Suzanne and David DeFerie honored with United Way’s Tocqueville Society Community Service

Press release from United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County:

On the 20th anniversary of the Tocqueville Society Community Service Award, United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County celebrated the leadership and contributions of Suzanne and David DeFerie in our community as a couple and Suzanne’s decades-long contributions as a leader and volunteer with the organization.

Ms. DeFerie is known by many in Buncombe County and the region as having a 40-year career in the financial services industry, where she provided both organizational and community leadership. When she joined Asheville Savings Bank in 1991 as Chief Financial Officer, she was the first female executive hired by the bank. DeFerie became President and CEO of Asheville Savings Bank in 2008 and even then was one of only two female bank CEOs in North Carolina. She went on to successfully lead the bank through the Great Recession and through the initial public offering for ASB Bancorp. In 2017, when Asheville Savings Bank merged with First Bank, Suzanne became EVP & Regional President for First Bank’s Western Region, retiring from the position in the fall of 2019.

Since the mid-1990s, Suzanne DeFerie served on many of United Way’s committees including the Finance Committee, Resource Development Committee, Strategic Planning Committee, and Board of Directors, eventually rising to the position of chair in each. And in 2018, alongside Janice Brumit, Ann Young, and Taylor Foss, DeFerie raised over $2.5MM in two years as co-chairs of the Tocqueville Society.

In addition to her work with United Way, DeFerie also supported a number of other business, industry, and community organizations, including as the former Board Chair of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce; Secretary and Executive Committee member of the Board of Directors of Mission Health; Board Member of the Economic Development Coalition of Asheville-Buncombe County; board member of Asheville Merchant Fund;  board member and Treasurer of the Board of Directors of the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity; provost, 2011 North Carolina School of Banking at UNC – Chapel Hill; advisory board, Department of Accounting, Appalachian State University; Board member of the Black Mountain Center Foundation; and Past President, Asheville Breakfast Rotary Club.

Additionally, First Bank established the Suzanne DeFerie Lifetime Achievement Award in partnership with the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. This award is presented annually to a woman who has distinguished herself over a lifetime by demonstrating excellence and leadership in business. It is announced each year at the Chamber’s WomanUp Celebration.

At the Alexis de Tocqueville Community Service Award presentation, Ann Young, Tocqueville Society Member, and fellow awardee had this to say; “A favorite poet, Mary Oliver, asks ‘What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’ Suzanne and David answer that question by supporting and enhancing the community through commitment and determination; authenticity and generosity; creativity and humor; leadership, mentorship – and friendship. It is a joy to know, work and play with this engaged and engaging couple whose ‘wild and precious lives’ touch so many, in incredibly positive ways. Congratulations to Suzanne and David, a true ‘duo of awesomeness’ on this special recognition of your long-standing and invaluable service to our community.”

About The Tocqueville Society In Buncombe County

The impact of the Tocqueville Society has been a tremendous driver toward United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County advancing their work in the community. This giving society, founded in 1990 by Charlie and Eleanor Owen, Jr., Mr. and Mrs. George D. Renfro, & Jerry Sternberg harnesses both the giving power and expertise of local leaders.

Tocqueville Society members pledge an annual gift of $10,000 or more and often serve in other leadership positions within the organization. Collectively, this group of donors has contributed more than $21 million over the course of its 32-year history here in Buncombe County.  Currently, 72 families are active members of the group.

About The Tocqueville Society Community Service Award

The Tocqueville Society Community Service Award is given each year to an individual or family whose service and generosity exemplify the true spirit of volunteerism that the group’s namesake, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote about in his 1835 book, Democracy in America:

“When an American asks for the cooperation of his fellow citizens, it is seldom refused; and I have often seen it afforded spontaneously, and with great goodwill.”

While the local award began in 2002, United Way of America has honored national leaders for their contributions since 1973. Previous winners of the national award include Ambassador Walter Annenberg, Presidents Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter, Senator and Mrs. John Glenn, and Bob Hope.

Local Award Recipients

2002 – Buddy and Marilyn Patton & Barbara Blomberg 
2003 – Janice and Joe Brumit                                                         
2004 – Jerry Sternberg
2005 – Pam and Jim Turner                                                             
2006 – Heather and Bill Lee                                                             
2007 – Charlie and Eleanor Owen                                                   
2008 – John and Diane Teeter                                                         
2009 – Charlie and Cary Owen
2011 – Jim and Robin Stickney
2013 – Dot Hamill & Marla and Joel Adams
2014 – Barbara and George Groome
2015 – Barbra and Keith Love
2016 – Ann and Mike Young
2018 – David Bailey and Sherie Ryan Bailey 
2019 – Taylor and Gary Foss
2020 – Tracy and Scott Buchanan
2021 – Jennie Eblen and Bobbie Eblen
2022 – Suzanne and David DeFerie

For more information about the Tocqueville Society, visit or reach out to Heather Wingert, Director of Major Gifts at


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