Send your updates to the alumni website
Bill Plyler’s company, Sound Consulting Inc., announced the availability of its Private Business Performance Review. This award-winning product combines high-tech analysis and old–school common sense to provide a thorough review of a business, focusing on actual cash flows and management options. The Web site is
Claudia Friar is teaching sixth-grade science and social studies at Cochrane Middle School in Charlotte.
Patsy Capps-Covey was honored by the University of South Alabama for her service to the university, where she has worked for more than 33 years. She delivered the commencement address to the 1,299 members of the graduating class of 2009.
Buckner becomes first alumnus to lead Board of Trustees
James R. Buckner ’72, president and owner of IMPACT Educational Consulting Associates Inc., in Atlanta, was elected chair of the UNC Asheville Board of Trustees in July. He is the first alumnus to serve as chair. Buckner previously served on the university’s Foundation Board and the National Alumni Council, which he helped establish. In 2008, he received UNC Asheville’s Thomas D. Reynolds Award for Service to the university. Buckner and his wife Mary Elizabeth ’68 have generously supported the university in many ways including the endowment of a scholarship and regularly hosting alumni gatherings at their home in Atlanta.
Elizabeth C. Pomeroy has been named editor-in-chief of “Social Work,” the journal of the National Association of Social Workers. She is currently a full professor at the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin.
C. Thomas Steele was elected to a three-year term on the board of governors of the North Carolina Bar Association. He resides in Burlington.
U.S. Navy Reserve officer MaryEllen Woods was promoted to the rank of Commander in a special ceremony held in August. She resides in Asheville.
National Alumni Council welcomes New Members
The National Alumni Council, founded in 2003, serves as an advisory board to the Chancellor and other university officials in matters relating to alumni and their life-long relationship with UNC Asheville. At the fall 2009 meeting, three new members joined the Council.
Tiffany Drummond Armstrong ’99 is the executive director of the Eastern North Carolina Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. A graduate in Environmental Studies, Armstrong also holds a master’s degree from NC State University. She was recently featured as one of the Forty Top Leaders in the Triangle under 40. As a student at UNC Asheville, Armstrong was involved in Student Government and Residence Life.
Cerise Glenn ’99 recently joined UNC Greensboro’s Department of Communications Studies, where her focus will be on race and ethnicity. Glenn holds a doctorate and graduate certificate from Howard University; she has completed post-doctoral research at Purdue University. Glenn was an active student leader at UNC Asheville and a member of the African American Student Association, now the Black Student Association.
A Psychology graduate and standout basketball player, Myra Sims ’81 became assistant coach for the 1984 National Championship UNC Asheville Women’s Basketball Team. In the years that followed, she has had a distinguished career in college athletics and today serves as associate director of athletics and senior administrator at Emory University.
Louis A. Caliendo received the Gaston County Police Department’s Officer of Year Award and a Gaston County District Attorney’s Office Commendation for 2009. He also earned the honor in 1999 and in 2006. He previously was awarded the Department’s Medal of Valor for his rescue of an unconscious fire victim. Caliendo now serves as Gaston County’s background investigator and recruiter.
Thomas “Rob” Young was certified by the National Association of Counsel for Children as a child welfare law specialist. He is currently a staff attorney for the Alexander County Department of Social Services in Taylorsville and has been a county social services attorney for 10 years. He also has been admitted to the Master of Arts Program in Religious Studies at UNC Charlotte, where he will begin studies in spring 2010.
Jeff “Coach” Epley and his wife Rebecca welcomed their fourth child and first girl, Dianne Nadine Epley, in August.
Kevin and Rachel Howard welcomed the birth of a second child, Kayla Paige Howard, in January. They reside in Apex.
Cal Lovin received his International Executive MBA from Instituto de Empresa in Madrid, Spain, in December 2008.
Karen (Slough) Smith and husband BJ welcomed their second child, Elise Kayla Smith, in August.
