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WCU Stories



Axiom Press has published “She Shall Be Called Woman: Unnamed Women of the Bible,” a book by Marie Brooks Holt ’62. An educator who has worked with students from kindergarten through the university level, Holt is a Stephen minister with caregiving responsibilities at St. Mark Presbyterian Church of Ballwin, Missouri, where she also serves as a deacon and elder.


Judge James A. Beaty Jr. ’71 retired in January from service as a U.S. district judge. Beaty handled more than 2,000 criminal cases and 4,000 civil cases at the federal level during his 24 years with the court, including six years as chief judge. He began his career as an attorney in Winston-Salem after graduating from law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was appointed as a resident Superior Court judge in Forsyth County when he was just 31 years old. Beaty’s dedication to public service extended beyond the courtroom to organizations that benefit young people, including Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the Salvation Army Girls Club and the Youth Opportunity Home Council. As a WCU student, he was a member of Black Students United for Liberation, the university’s first organization for African-American students. He received an honorary doctorate from WCU in 2002.


Cindi Simmons ’82 was one of three coaches in Western North Carolina selected for the 2018 class of the WNC Sports Hall of Fame. Simmons came to Smoky Mountain High School in Sylva in 1983 when the school was known as Sylva-Webster High School. In a career that spanned several decades, she led the Lady Mustangs to four state championships in two sports – volleyball and women’s basketball. Her volleyball teams won three state 3-A championships in the early 1990s, and her basketball team won the state 2-A championship in 2007. Simmons was inducted into WCU’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Jackson County Athletic Hall of Fame in 2016. After she stepped down from coaching, she continued to serve Jackson County schools as athletics director until her retirement in 2017. She currently works as an educator at the Oconaluftee Job Corps Center in Cherokee. 


The Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington has honored Ben Comm ’83 with its most prestigious recognition, the Sidney Glassman Memorial Award. Comm is the senior managing director in Washington, D.C., for Cushman and Wakefield, a commercial real estate company with global headquarters in Chicago. Comm’s career in property management spans 33 years. He is a member of AOBA’s board of directors and former president of the board.


Mark Benge ’86 of Clayton and Jennifer Wood Jackson ’16 of Durham were among the runners who completed 50 miles or more during Badwater Cape Fear, a marathon race held on Bald Head Island in March. Badwater, a Southern California organization known for the difficulty of its races, sponsored the event. Most of the route was on the sandy beach between Bald Head Village and Fort Fisher. “It was a great race and weekend with friends. Hopefully, other WCU runners will join us next year,” said Benge, who is a member of the WCU Board of Visitors. He and Jackson belong to a Raleigh-based running club.

Dean Crisp ’86 MPA ’91 is the author of “Leadership Lessons from the Thin Blue Line,” a book released by Page Publishing of New York. Crisp is faculty coordinator for the nonprofit organization FBI-Law Enforcement Executive Development Association, known as FBI-LEEDA. A retired police chief, he is a 30-year veteran of law enforcement and a graduate of the FBI National Academy.


Rick Kilpatrick ’89 of Connelly Springs has been awarded a doctoral degree in safety sciences from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

After a successful career in technology, Mitchell Medford ’89 is devoting time to his lifelong love – fast cars. Medford is CEO of Blood Shed Motors of Austin, Texas, a company he founded in 2014 that converts classic cars into high-speed electric vehicles. He has been interested in cars since he was a student at Pisgah High School. His first car was a 1966 Ford LTD Galaxie. The former CEO of RF Code of Austin, Texas, Medford is married to Elizabeth Hubbell Medford ’89, who is executive vice president of Siemens Real Estate. 


Brian Keith Arrington ’90 of Waynesville has been named child nutrition supervisor for Henderson County Public Schools. Arrington previously was employed by Aramark, WCU’s campus food service partner, for 10 years. 


Ken Howle ’91 has been named executive director of Lake Junaluska, a Methodist conference center located in Haywood County near Waynesville. Howle served as director of advancement and director of sales and marketing at Lake Junaluska for the past 14 years. In his new role, he will continue the implementation of several initiatives, including renovation of the historic Lambuth Inn and development of facilities and programming for youth and young adults at the lake. Before joining the Lake Junaluska staff in 2004, Howle was vice president of sales at Nantahala Outdoor Center in Bryson City.


