Leadership Award Honors Former Chief Justice
January 11, 2012 - Former Chief Justice Burley Mitchell, whose Leandro ruling has led to more than a decade of efforts to improve educational quality in the state's poorest schools, was honored Monday by the Public School Forum of North Carolina with the Jay Robinson Leadership Award for Public Service.
Mitchell has served on the board of directors of the North Carolina New Schools Project since 2006, joining as its first chairman. He is a partner with the Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice law firm and a member of the UNC Board of Governors.
The Public School Forum also honored Dr. Peggy Smith, a Campbell University educator, with the Jay Robinson Leadership Award for Education Leadership. Smith is coordinator of Campbell's masters of school administration program and a member of the Johnston County Board of Education.
Both of the annual awards are named for Jay Robinson, a former chairman of the State Board of Education, who was a teacher, coach, principal, superintendent and chief lobbyist for the University of North Carolina system. He was the first president of the Public School Forum and an emeritus member of the organization until his death in 2000.
NCNSP President Tony Habit, who nominated Mitchell for the award, called him "a statesman who has earned the trust of leaders all along the political spectrum. Judge Burley's crucial ruling in the Leandro case continues to help set the pace of educational improvement and innovation for North Carolina's public schools and the students who attend them, especially those whose opportunities might otherwise be limited."
The recipients were honored Monday during a reception and Celebration of Leadership. They received a special award plaque and a financial prize. BB&T has partnered with the Forum for several years by underwriting the financial prize for the Forum's most prestigious awards.
The Jay Robinson Leadership Awards Selection Committee was chaired by Richard Urquhart III, COO of Investors Management Company. Other members were Gene Arnold, former legislator and business executive and Forum chairman-elect; Dr. Dudley Flood, Jay Robinson Leadership Award recipient in 2009 and education consultant; Gerry Hancock, a partner with the law firm of Everett, Gaskins and Hancock and former Forum board chairman; and Virginia Parker, director strategic partnerships for the Wake Tech Foundation.
"This committee has one of the most difficult tasks at the Forum," said Barbara K. Allen, Forum board chairwoman. "I commend them for their selections. Jay Robinson would be very pleased with their decisions. These two recipients are exceedingly worthy of the honor."