Cristina Alonso will serve on the board of the Florida Bar Foundation, a statewide nonprofit organization.
Stephanie Beth Hunter and Kevin Lee Cook were married in July. They reside in Fletcher.
Alumna’s Career is out of this world
Fatima Johnson Conroy ’98 keeps her eyes on the stars, as well as on the vehicles that enable space exploration in our solar system and beyond.
As an executive officer in NASA’s Office of Infrastructure, Conroy works closely with all units within the organization to make sure everyone has the tools they need to get the job done.
Because her office manages all of NASA’s facilities and logistics, as well as environmental policy and management, she is in contact with all divisions within NASA as well as members of Congress and other government leaders.
No day is ever the same, Conroy said, and priorities change constantly, which keeps things interesting. As NASA prepares its shuttle fleet for retirement next year, Conroy is preparing for the transition by going through shuttle property and getting it ready for the public domain.
“Everyone wants a piece of a space shuttle,” she said. “We work to make sure all of the shuttle property goes to good homes.”
After graduating from UNC Asheville with a degree in political science, Conroy attended law school at the Catholic University of America, where she earned a Juris Doctor degree in 2002. She worked for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for five years before joining NASA in 2007.
She said her liberal arts background helped prepare her for the challenges she faces at her job today. “A lot of my job is very technical, very scientific and not necessarily something that I do on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “But having learned early on to embrace those things that are new really helps me in my current job.”
Tiffany Drummond Armstrong was awarded the Triangle Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Leadership Award.
Willow Koerber was nominated to represent the United States at the 2009 Mountain Bike World Championships held in Australia in September. She placed third in the international event.
Ardie Hollifield was named senior associate at the Pew Charitable Trusts, Washington, D.C., in May 2009. She also was recently accepted into the Master of Public Policy program at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.
Carrie MacKichan Simmons received a Ph.D. in fisheries and allied aquacultures from Auburn University. She and her husband currently live in Florida.
Emma Jones and her husband Christopher Eyl welcomed the birth of their first child, Ruby Katherine, in March. They reside in Burlington.
Cathy and Blaine McFalls ’02 welcomed the birth of their daughter, Cayden Stowe McFalls, in September.
Coll-Larrosa builds ties with hispanic community
Hispanics moving to the United States face a number of challenges when it comes to the financial system, but that doesn’t mean they are not an important part of the U.S. economy, according to Esteve Coll-Larrosa ‘01. Coll-Larrosa works at United Services Credit Union in Asheville, where his job is to help develop stronger ties between the company and the local Hispanic community.
“It is well known that it is a community that makes money, that saves money and that spends money,” he said. “These three things are what financial institutions want to see happen.”
Coll-Larrosa works closely with the Latina Advocacy Coalition and other local organizations to help educate Hispanics about personal finance. He regularly gives lectures on topics ranging from balancing a checking account to negotiating with a dealer when purchasing a vehicle. These are topics that any American can benefit from, Coll-Larrosa said. In addition, his company employs several bilingual staff members to help community members overcome the language barrier.
Coll-Larrosa, who majored in economics, said since the financial meltdown last year the number of requests his company has received for financial seminars has increased. While lending may have slowed all across the country, people seem to be eager to save more, which is a good thing, Coll-Larrosa said.
Originally from Spain, Coll-Larrosa said UNC Asheville’s intimate learning experience was instrumental to his success in college. “Having your classroom next to the professor’s office and knowing that there is a communication line always open really helps to create a small-university feeling,” he said.
Julie and Paul Trinks welcomed the birth of their first child, Emily Marie, in April. They reside in Wake Forest
Kate and Andy Guzy welcomed their first child, Amber Ann, in May. They reside in Arden.
A photograph by Jen Bandini was accepted into the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery Competition. She resides in New York City.
Ian Holloway received the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, an award valued at $50,000.
Brian and Erica McElreath graduated from the Charleston School of Law in May with Juris Doctor degrees.
