A friend of a friend-Donna Payne and Mark Payne-April 21

One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about “friends of my friends”. The post below is the story for April 21, 2015.

My goal in 2015 is to learn or get re-acquainted with 365 people and doing a daily post on the “the friend of a friend” is helping me get closer to my goal.

My last year as Athletic Director in 2012 UNC Pembroke hosted 132 home events almost all of them varsity sports. It is not an easy task getting all the logistics in place to put on a home athletic contest. The most challenging college sport of all to plan for is football. I often referred to planning a football game comparable to planning the county fair.

College football includes tailgating, concessions, presentations, visiting dignitaries, parking, marching band, cheerleaders, officials, medical personnel and EMS, security, ticket takers, program sales, a large contingent of visiting team fans, and the game itself. There was no way that I could do it all myself. I was very fortunate that a good friend and UNC Pembroke employee named Mark Payne who was able to be the Football Game Day Director for UNCP when we began in 2007. He was a great organizer and very attentive to all the details we needed to have a good product. He also loved UNCP Athletics.

Mark Payne in his former life was a police officer in Austin, TX. He loves the Texas Longhorns and loved living in Texas but he had a small problem in a big state. His wife is a native North Carolinian and she had a job offer to move back to North Carolina in the 1990’s. His wife ‘s profession is that of an attorney and she went into private practice in her hometown of Elizabethtown, NC. In 2002 she landed the position of legal counsel and chief of staff at UNC Pembroke and remained in that position for 6 years. Her name is Donna Gooden Payne. Today I follow in her footsteps as chief of staff at UNC Pembroke.

After Mark’s wife Donna arrived at UNCP he found work as a program instructor on the ropes course the campus had at the time. That location today is the site of the Health Science Building. Mark also enrolled in a master’s degree program in exercise science and completed his master’s degree.

Mark became one of the university go to people for any type of project especially if it involved athletics. He became a fixture at all the games and his role became more and more prevalent. As we grew as a campus and as an athletic department his help became immeasurable to me. He also developed real strong relationships with a number of coaches and student athletes especially the softball team. In 2008 when the UNCP Softball team posted a 46-14 record he was the tournament director for the NCAA Division II Softball Regionals held on campus. He worked his butt off and never complained and UNCP was able to host a first class event thanks to his planning and work ethic.

Mark Payne had to leave UNC Pembroke after the 2008 football season because his wife Donna Payne was hired as East Carolina University’s new legal counsel in July 2008. Today her title is Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs.

Mark currently serves as a safety specialist for East Carolina University. He and his best friend Donna Gooden Payne are missed at UNC Pembroke.

The Friend-MARK PAYNE-photo below (l-r) Dan Kenney & Mark Payne in end zone at UNCP Football Game

Mark Payne

Running into Mark in Texas at the Contessa Hotel in San Antonio, TX-January 2011

Mark and Dan

The Friend of the Friend-DONNA PAYNE


A couple that loves higher education

Donna Gooden Payne is one bright and highly intelligent leader. She grew up in Elizabethtown, NC and attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a Morehead Scholarship. The Morehead is the most competitive and prestigious scholarship offered by UNC.

Today at East Carolina University she is responsible for providing comprehensive legal counsel to the chancellor at ECU along with advising the board of trustees, senior administrators and, through them, faculty and staff. She leads a team of six attorneys and four support staff. College campuses can be complex institutions and her team provides counsel on the legal implications of proposed policies, compliance with federal and state laws and administrative regulations, draft and review contracts, and coordinate or provide legal support for a variety of matters including employment proceedings, student disciplinary appeals, health care regulations, and transactions involving real, personal and intellectual property interests. She has a big job.

Donna during her six years at UNC Pembroke embraced all aspects of college life. She was intellectually curious and developed friendships with a wide variety of constituents on campus. It wasn’t unusual for the Payne’s while they were at UNCP to have some of the most eclectic group of people at their house for some type of social function. Donna loves intellectual and engaging conversations and she found at UNC Pembroke we had people who could scratch that itch for her.

Donna met Mark while she was attending law school at UT Austin. She holds her law degree from there. In 1988, she attended Macquarie University in Sydney (North Ryde), Australia as a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholar.

I don’t know what the future holds for the Payne’s but I hope that they continue to remain on a college campus where they can make life a little better for everyone. Donna is very talented and I suspect that opportunities will present themselves for both her and Mark in the future.

They made life better for me and many others at UNC Pembroke for six years and I miss interacting with them.



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