Special Feature: Seven Sawyers march through Carolina
» Marching Tar Heels and UNC Band Program
» Morehead-Cain Scholars
» Robertson Scholars
» Pogue Scholars
» Gates Millennium Scholars
» Rotary International Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarships
By Hope Baptiste '87
Leaving their Tar Heel footprints as scholars, musicians and leaders
When Raymond Sawyer graduates from UNC in May, it will be the end of an era—at least for UNC’s Marching Tar Heel band and the Sawyer family. For the last 17 years, a Sawyer has played and marched in the band. “It’s one of the longest-running continuous memberships by one family I think I have seen,” said Jeff Fuchs, the director of the Marching Tar Heels.
Raymond’s graduation also marks the culmination of an impressive parade of scholars from one family that UNC, or anywhere else, has seen in one while. You see, Raymond is the last of SEVEN Sawyer children (there are nine in all) to attend Carolina and march in the band.
He’s the second Morehead-Cain Scholar in his family. His oldest brother and the first Sawyer Marching Tar Heel, Connie Sawyer III ’00, was also a Morehead Scholar. The Sawyers are one of a select few families to ever have multiple Morehead-Cain Scholars. And that doesn’t even begin to describe all they have done and what they have meant to UNC.
The “Seven Sawyers of UNC,” as Ray’s sister Bonney (a Class of 2011 graduate of Elizabeth City State University) likes to say, were recognized with the entire family at the UNC versus Maryland football game during Homecoming weekend in November 2012.
Raymond Sawyer ’13 practices with the Marching Tar Heels. He is the last of seven Sawyers to march in the UNC band, a period spanning 17 years.
Photo courtesy of Undergraduate Admissions
“Of course our parents are proud of all of us, but the accolades are not the source of that pride,” Raymond said. “We were always taught that we all have this innate potential to achieve whatever we set out to do or to become whatever we want to become, as long as we put the work in. If we did that, then we achieved our goal. It’s about living up to our fullest potential for our own sake and no one else’s.”
They’ve certainly done that. All told, the Sawyer clan has garnered two Morehead–Cain Scholarships, one Robertson Scholarship, two Pogue Scholarships, a Rotary International Foundation Scholarship, a Gates Millennium Scholarship and an Earl J. Smith Carolina Scholarship. They have played saxophone, trombone, clarinet, mellophone, trumpet and tuba in the band. There’s an attorney, a medical student, three teachers, two occupational therapists, the head athletic trainer for Michigan State University’s men’s basketball team (Quinton ’04, ’06) and Raymond, who is pursuing a degree in global studies focused on global public health. He’s also seeking a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship and will likely pursue graduate work in management with a focus on international health applications.
In his spare time, Raymond serves as an operational assistant to the band and helps run the summer camps, organize uniforms, arrange travel, and on and on.
He is also the president of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. and vice president of Kappa Kappa Psi, the national honorary band fraternity.
on Nov. 10, 2012
When asked where this unbelievable brain trust comes from, Raymond said simply: “From within. Our parents’ philosophy was simple and therefore our own philosophy is simple as well: keep the faith, respect other people and respect yourself.”
Raymond said there was a time when all nine kids were living at home in North Carolina’s rural Camden County, and it was always an adventure. Both parents came from large families, so it was just normal. “There really wasn’t the sibling rivalry you’d expect from such a large group with equally large personalities,” Raymond said. “From the very beginning, we each had our role and we embraced that and each other, cheered each other on and celebrated each other’s accomplishments.”
Raymond said he never felt pressure to “live up” to his older siblings, just the desire to follow their example. “Connie set the bar pretty high from the start as a Morehead Scholar, but to us, this was much more than just a significant honor, it was a tangible investment in our future potential,” he said. “We all knew that we had potential; we are now able to appreciate how each individual sibling has capitalized on the opportunity to fulfill his or her potential in his or her own way.”
As the only African-American male in his Morehead-Cain class, Raymond has embraced the role of ambassador to all young men of color in general and African-American young men in particular to never sell themselves short. “I am a product of the rural public school system and I’m from a small town in eastern North Carolina,” he said.“I am a high achiever, as are my siblings, because we choose to be. We aspire to make things better than we found them and do it the right way.”
The Seven Sawyers of UNC
- Connie W. Sawyer III ’00 Morehead Scholar, saxophone (1996 to 2000), attorney
- Joshua D. Sawyer ’02 Pogue Scholar, trombone (1998 to 2002), high school math teacher
- Quinton L. Sawyer ’04, ’06 (M.A.) Pogue Scholar, Gates Millennium Scholar, tuba (2000 to 2004) athletic trainer for men’s basketball at Michigan State University
- Crystal D. Sawyer ’07 Rotary International Foundation Scholar, clarinet (2003 to 2007), occupational therapist
- Kellie N. Sawyer ’08 Earl J. Smith Jr. Carolina Scholar, mellophone (2004 to 2008), occupational therapist
- Anthony L. Sawyer ’10 Robertson Scholar, trumpet (2006 to 2010). medical student at the University of Michigan
- Raymond D. Sawyer ’13 Morehead-Cain Scholar, trombone (2009 to 2013), whatever he sets his mind to!
Through his Morehead-Cain summer experiences, Raymond has become a part of the national conversation on the subject and has participated in The Institute for Responsible Citizenship in Washington, D.C. Created by William Keyes ’75, who spent more than two decades working on Capitol Hill, at the White House and in public policy consulting, the organization prepares high-achieving African-American men for successful careers in business, law, government, public service, education, journalism, the sciences, medicine, ministry and the arts.
“I have been extremely fortunate through my Morehead-Cain experiences to serve in developing countries abroad, work in the non-profit and business sectors of a world economy, develop leadership skills with and among my peers, work with an AIDS support organization and build relationships with like-minded people who are passionate about things I’m passionate about,” Raymond said. Thanks in part to his scholarship support, he said, “I’ve met the president of the United States, Supreme Court justices, congressmen and business leaders who’ve shared their knowledge and experience with me.
“And I’ve learned so much.”
Where does the band fit in? Well, according to Raymond, it’s in the Sawyer blood. “Music is deeply rooted in our family and is just as much a part of who we are as our name,” he said. “My mom played piano and it was always a focal point both physically and spiritually in our home. The music always could draw us all in, all together, and shut out the distractions and allow us to just...breath.”
How does he do it all? “I prioritize, use the resources around me, delegate and collaborate,” he said. “No one can do everything, you have to have help and work together, communicate, and always be prepared.”
At the end of the day, it’s the relationships that make the difference. “Every day at the end of the day I always take a break to just reassess,” he said. “I touch base with family and friends and try to foster those relationships because they will go with me far beyond the confines of campus. “
So, what is Raymond’s favorite Carolina memory? Pretty much the same as all the other Sawyer siblings. “Sharing Carolina with my brothers and sisters is what I treasure most,” he said. “How many people get to do that?”