News & Events
May 1, 2013
UNC Asheville presented awards to distinguished alumni Charles Thomas Steele Jr., Lt. Col. Wes Morrison, Barbara Baker, Justin Belleme and Leslie Klein Newman, in a ceremony that also included awards to distinguished faculty and student leaders.
"Today's challenges are testimony to the importance of leadership marked by creative and critical thinking, interdisciplinary integration and a genuine interest in improving the human condition," said UNC Asheville Chancellor Anne Ponder, who welcomed some 200 people to the award ceremony and banquet in Highsmith University Union in April. "We honor an extraordinary group of women and men who have used their UNC Asheville experience, along with their many skills and talents, to help others."
- Charles Thomas Steele Jr., class of 1984 – Roy A. Taylor Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award – UNC Asheville's highest alumni recognition was presented to Steele for his outstanding legal career and service to the community. Steele chairs the ethics committee of the North Carolina Bar Association's Real Property Section, and has held leadership roles on the Burlington Parks and Recreation Committee, UNC Asheville's Alumni Association, the board of Habitat for Humanity, and other organizations.
- Lt. Col. Wes Morrison, class of 1997 – Francine M. Delany Award for Service to the Community, State or Nation – During his National Guard career, Morrison commanded an infantry company in Iraq, and used his background in historic preservation to assist the Iraqi government in securing a Sumerian-era archeological site. Morrison now serves in a dual capacity as the battalion commander of the 1st Battalion, 120th Infantry and Deputy J5 for the State Partnership Program and Engagements of the North Carolina National Guard and also oversees the U.S. National Guard State Partnership Program of the N.C. National Guard with the countries of Moldova and Botswana.
- Barbara Baker, class of 1971 – Thomas D. Reynolds Alumni Award for Service to the University – Baker, who recently retired as vice president of student support services at Durham Technical Community College, serves as board chair for the Central N.C. Chapter of the American Red Cross. Baker served for six years on the UNC Asheville National Alumni Council and chaired the council for two years. She has been tireless in her work for homecomings and other alumni events, and active in the university's efforts to recruit students.
- Justin Belleme, class of 2005, and Leslie Klein Newman, class of 2007 – The Order of Pisgah Award – Belleme, founder of JB Media Group, a boutique internet marketing agency in Asheville, employs other alumni in his business and has supported many area non-profits with pro bono services. Newman, a former teacher, founded the only volunteer-based Multiple Sclerosis Chapter in North Carolina. She has organized many new educational presentations and community events including the Western North Carolina MS Walk.
- Mary Lynn Manns – Alumni Distinguished Faculty Award – Manns, associate professor of management and accountancy, was honored for going above and beyond the call of duty in advising and mentorship.
- Ameena Batada – Champion for Students Award – Batada, assistant professor of health and wellness, was honored for her positive impact on the student community.
- Kaley Fry – Student Leader of the Year – Fry was honored as the junior or senior who best exemplifies qualities of leadership. She has been president of the student organization HOLA (Herman@s Orgull@s en Las Americas), worked to re-establish the English Language Learner Tutoring Program at Emma Elementary School, coordinated volunteers at the Emma Resource Center, and has been involved with MANNA FoodBank, and the Habitat for Humanity Women's Build House. She is also President of the student organizations Feminist Collective and Students for a Democratic Society, and has led research targeted at increasing community participation in the Emma Community Garden.
- Stephanie Watkins-Cruz – Emerging Leader of the Year – Watkins-Cruz was honored as the freshman or sophomore who best exemplifies qualities of leadership. She is head orientation leader, a Community Connections mentor and a member of: the spirit team, The Order of Pisgah, the University Planning Council and the Black Student Association.
- Rachel Grandis – Outstanding Community Service Award – Grandis was honored for her community service, which included work with the student organization, Speak Up, which works to create a campus environment free of sexual violence and harassment. She also volunteers for 12-hour shifts on-call with "Our Voice," Asheville's crisis intervention and prevention agency serving victims of sexual violence.
- Laura Petritz and Kevin Rumley – Service Learning and Community Based Scholar Award – Petritz and Rumley were honored for their work building relationships in the Shiloh community and their research exploring options for social businesses to promote community health.
- Heather Sain – Inquiry ARC Award – Sain was honored as an outstanding critical thinker. She is a leader in the Teaching Fellows program, an afterschool tutor and member of the 2013 Senior Class Board.
- Hillary Murphy – Carolyn Briggs Diversity Award – Murphy was honored for promoting diversity in the university community. Briggs has been an advocate for the health care needs of the LGBTQ community, adapting health and wellness activities for children with disabilities, and creating a "Dismantling Racism" workshop for UNC Asheville faculty and staff.
- Erich Hoffmann – Exemplar Fraternal Leader of the Year – Hoffmann was honored for Greek organization leadership with steadfast commitment to service, brotherhood/sisterhood and academic achievement. Hoffman is vice president of Alpha Sigma Phi and of the Inter-Fraternity Council, is president of the Swim Club and holds leadership roles in many other campus organizations.
Additional awards included Student Employee of the Year (MC Bones); Collaboration of the Year (Hillel and the Muslim Student Organization); Community Connections of the Year (ASHE, Active Students for a Healthy Environment); Innovative Program of the Year (Student Environmental Center); Outstanding Program of the Year (Blue Echo Radio); Student Organization of the Year (College Democrats); and Student Organization President of the Year (Connor Esterwood, Overlook Hall Council).