job with Habitat for Humanity in Phoenix. Over the next 15 years, Ringuette served the housing nonprofit in a variety of roles, including establishing Habitat for Humanity of North Carolina in 2011 and serving as its president and CEO. “All who know Christine know she is a bundle of energy and a bright light to any working group,” says Erin Rank, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles. “She is highly ethical and driven to succeed.” Ringuette received Wingate’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2016.

Ron Bostic head shot

Note-worthy Director: Ron Bostic

Hired in 1978 just as Wingate was becoming a four-year college, Ron Bostic was brought on board to lead the music program, and he did so ably for 37 years. Over the decades he gave students opportunities to perform locally and around the world, leading countless choral performances and study-abroad trips. For years, Bostic and his wife, pianist Polly Bostic, were a strong link between the University and Wingate Baptist Church, where he served as minister of music for three decades and where Polly is the organist.

Senate Pioneer: Eric Powell

A 1991 Wingate College graduate, Eric Powell served one term in the Mississippi Senate. He was the first black person ever elected to the Senate in Mississippi from a rural, predominantly white district. His district had a 92 percent white voting-age population at the time of his election. Powell received a Young Alumnus Award from the University in 2008.

Crafty, Consistent Winner: Johnny Jacumin

Coach Johnny Jacumin cutting down a net

When it came to preparing for a game, Johnny Jacumin was always looking for an edge. One year, Jacumin found out that Gardner-Webb’s home game against Wingate was “Girls in Action Day,” when hundreds of local Baptist girls would be in attendance. Jacumin stopped the Wingate van on the way to the game and bought bags and bags of candy. “We got there, and our girls started handing out candy,” says Doug Jones ’84, ’86, ’10 (M.Ed.), a Jacumin assistant for 24 years. “The whole game they cheered for us.” A high school teacher and coach when he was hired to lead Wingate’s women’s basketball team in 1979, Jacumin was a remarkably consistent winner, recording only two losing seasons in 27 years, and winning at least 20 games 20 times. He won a staggering 591 games before retiring after the 2007 season, and he coached All-Americans and national scoring champs.

Jacumin was like a father figure to his players, and they responded to that dynamic. He also drew up game plans like he was getting the troops ready for the D-Day landing. “He prepared his teams for the next opponent like it was the national championship every game,” Jones says. “The days leading up to a game, he broke everything down. He knew everything that team was going to do.” Jacumin, who died in 2010, won 16 regular-season or tournament conference titles and led his team to the NAIA Final Four and the NCAA Division II Elite Eight (twice). He was NAIA national coach of the year in 1988, when, behind the stellar play of All-American Cheryl “Sweet Pea” Barrineau ’88 and future All-American Direne Thomas ’91, the Bulldogs went 33-2 and reached the Final Four.

Analytical Scholar: Bob Billinger

Bob Billinger leaning on a desk teaching

A Wingate professor from 1979 to 2014, Bob Billinger turned the neat trick of continuing to publish scholarly articles and research while also being an entertaining teacher. He was something of an all-arounder, leading several W’International trips, directing the Wingate-in-London semester twice (including as its first director, in 1981) and serving as faculty athletic representative, most notably as Wingate made the transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II. He won the Corts Teaching Award in 1990. “Facts, per se, they can always look up,” Billinger once said, referring to his students. “I hope that they retain an inquisitive and analytical mind, a love of life, and an appreciation and tolerance for their fellow human beings.”

Alvin Morman in Cleveland Indians uniform

World Series Hurler: Alvin Morman

A middle reliever, Alvin Morman ’91 pitched in 176 Major League games for five teams over four seasons. He was the first former Bulldog to ever play in a World Series game, making an appearance during the Cleveland Indians’ seven-game loss to the Florida Marlins in 1997. Morman was a specialist, coming in for short stints to retire a batter or two. He walked away from baseball at the age of 30, with many innings left in his golden left arm, to spend more time with his family and to become a middle-school guidance counselor. He got the idea while visiting schools and hospitals in his capacity as a professional baseball player. “I liked the interaction of talking to students, talking to children at the ballparks,” he says. “It just felt right.” Over 20 years later, he has no regrets.

Linguistics Guru: Bob Doak

Bob Doak reaching for a book on a shelf

One of a slew of professors who came to Wingate during the transition to senior-college status, Bob Doak whipped students’ writing skills into shape for 35 years, retiring in 2014. Although as an English teacher he was tough and demanding, students couldn’t help but like him. In his windowless office on the top floor of the Burris building, “you would daily find him seated with a student in a nearby chair poring over essays,” says Nancy Randall, sociology professor and now vice provost, who came to Wingate a year after Doak. “He expected repeated efforts, multiple drafts, and improvement in one’s work, but he was unfailingly kind and considerate.” Students dreaded his linguistics course, she says, “but they loved Dr. Doak, and they ended the course as better writers.” Doak also spent time as assistant provost.