11/23/08 — MOC welcomes alumni

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MOC welcomes alumni

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on November 23, 2008 2:00 AM


Mount Olive College Alumni Award winners pose for a picture after the ceremony held during homecoming weekend. From left are Volunteer Award winner Karen Thornton Sutton, Hall of Fame Cohort Alumnus Award winner Donna Edmundson, Hall of Fame Traditional Alumnus Award winner Dr. James Beatha, Business Associate of the Year Award winner Meredith-Leigh Craig, Life Membership Award winner A.N. Martin, Honorary Alumnus Award winner Ken Dilda and Volunteer Award winner Francine Elks Cooke.

More than 75 alumni and family attended the Mount Olive College's Alumni Awards and Reunion Recog-nition Saturday, the second day of the college's homecoming weekend.

Seven alumni and honorary alumni received awards, but none of them expected the honors.

As A.N. Martin sat across from his wife during the ceremony, he had no idea the first award recipient would be him.

The Life Membership Award isn't an award that is given every year, but only when there is an alumnus worthy.

So when Genevieve McLamb Taylor, Class of 1957, started to speak about the winner of the prestigious award, Martin couldn't believe it was him -- a person Ms. Taylor described as one who supports the college, was a member of the Class of 1958, started the Michael Martin Memorial Scholarship Fund in memory of his son who died in the line of duty as a highway patrolman and helped to coordinate the scholarship fund's golf tournament.

"Martin is a quiet and unassuming man," Ms. Taylor said. "He is quick to tell you that he is not a rich man, however, he is proud of his alma mater. He has a passion to help young people, a good heart and a good business head on his shoulders."

And even though Martin still was surprised by the honor, he accepted it with gratitude.

"I wasn't expecting it," he said later. "It feels good."

All of the other award recipients were just as surprised.

Meredith-Leigh Craig, Class of 1998, won the Business Associate of the Year Award for being a supporter of the college, helping with her family business, American Tool Rentals in Kinston, and running her own collections company, M-L Craig and Associates Inc., on the side.

She said she knew even before she came to the awards ceremony that something was a little funny because her parents kept asking her about the homecoming weekend, if she had reservations and if she was packed, and then pushed her out of the house early Saturday morning.

"They set me up," she said, laughing.

But none of that started to make sense until the presentation of the award, when the description of the winner came up.

"I was sitting beside another person from my class, and when the presenter said, 'Class of 1998,' I knew it had to be one of us," Ms. Craig said.

But she was sure it was the other alumnus who would be receiving the award.

"I'm not deserving of this award," she said. "It's extremely humbling for me. This is like coming back home for me. This is like a family reunion."

For Ken Dilda, the Honorary Alumnus Award winner, it was a time to think back.

"You never know what impact you are having until you get something like this," he said.

Dilda has been a history professor at the college for 38 years and also serves as the director of the David John Aaron Museum in Mount Olive.

A former student of Dilda's, Romey McCoy, presented the award.

"Many of us that had the distinct privilege to learn from Professor Dilda's teachings, have been encouraged to strive for excellence and were better-prepared for the world that lay ahead," she said.

Donna Edmundson was just as taken aback as the other award recipients when her name was called for the Hall of Fame Cohort Alumnus Award for her work in the nursing profession and for her involvement in the community.

"I thought I was just here for Jimmie (her husband, who graduated from the college)," she said. "I had no clue I would be getting an award. It really is very special. You leave the college with an inspiration that never really leaves you."

Friend and fellow 1996 Mount Olive alumna Jerilyn Lee presented Mrs. Edmundson, who is the corporate health coordinator for Wayne Memorial Hospital, the award.

"When asked what stands out the most about Donna, I would say her honesty and integrity and a burning desire to be the very best that she can be," Ms. Lee said. "Whether it is her work as a nurse, a volunteer with the Red Cross or planning a social event for the Military Affairs Committee, her goal is for it to be perfect."

The Hall of Fame Traditional Alumnus Award went to Dr. James Bethea, who graduated from the college in 1992, for his work both in the medical field and with community groups.

Bethea is currently an assistant professor in the Human Services and Counseling Department and coordinator of the Mental Health Counseling program at St. John's University in Queens, N.Y.

His former professor, Dr. Sharon Carter, presented the award.

"James was one of my favorite students. He had a goodness of spirit that made him a very likable young man among the faculty and his fellow students. I think he really found his calling when he decided to major in therapeutic recreation because he genuinely cared about what he could do to improve the quality of life for persons who had life difficulties that kept them from realizing their potential."

"I was totally surprised to receive this award," Bethea said after the ceremony. "It makes me feel good that people recognize the efforts that I have made. The acknowledgment is deeply humbling."

Karen Thornton Sutton and Francine Elks Cooke were recognized for their volunteerism with the college. Both members of the Class of 1976, the two worked to make the 2008 Winter Glitz the best it could be.

"We had this vision a couple of years ago for what the glitz could be, and people said we could never do it, that it would never work for us," Ms. Cooke said. "Now people are talking about the next one."

Also at the ceremony, the Classes of 1983 and 1958 were recognized, and the Alumni Association donated more than $321,000 to the students at the college.