Sharon “Sheri” Lynn Almond ’92 of Copper Hill, Virginia, earned her doctorate in education from Northcentral University in January. Almond serves as curriculum and instruction coordinator for Cumberland County Public Schools in Virginia. She received her master’s degree in education from Virginia Commonwealth University.


Jason Bond ’93 has been named to an endowed faculty position at the University of California Davis. Bond, whose area of research is primarily spider systematics and evolution, serves as the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics in the university’s Department of Entomology and Nematology. He got his start in spider research as an undergraduate at WCU working with the arachnologists Fred Coyle and Jackie Palmer ’82 MS ’84, who were WCU faculty members at the time. Bond went on to graduate school at Virginia Tech for his doctorate. He joined the faculty at Auburn University in 2011 and served as director of the Museum of Natural History. He chaired the biological sciences department for the past three years. Bond and his wife, Kristen DeVos Bond ’93, have a daughter, Elisabeth.

In his first year as head football coach at his high school alma mater in Conway, South Carolina, Carlton Terry ’93 led his team to a regional championship and a 10-2 season. Terry has been a member of the school’s coaching staff for decades, serving as an assistant coach and offensive coordinator. He was a loan officer at Conway National Bank for 15 years before he decided to switch careers and accept the full-time coaching position. Terry was a standout athlete at Conway High when he was a student there and is one of the top rushing leaders in school history. On the WCU football team, he started at tailback and served as team captain for two years. 

Alex Tolbert ’93 serves as the golf course supervisor of Orangeburg Country Club in Orangeburg, South Carolina. A former baseball player at WCU who played professionally after college, Tolbert is in his seventh year at the course, which is rated one of the top 50 in South Carolina by the South Carolina Golf Course Ratings Panel. He also serves as secretary/treasurer of the Midlands Turf Association and on the board of directors of the Carolinas Golf Course Superintendents Association. 


Heather Pendry Mullins ’95 EdD ’16 is a winner of the inaugural Dr. Sam Houston Leadership Award. The award, named in honor of the president and CEO of the North Carolina Science, Mathematics and Technology Education Center, was presented in March 2018 in Raleigh. Mullins is the chief academic officer for Newton-Conover City Schools. The annual award recognizes educators who are graduates of the North Carolina Alliance for School Leadership Development’s Aspiring Superintendent program. 


WCU history professor Elizabeth Gillespie McRae MA ’96 is the author of a new book, “Mothers of Massive Resistance,” published by Oxford University Press. The book is a study of grassroots activism among white women who sought to preserve racial segregation in the South and across the nation and whose efforts helped shaped the “New Right.” It has garnered national attention in The New York Times and Washington Post and on radio shows. McRae, who holds the university’s Creighton Sossomon Professorship in History, also serves as director of WCU’s graduate programs in social science education.


Robin Parton Pate ’97 has been promoted to chief operating officer of The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation-The Composites Institute. IACMI is a national manufacturing innovation institute located in Knoxville, Tennessee. Pate is past president of the WCU Alumni Association.


Rachel Kirkpatrick ’98 of Portsmouth, Virginia, was one of nine national winners in the Top Women in Store Brands competition sponsored by Women Impacting Store Brand Excellence, a nonprofit professional development organization, and Store Brands Magazine. Kirkpatrick was recognized in the marketing and merchandizing category of the competition. She is product commercialization manager for the coffee company Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA.

La Ronda L. Whiteside MSA ’98

has been named assistant superintendent of Hickory Public Schools. Whiteside is a 28-year veteran of service in public education, mostly in Rutherford County. She served three schools as a district algebra teacher for middle school students. She also was co-director of a high school summer program called Jump Start. Whiteside was formerly principal of Pinnacle Elementary School and assistant principal of R.S. Middle School, both in Rutherfordton, and principal of Chase Middle School in Forest City. She earned her doctorate in educational supervision at Gardner Webb University.


Jarrett Friday ’99 MAEd ’01 was nominated for the 2018 Newell National Athletic Trainer of the Year award. Friday serves as the on-site certified athletic trainer at all school sporting events for Hunter Huss and Forestview high schools in Gastonia. He was nominated for the award by Carolina Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Center of Gastonia. In 14 years on the job, he has treated everything from anterior cruciate ligament injuries, known as ACL tears, to concussions. Friday also serves as a mentor for other trainers and for students.

Holli Herren Hill ’99 was named Clorox Shopper Marketer of the year at an annual sales meeting held in July 2017. Hill serves as a marketing manager for the Clorox Company in Fayetteville, Arkansas.


