When I look back, I realize that I was programmed by some of the most influential people in my young life to be a student here at A and T. Those Aggies included Dr. Andrew A. Best, our family physician; Mr. John Maye Sr., principal of W. H. Robinson High School; and at least five to seven teachers at Robinson High. Then, most of all, my two older brothers James and Joe Robbins matriculated at A&T and came home on breaks and told me stories about some their experiences here.
Growing up on a tobacco farm in eastern North Carolina, I had no idea where the money would come from, but I always believed I would be able to attend college. Graduating as valedictorian of my high school class and scoring high on a national examination made possible some financial assistance, but I could not have made it without the help of family, members of Corey’s Chapel Free Will Baptist Church, a scholarship organization formed by Dr. Best, and, of course, work study. While everything was not all sweetness and light during my days at A&T, I would not trade a minute of it for the lessons learned in and out of the classroom and prepared me to move out into the world and compete for the jobs I earned and to navigate through tricky or sticky situations on those jobs by remembering what family and A&T had taught me: Don’t give up. Stand up for yourself and what you believe in. “No Steps Backward!”
After graduation in 1966, I traveled to Atlanta, Ga., to attend graduate school at Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University) and was quickly recruited into the Atlanta Chapter of the N.C. A&T Alumni Association by Albert Saddler, one of its founders. The Aggies I met loved A&T and were giving back with their time, talents and money. That’s how it all began. Since then, I’ve served in many local, regional and national offices, including Chapter President, Southeast Regional Director and National Alumni President (1997–99).
As a charter member of the National Fundraising Committee and in service with them for many years, I learned that while A&T alumni were leaders in giving among historically black public institutions, we fall short in comparison to private institutions, and public ones of the other persuasion. That’s not right. Aggies lead! Since it is a fact that the State of North Carolina does not provide us nearly enough of the money we need to fund our world-class alma mater, if we want it to prosper and grow, we must do it.
So as I prospered, I increased my giving, moving up to the top giving level. A few years back, I established the Lillie M. Robbins Endowed Scholarship Fund at a cost of $25,000. Yes, it was a tremendous sacrifice, but it was possible because of lessons my parents McKinley and Ella Robbins and A&T taught me: Never spend every dime you earn. Put your money where your mouth is. “One monkey don’t stop no show” (including the one or two teachers who disappointed you).
The U. S. Savings Bonds I purchased while working on my jobs with the federal government as a civil rights investigator were “invested” to help Aggies of today and tomorrow join the Aggie family. To me, that’s Aggie Pride in action and will continue forever. I add to it every year, and I invite all like-minded Aggies to join me. It’s the right thing to do.
While academics come first, well-rounded people require balance in life. And A&T’s Homecoming is just plain fun. It’s like a big family reunion. You come back year after year to see many of the same regular attendees, to meet and welcome new attendees into the fold and, for some of us, to eat all weekend as though we had not seen and would not see food again for a week.
Folks in Atlanta who never studied at A&T but attended one Homecoming now regularly and brazenly contact our chapter members for tickets because they’ve learned we buy them in blocks. They feel at home in our celebrations on campus and throughout Greensboro. Many folks focus on the football game. Of course, I always want my team to win, but in truth I would come if all I saw was our Blue and Gold Marching Machine’s half-time show. I also relish the fellowship we share in the stands. You just come away with a good, happy frame of mind that is perfect for beginning to “show some love” by giving back to A&T for the next generation of Aggies.