UNCA honors alumni, student leaders with awards


Photo courtesy of UNC Asheville’s News Services: Back row, left to right – Chancellor Anne Ponder, James Buckner, Ted Meigs. Front row, left to right – Jasmine Gentling, Sarah Nuñez, Allison Jordan

From UNC Asheville’s News Services:

UNC Asheville recently presented its annual alumni and student leaderships awards at a special ceremony on campus. Chancellor Anne Ponder, Vice Chancellor Bill Haggard, and UNC Asheville National Alumni Council Chair Barbara Baker (’71) made the presentations.

“We honor an extraordinary group of women and men who are exemplars of the UNC Asheville experience — women and men, who as students, alumni, faculty, and staff have served their communities and this university with distinction,” said Chancellor Ponder, as she welcomed the more than 150 people at the event. “They have used their UNC Asheville experience, along with their many skills and talents, to help others. They embody the spirit of selfless service that has been the core of our mission since our founding.”

UNC Asheville’s highest alumni recognition, the Roy A. Taylor Distinguished Alumnus Award, was presented to James Buckner (’71) for his notable career in education and exceptional service to UNC Asheville. Buckner, a national leader in teacher training and retention, has had an extensive career that spans teaching, government service and private industry. As an alumnus, he was founding chair of the university’s National Alumni Council, and served with distinction as a member of the UNC Asheville Foundation Board and as the first alumnus chair of the UNC Asheville Board of Trustees.

The Francine Delany Award for Service to the Community was presented to Allison Jordan (’77), executive director of Children First/Communities in Schools of Buncombe County. Jordan is known for her commitment to improving the lives of children and their families through advocacy and direct services. As an active community leader, Jordan has served on a number of boards, including the Asheville City Schools Board of Education and the N.C. School Board Association, and volunteers with many non-profit organizations.

Jasmin Gentling received the Thomas D. Reynolds Alumni Award for Service to the University. A 1999 graduate of the university’s Masters of Liberal Arts Program, Gentling was recognized for her able mentorship of students, generous support of student scholarships, and many years of effective service on the UNC Asheville Foundation Board and the National Alumni Council. She is known throughout the Asheville community for her service on non-profit boards and volunteer work with area organizations.

Sarah Nuñez (’04) was inducted into the Order of Pisgah for outstanding achievement in her professional field. Nuñez, who is known for her work as an effective advocate for the Hispanic community in Western North Carolina, was recently named executive director of the Asheville-Buncombe Community Relations Council. She has served the region in many capacities, including chair of the Latino Advocacy Council board, as a consultant for the Buncombe County Health Department and the UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education.

The Alumni Distinguished Faculty Award was given to Ted Meigs, the UNC Asheville GlaxoSmithKline Professor of Molecular and Chemical Biology. Meigs, a noted cancer researcher, was recognized for his work developing new initiatives in molecular and chemical biology, for fostering new opportunities for cross-discipline collaboration and community involvement, and for providing a national model for undergraduate research and highly effective student mentoring in the life sciences.

The Outstanding Student Organization of the Year award was presented to the Muslim Student Association for its collaborative work to raise awareness about Muslim culture. Organization president, Amarra Ghani, accepted the award.

Other student awards presented during the event include: Outstanding Leader of the Year to Emily Pineda; Emerging Leader of the Year to Yaw Amanfoh; Outstanding Community Service to Matt Owens for his writing and literacy work; Carolyn Briggs Diversity Award to Amarra Ghani for her work as Muslim Student Association president; Outstanding Student Organization President to Kirby Gibson for her work as president of Alpha Psi Omega, the National Theatre Honor Society; Outstanding Program of the Year, Resident Student Association’s Fall Fest 2011; Innovative Program of the Year to the Student Alumni Association’s Nearly Naked Mile, a clothing drive for the Asheville Homeless Network, Cathy Woodard and Jim Stanton; Community Connections of the Year to PAWS (Peers Advocating Wellness Strategies); Collaboration of the Year to the Muslim Student Association and the Religious Studies Club; and Student Employee of the Year to Justin Ford and Justin Thompson.

The Champion for Students award was presented to Britta Volz, who worked with the Key Center for Service Learning through the AmeriCorps VISTA program.


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