Eric F. McGarvey ’00 is serving as executive director of Summer on the Cuyahoga of Cleveland, Ohio, a nonprofit that coordinates internships for college students in the U.S. and abroad. McGarvey recently earned his master’s degree at Case Western Reserve University. For the past 10 years, he has worked in various roles with Intergenerational Schools and Breakthrough Schools, a network of community schools in Cleveland. 


Jennifer McGaha MA ’01 has published “Flat Broke with Two Goats,” a memoir about financial hardships and the rediscovery of strength in hard times through family roots. McGaha’s work has appeared in many literary journals and magazines. She was formerly a teacher at Carolina Day School in Asheville. 


The Greater Knoxville Business Journal honored Ryan Willis ’03 as one of the Knoxville, Tennessee, area’s 40 Under 40, a group of the city’s promising young leaders. Willis is a senior account manager at Ackermann Marketing and PR. His projects have included the national promotion of Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede attraction at Pigeon Forge. He also is known for the apparel company MuleKick Brand, which he founded. The company features shirts and caps promoting neighborhood pride. Willis also belongs to a faith-based softball team that travels to prisons in the Southeast to minister to inmates.


Kat Kestler Mendenhall ’04 has been promoted to general manager of Standard Tools and Equipment Co. of Greensboro. Mendenhall joined the company in 2010 as marketing director. She served most recently as chief marketing officer and director of sales. Mendenhall is the company’s first female general manager. Standard Tools and Equipment Co. is a paint booth manufacturer and distributor of automotive repair equipment. 

The N.C. State Board of Community Colleges selected Stelfanie Williams MPM ’04 as 2018 President of the Year. Williams, president of Vance-Granville Community College since 2012, was cited for her leadership and commitment to the community college system. At Vance-Granville, Williams has developed innovative training programs and advanced technologies to support students. Under her leadership, the college also introduced a need-based scholarship known as the “VanGuarantee” that covers college costs for eligible students. Williams earned her bachelor’s degree at Duke University and a doctorate in adult and higher education at N.C. State University. 


Mandee Williams ’05 won the 2017 Rising Star award from the Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce for her flower business, Bloomers Floral Designs Inc. of Ocean Isle Beach. Williams comes from a family tradition in the floral industry and began working with flowers in her grandmother’s shop in 1961. She opened her own business in 2015. Williams previously was special events and activities manager at Old Edwards Inn and Spa in Highlands. She also served as marketing manager for Myrtle Beach Seaside Resorts. 


Meredith Berger Franklin ’06 was selected as 2017-18 Teacher of the Year at Southeast Guilford Middle School in Greensboro. Franklin teaches eighth grade and special education at the school.


Kyle McCurry ’07 MBA ’11 has been named director of media and public relations at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Florida. McCurry previously was director of media relations at Warren Wilson College.


Ryann Warlick Carter ’08 has received her master’s degree in history from Clemson University. Carter plans to continue her graduate work and will study for a master’s in education degree at the College of Charleston.

Stefanie Conley ’08 has been named director of business development at Gillespie Dental Associates of Asheville, a practice owned by Dr. Tim Gillespie ’86. Conley and Gillespie, members of the Catamount Club, have worked together informally on various club initiatives for many years.

Amy Swanger ’08 has been named ministry coordinator at Pathways Center in Waynesville. Swanger has earned certification as a North Carolina peer support specialist. She also is certified as a family support group facilitator by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. 


WCU’s School of Music selected Nicholas Gattis ’10 as recipient of its 2018 Distinguished Young Alumnus award. Gattis, who teaches band in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, received a 2016 Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship through National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions. He also won a Council Scholar Award from the World Affairs Council of Charlotte for the 2012-13 year. Active in the Charlotte music scene, he serves in a variety of leadership roles and performs in ensemble groups, including the Charlotte Concert Band and Charlotte Symphony Pro-Am concerts. 

Myranda Nash ’10 MBA ’12 was appointed director of athletics at Brevard College, effective July 1. Nash formerly was associate athletics director and senior women’s administrator at Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota.

Abram Scott ’10, former WCU defensive back, has been named head football coach at Bryan County High School in Pembroke, Georgia. Scott also serves as the assistant principal at the school. He previously was an assistant coach at Statesboro and Richmond Hill high schools and taught history, physical education and special education at the schools, both in Georgia. Scott is the younger brother of former WCU defensive back and assistant coach John Scott Jr. ’00, assistant football coach at the University of Arkansas, who coaches the Razorbacks’ defensive line.


