Watson College Announces 2018 Razor Walker Award Recipients

Each year, the Watson College of Education presents the Razor Walker Awards to individuals whose vision, tenacity, courage and sacrifice have made a difference in the lives of young people. The awards, named in recognition of the “razor’s edge” that recipients walk to support education and youth, have been presented to advocates from education, government, business and community organizations since 1993.

This year, the Watson College will recognize four North Carolina leaders: Cathy L. Barlow, career educator, former UNCW provost and former dean of the Watson College; Ralph Hise, senator of the 47th District of North Carolina; Wayne L. Lofton, president and CEO of the Community Boys and Girls Club of Wilmington; and James E. McAdams, longtime principal and educational leader in New Hanover and Brunswick counties (awarded posthumously).

“The Razor Walker event is one of the highlights of the year for the Watson College,” said Watson College Dean Van Dempsey. “The ceremony provides a great evening where the Watson College and our friends come together as an education community to recognize the leadership and advocacy of people from across North Carolina whose work enhances the lives and opportunities for children. This year’s awardees are no exception, and we look forward to recognizing and celebrating their achievements.”

Cathy Barlow has been a leader in education for more than 45 years. She began her career as a special education teacher and held leadership positions in K-12 schools for 21 years before moving into higher education. She joined UNCW as dean of education in 2000, after serving as a professor, department chair and dean at two universities. She went on to serve as UNCW provost for three years, and returned from retirement in 2015 to serve an additional two years as interim vice provost during a period of transition at the university. She has held numerous leadership positions at the local, state and national levels and continues to serve as president of The Renaissance Group and president-elect of the Downtown Wilmington Rotary Club.


Ralph Hise has served as senator of the 47th District of North Carolina since 2011. He is a strong proponent of education, who believes there is no greater investment we can make than in our children’s future. He has helped increase funding for public schools, supported efforts to help students graduate and introduced legislation to boost early literacy efforts in the state. As a result of his leadership the state has committed $10.5 million to expand the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program through the Smart Start network. The statewide initiative, designed to foster a love of reading among children from birth through kindergarten, will expand to cover every county in North Carolina by 2019.


Wayne L. Lofton is president and CEO of Community Boys and Girls Club of Wilmington. The Club, the second largest in North Carolina, serves 500 to 800 youth each month in New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick counties, providing free transportation and a safe place where children can assemble after school to complete academic assignments, enjoy hot healthy meals and engage in recreation. Under Lofton’s leadership the club has placed a greater emphasis on education, initiated programs to address gang violence and criminal recidivism and seen a significant increase in the number of high school graduates and young people entering college or the military.


James E. McAdams was a teacher, coach and longtime principal whose warmth, compassion and leadership enhanced the lives of countless students and teachers over the course of four decades. He served as principal at Farmville Central High School, North Brunswick High School, Bolivia Elementary, South Brunswick High School, New Hanover High School and Ashley High School prior to his retirement in 2011. A dedication to cultivating and affecting the lives of students brought him out of retirement to again serve as principal at New Hanover High School from 2014 to 2017. North Carolina lost a truly exceptional leader in January 2018, but his legacy lives on in the hope he inspired in all who had the good fortune to be among those he called his ‘blended school families.’

The awards will be presented at a reception for the honorees, their families and other invited guests at the Burney Center on April 24.