Mount Olive College celebrates alumni weekend
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 20, 2005 2:07 AM
MOUNT OLIVE - Pat Jones Meier received her associate's degree from Mount Olive College in 1975, when it was a two-year school. This weekend marked her first time returning for an alumni homecoming.
"This year when I got the little brochure, I said, 'There's no way I'm missing this,'" said Mrs. Meier, who now lives with her husband and son in Newark, Del.
She asked Dr. J. William Byrd, MOC president, whether the college had future plans to offer advanced degrees.
"When they start offering a doctorate program, I'll have to come back here," she said.
As lunchtime approached, alumni gravitated toward tables marked according to the year they graduated. Tom Everton of Winston-Salem, Class of 1975, posed a rhetorical question to former classmates Tripp McRainey of Wilson, Sharlene Creech Howell of Goldsboro and Rick Rhodes of Arkansas, newly elected alumni association president, "Can you believe it's been 30 years?"
Saturday morning's business meeting for the alumni featured the passing of the gavel from past president Romey McCoy. An array of awards were also presented during the two-hour session.
Dianne Riley, dierctor of alumni relations, along with James and Kathy Brickhouse Cahoon, both Class of 1975, Howard Scott, Class of 1974, and Earl Worthy, Class of 1986, sang a tribute to McCoy, his newly designated theme song, "I Believe."
It was a variation on the alumni weekend's theme, which was "We Still Believe."
In taking over the reins for the alumni association, Rhodes said his first thought was that with so much going on at Mount Olive College, it is poised to become one of the premier four-year colleges in the country.
"None of them do it without super participation from the alumni," he said. "If the school's going to take the next step, it's time for the alumni to take the lead."
He said his catch phrase for the coming year will be "MOC Alumni - Doing Even More Than Before."
Byrd said despite exciting growth being made by the school - last year, 3,857 students were enrolled, 640 degrees were conferred in May and another 369 graduates are expected in December - Mount Olive still considers itself a small college.
"We have not lost the flavor of the college as we have enrolled more and more students," he said. Even with a sixth location recently added and the Mount Olive campus more than doubling its space with current building projects, the goal is to be true to its origins.
"We can continue to grow as we have to more and more locations," Byrd said. "We'll maintain that flavor as far as the way we deal with the student body."
Randy Wilkerson, Class of 2000 and member of the Alumni Giving Committee, said this past year had been the best ever for alumni contributions, with $201,335 received. The funds will be used primarily for scholarships.
An award for creative giving was presented to Nancy Yates, Class of 1989. Wilkerson said she had offered to paint a man's porch and when asked what she would charge, Ms. Yates suggested the man donate whatever it worth to him, to Mount Olive College.
"He donated $300," Wilkerson said.
"I didn't know what he had donated," Ms. Yates replied from the audience. "I'll have to go back and get more money. It was hard work."
In the top six awards presented this year, recipients included a beloved professor, a minister who served on the school's first board of trustees and former students who have continued to bring honor to their alma mater.
Willis Brown, member of the science and mathematics faculty since 1967, was named the honorary alumnus of the college. His name has been synonymous with Mount Olive for years, McCoy said as he presented the award.
Brown has taught courses that range from biology, zoology, genetics and chemistry, to ecology, microbiology and photography, McCoy said. He has also been active in his church, First Baptist of Mount Olive, as well as the Mount Olive Kiwanis Club. He was voted "Man of the Year" in 1983 by the Boys and Girls Club of Mount Olive, and received the President's Award for the teacher of the year in 1992 for his teaching effectiveness and service to his students.
The Rev. Earl Glenn was also given an honorary alumni award for having been actively involved in the college since its inception. A member of the first Board of Trustees, elected in 1953, he has continued to be a strong advocate and supporter of higher education over the years.
The Alumni Hall of Fame award for the non-traditional student went to a woman who took 15 years to complete her degree.
"This was not due to any disability or slackness on her part, but rather an obligation to her priorities, those being family and career," Worley said of Jerilyn James Lee, Class of 1996.
Mrs. Lee came to Mount Olive in 1980, juggling family and career while attending the evening program at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. She is currently regional manager of human resources for the entire Atlantic seaboard, Worley said, and previously was personnel and safety director for Textilease Corp. in Wayne County.
The award for the Alumni Hall of Fame, traditional student, went to Sandra Humphrey Davis for outstanding service and achievement in her profession as a kindergarten teacher. Her son, Doug Davis, Class of 1978, presented her with the plaque.
"What better person to receive this award than a person that has influenced and impacted the lives of 20-plus 5-year-olds for the last 22 years?" he asked before announcing her name.
Distinguished Alumni of the Year was Stanley Harrell of Morehead City, Class of 1960. Now a retired bank vice president, he has remained active in the alumni association and is currently on the school's board of trustees.
"Stanley has been very committed to Mount Olive College, personally sacrificing his own time and resources to the advancement of this institution," Mrs. Riley said. "It is a joy working with Stanley and seeing the love and support he feels for his alma mater."
Carrie Lou Bowden Asbill, one of the school's first two graduates in 1955, received the 2005 Life Membership Award.
Ryan Brown of Jacksonville and Samantha Wijesekera of Sri Lanka were named the Pickle Classic King and Queen on Saturday night, selected from a court of 20 students nominated by their peers.
Ms. Wijesekera is the daughter of Dr. J. and Dr. S. Wijesekera. She is a senior biology major and a member of the Mount Olive College tennis team.
Brown is a senior and the son of Harry and Kathy Brown. He is a member of the college's soccer team and Student Athlete Advisory Committee.
In addition to the alumni association business meeting Saturday morning, the day also featured an art exhibit, several seminars as well as college classes for children, an old fashioned pig roast and a beach music blast after Saturday night's basketball game.
A memorial service and alumni worship service was held this morning in the college chapel, with several graduates taking part, including Jack Paramore, Class of 1956, giving the morning message.
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