Rutgers–Camden alumna makes history by becoming the first woman to lead a North Carolina county’s NAACP chapter.
By Tina Hay
Dawn Daly-Mack has been a customer service manager, a student, a prison chaplain, a radio personality, a student again, a nurse, and a minister—to name just a few pursuits.
Often, Daly-Mack SBC’89 has played several of those roles at the same time. She earned a degree from the Rutgers University School of Business–Camden while working full time at a manufacturing firm in Pennsauken. After graduating, she worked at the manufacturer in the mornings and volunteered in Philadelphia prisons in the afternoons. Today, she holds down a full-time job as a care coordinator for Rural Health Group in northeastern North Carolina while serving as associate minister at a local Baptist church.
And in January 2023, she added yet another role, when she was installed as president of the Northampton County, North Carolina, chapter of the NAACP. Daly-Mack, an NAACP volunteer for the past four years, is the chapter’s first female president.
Hers is a life of service, and it was inspired in large part by her family. Her grandmother was a Pentecostal pastor in Chicago who regularly took in family members and others who needed a temporary place to stay. And her father has helped many family members with housing costs, funeral expenses, and other financial needs over the years. “It took until I was a little older to understand it,” Daly-Mack says, “but I see that service for family and others has always been in the family. That’s just what we do.”
Daly-Mack grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago. Her father worked for the printing company RR Donnelley, and the family moved east when his job took him to Pennsauken. Dawn worked for a manufacturing company called Electronic Enclosures—starting as a receptionist and eventually becoming customer service manager—while attending Rutgers–Camden. She especially appreciated the availability of night classes on campus since she worked during the day. A business management major, she enjoyed college so much that she lost track of how many credits she had taken. “I went to the registrar’s office to register for my next semester of classes, and they said, ‘Oh, you’re done. You’re graduating.’”
After getting her degree in 1989, Daly-Mack lived with her husband, Reggie, in Philadelphia and continued working at Electronic Enclosures while also volunteering as a chaplain to female inmates in the Philadelphia prison system. The couple moved with their children to North Carolina in 2005 in hopes of starting a prison ministry there, but Reggie’s failing health thwarted those plans. He died in 2017.
After that, Daly-Mack found work hosting a gospel music show on a local radio station, but that lasted only six months. “I loved doing radio,” she says, “but it was six hours a week at six dollars an hour. You can’t feed a family on that.”
She spent time as a benefits specialist for a local hospital contractor, then, wanting to be more directly involved with patients, she decided to go back to school to become a nurse. She enrolled in Halifax Community College, where she earned an associate degree and was licensed as a registered nurse, then signed on with Rural Health Group, a nonprofit community health center that provides care to underserved populations. “I screen patients who are Medicare recipients to make sure that everything we’re doing for them is up to date,” Daly-Mack says of her job. “I review their labs, their imaging, their immunizations, just to make sure that we’re giving them the best possible health care.”
She also leads the health and wellness ministry at Cool Spring Missionary Baptist Church in Gaston, where she serves as an associate minister. In that role, she has organized COVID testing sessions and vaccination clinics, helped distribute fresh produce to community members, and developed programs to promote fitness and health.
On top of all of that, Daly-Mack owns her own business, Double D Health and Safety, which offers free CPR classes and seeks business partners to donate automated external defibrillators to key locations. She also serves on a number of boards, including Hannah’s Place, a domestic violence shelter.
In her work with the NAACP, she’s hoping to address an ambitious array of issues: health care, food insecurity, housing, employment, education quality, and reentry for ex-offenders, among other challenges. “A lot of people misunderstand the NAACP, because all they expect to see is marching and protesting,” she says. “There are things that we can work on now, so we don’t have to get to the marching and protesting.”
The chapter marks Black History Month each year, along with other key historical dates, including a Jubilee Day Celebration in January to commemorate the ratification of the 13th amendment, which abolished slavery. In addition, Daly-Mack has emceed Halifax/Northampton Counties’ Juneteenth celebration for 15 years. “We love that there’s a Black History Month,” she says. “But I live black history every day.”