Extraordinary People: UNCW Vice Chancellor humbled by prestigious honor

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Submitted: Tue, 06/18/2013 - 1:40am
Updated: Tue, 06/18/2013 - 2:32pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Andy Griffith, Maya Angelou and even the talk show queen herself, Oprah Winfrey, have been recognized with one of the state’s highest honors: the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. Alongside these Hollywood names is UNCW Vice Chancellor, Mary Gornto. She discovered the news of her award a few weeks ago at a reception in honor of her upcoming retirement.

“I was incredibly surprised, humbled and honored,” Gornto said.

The award honors people who have shown extraordinary service to the state, through years of service and extra efforts in their careers.

Gornto says a life in education is not what she had originally planned.

“I had spent nearly 20 years in public service and was fired as city manager by a new mayor and city council,” Gornto said.

Her firing eventually led to her hiring at UNCW and it didn’t take long for her excel in fundraising. Since day one, Gornto’s goal has been to leave a stamp of giving.

“Over more than a decade, we’ve seen a very significant increase in philanthropic support,” Gornto said. “The same time, the university has continued to increase in its quality and its service to the community.”

Gornto’s colleagues say the impact she leaves behind is a big one, one that won’t easily be replaced.

“I think she’s been able to use the relationships that she has with Wilmington, with the community to really advance the university,” UNCW Assistant Vice Chancellor Eddie Stuart said.

Now, after more than 11 years on the job, Gornto is set to retire next month. She says although she’ll miss the people, she’s looking forward to not setting her alarm clock and one more thing.

“I’ve worn hose and high heels every day for 40 years and I’m ready to give those up.”

If you have an extraordinary person you’d like to see featured, send me an email at ccatlett@wwaytv3.com.


  • Guest2020 says:

    I think I would tell them where to put that award.

  • Guest-a-Holic says:

    Congratulations to Gornto. She is one in thousands who have received this dubious award.

    As of 2009, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine had been given to over 15,000 people. Today, the number is around 30,000. When Mike Easley left office, he awarded both his mother and father with the “prestigious” award.

    The award is given out like candy kisses to just about anybody who has hopped aboard the NC state government workers’ gravy train.

    Mike Easley (“NC the edgeecation state”) threw the awards out like confetti.

  • GuestBullShit says:

    g’AHOLEic…. Jealous a wee bit?

  • Vog46 says:

    UNCW Representatives:
    “Well Mary for your years of dedicated service to the community we award you the Long Leaf Pine – North Carolina’s highest civilian honor.”

    Mary: “thank you, thank you very much. I’m honored.”

    “Yes Mary you join a long list of dignitaries who have received this award, Maya Angelou, Oprah, and locally RC Soles.”
    “opra……wait a minute, are you telling me RC also known as AC/DC got a Long Leaf Pine award too?”
    “Yep he sure did Mary”

    “Oh boy now I’m forever linked to RC Soles. I guess now that I’m retiring I can take off my hose and my high heels.”
    “Huh? That’s exactly what RC said Mary!! Are you related?”
    “MARY? Why did you leave the Long Leaf Pine award on your desk when you packed up your stuff to leave for retirement? Mary?”……..

    Congratulations Mary Gornto – in spite of me funnin’ yah you’re one person that I think deserves this award…….


  • Vog46 says:

    His helicopter pilot got one too for all those quick trips from Raleigh to Southport…………..for governor’s duty !! Yeah that’s it – official state business.
    Uh – huh……….sure………The Order of the Long Sleaze Pine.


  • Guest Long time Wilmington resident says:

    This award is truly a joke. R.C. Soles and now Mary Gornto!!!
    This woman was one of the most despised people in city government
    for years. After years of complaints from various department and
    folks at the courthouse about her hatefulness, they finally fired
    her, and to end up at UNCW is amazing. Now that most of the deadwood
    is gone from UNCW at the top, maybe they can move on. Good riddance

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