Adam Wilson ’11 was selected to represent North Carolina in a national awards program for police officers. Wilson, a detective with the Gastonia Police Department for the past 10 years, was honored by the Top Cops program for his work as lead investigator in a human trafficking investigation that resulted in a victim’s rescue. Wilson and a fellow officer were honored during a ceremony held in May in Washington, D.C. The Top Cops award program, sponsored by the National Association of Police Organizations, pays tribute to law enforcement officers from across the country. Prior to his work in Gastonia, Wilson was an officer in the Dallas Police Department for three years.


Working in the Stamford, Connecticut, headquarters of NBC Sports, Jarrett Frazier ’12 helped millions of viewers around the world see the action that took place in PyeongChang, South Korea, during the 2018 Winter Olympics. Frazier, manager of transmission operations and engineering at NBC Sports, oversaw NBC’s broadcast operations center in Stamford during the games. During the past three Olympics, Frazier worked on site in Rio de Janeiro; Sochi, Russia; and London. 

Matthew “Clay” Miller ’12 is house engineer and producer at Echo Mountain Recording of Asheville. In the six years since he began there as an intern, Miller has worked with many acclaimed bands and artists, ranging from Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers to the Avett Brothers, Gladys Knight and others. Echo Mountain Recording offers analog and digital recording services, voiceover work and audiobook recording.


Kendall Hill Shue ’13, a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Corriher-Lipe Middle School in Landis, was one of the organizers of a Holocaust and World War II humanities conference for her school system. More than 1,400 students from every grade in the Rowan-Salisbury School System attended the conference held in March. Shue studied teaching about the subject at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Belfer National Conference for Educators in Washington, D.C.

LaToya Wilson ’13 has been promoted to business development representative in the ticketing department of the Winston-Salem Dash baseball team. The Winston-Salem Dash is a minor league team of the Carolina League that plays homes games at the BB&T Ballpark in Winston-Salem.


As a member of the board of directors of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, Alicia Mitchell Jacobs ’14 has become involved with tribal concerns on the national level. Jacobs has traveled to Washington, D.C., for “Recovering Voices,” a project with the Smithsonian Institution to document and sustain endangered languages and cultural knowledge. She also served as a panel presenter at a conference held in Las Vegas of the National Center for American Indian Economic Development. The program involved the AISE’s initiatives in partnership with tribal communities to develop science, technology, engineering and mathematics, known as STEM programs, in schools. She also attended the Leadership Institute at the Santa Fe Indian School in New Mexico in April. Jacobs is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation out of Tahlequah, Oklahoma. 

Garrett Wilson ’14 of Burnsville is recipient of the 2018 Young Alumni Award of WCU’s School of Art and Design. Wilson, a designer at Young Office commercial design firm in Asheville, serves as director of the regional Interior Designers Association of Western North Carolina. 


Jeremy Gibbs EdD ’16 is among the winners of the inaugural Dr. Sam Houston Leadership Award, which is named in honor of the president and CEO of the North Carolina Science, Mathematics and Technology Education Center. Gibbs is the chief academic officer for Transylvania County Schools. The award, presented in Raleigh in March, recognizes educators who are graduates of the North Carolina Alliance for School Leadership Development’s Aspiring Superintendent program. 

Timm Muth MET ’16 frequently writes about Western North Carolina’s biking trails on the mountain biking reviews website Muth’s recent articles were about biking in the Nantahala National Forest, at Fire Mountain in Cherokee and on the WCU campus trails. Muth is project director at Jackson County’s Green Energy Park in Sylva.


Brendan Corey ’17 of Bakersfield, Vermont, is the fifth member of his family to graduate from WCU. Corey, received his degree during commencement exercises held in December 2017. Other alumni in the family include his father, Timothy Corey ’88, and his mother, Alison Balfour Corey ’88, both of Bakersfield; and two of his aunts, Kristin Balfour Ashburn ’92 of Groton, Massachusetts, his mother’s sister, and Keri Corey ’88 of Jacksonville, Florida, his father’s sister.

Tori Kennedy ’17 of Liberty has joined the Burlington Police Department as an officer. Kennedy majored in forensic anthropology at WCU and completed basic law enforcement training at Alamance Community College.

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