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NCCU students remember chancellor as approachable, devoted

Posted 5:05 p.m. Monday
Updated 7:04 p.m. Monday

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— North Carolina Central University students gathered Monday evening to remember Chancellor Debra Saunders-White, who died Saturday after battling cancer.

"She was always shaking hands," said Taylor Snow, a junior at NCCU. "You'll catch her dancing sometimes. She was a good spirit around here."

Saunders-White was the school's 11th chancellor and assumed the position there in June 2013. She made history at the university as the first permanent female chancellor. According to students and faculty, she will be forever remembered as the woman who ushered North Carolina Central University into a new era of success.

"A lot of students have one-on-one relationships with her because of the type of leader she was," said junior Michael Hopkins.

Hopkins said he was invited to Saunders-White's home for dinner after getting a 4.0 GPA one semester.

"I could always go to her for advice or a smile if I needed it, or encouragement in my day-to-day activities knowing that she was always going to put students first in whatever she did," Hopkins said.

Junior Nicholas Hedgepeth said even in death, Saunders-White taught students a lasting lesson.

"She did have cancer and she was still able to serve and do what she had to do before she took a small leave...and just the fact she was able to do that showed us that we don't have really any excuse to stop going" he said.

Saunders-White previously served as acting assistant secretary for the Office of Postsecondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education, according to the school's website.

She leaves behind two children, a mother and brothers. Her son left a bouquet of roses on campus Saturday in honor of his mother. He said above all, his mother believed with all her heart in the power of a quality education, even for the disenfranchised and often underprivileged.

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