Jonathan Cauble and Donna Herron were married in July. They reside in Fairfax, Va.
Jenny Letman received a diploma from the American Institute of Banking Education Curriculum for the Financial Services Industry. She works as a staff accountant at the Bank of Asheville.
Leslie Hawkins’ company, Spellbound Children’s Books, celebrated its fifth anniversary this year. In October, the company moved to its new location at 19 Wall St. in downtown Asheville.
Enterprising alumna gives back
By Aaron Dahlstrom '09
Jennifer Mayer ’04 knows a good business opportunity when she sees one. And in her relatively short but incredibly successful career, she’s made a practice of spotting trends, spotting talent and building bridges that have brought people and companies together for the greater good.
In addition to owning and operating Charlotte Street Computers with her husband Greg, Mayer also is the brains behind two Asheville nonprofits, E-Cycle Me and Power On Community. E-Cycle Me, now in its second year, salvages old computer parts once destined for landfills and uses them to build computers for people in need.
Her newest venture, Power On Community, is a partnership with the Asheville Community Theatre to raise money for other nonprofits by selling tickets to various theater productions.
Mayer’s latest philanthropy project involves donating $25,000 to UNC Asheville to help outfit the new Zeis Science and Multimedia building with cutting-edge computers and lab equipment. In addition, she has partnered with the university to create volunteer and internship opportunities for students in her local business ventures.
“Spending marketing money on programs that give and inspire others trumps dropping it on traditional forms of media,” Mayer said.
Mayer’s background differs from many of Asheville’s entrepreneurs. During Mayer’s childhood, her mother struggled with addiction and drug problems, which kept Mayer from attending school regularly. After never learning to read, she quit school at 14 and moved out on her own. At 18, a friend convinced Mayer to return to school, and provided her a home while she finished her education. With her friend’s support, Mayer attended A-B Technical College before transferring to UNC Asheville, where she majored in Psychology.
She hopes her donation to UNC Asheville will inspire others with similar stories. “I always want people to know that I made it out,” Mayer said, adding that her philanthropy is her way of saying thank you to everyone who helped her along the way.
Mayer credits all of her professors with believing in her and helping complete her education, in particular Psychology Professor Pam Laughon. “She was interesting because she didn’t have anything to gain,” Mayer said. “Oftentimes the people that impact you the most are the people that shared with you something they didn’t realize they were sharing. She impacted the way I think about the world through what she taught.”
Since Mayer took over the operations and marketing for Charlotte Street Computers, the company has won numerous awards for their service and for Mayer’s savvy business skills, including the Asheville Chamber of Commerce’s “Business Leader of the Year.” She attributes much of her success to her gutsy decision-making and her ability to turn any situation around.
“It is nothing new for me to be in a crisis,” Mayer said. “I am very impulsive, and it hasn’t been to my detriment yet. It has actually been to my success. I do random things that probably shouldn’t be done, and I take risks, but that is why I am here.”
The UNC Asheville baseball team hired Aaron Rembert as assistant coach.
Jen Bowen’s photography exhibit, “Faces of Asheville,” was shown in the Satellite Gallery in Asheville in June. She resides in Asheville.
Anna Walker Russ and William “T.R.” Russ celebrated the birth of their first child, Will Russ, in April. They reside in Morganton.
Louise Burley and Chris Salerno were married in May.
Deidre Hecht Briar began teaching at Augusta Technical College this fall. She resides in Georgia.
Loring Watkins and Casey Crowley were married in July.
Katherine Anne and Stephen Carey Sewell were married in June. They reside in Huntsville, Ala.
Rachel Leigh Marsom earned a master’s degree in English with a concentration in creative writing from Northern Arizona University in May. This fall, she began working on a M.F.A. in creative writing at Georgia College and State University
Richard Hogan and Georgiana Lunias (’08) were married in August.
Ashton Barton was named Head Coach of the Lady Tigers basketball team at Rosman High School in July.
Olivia Fisher works a case manager at Community Human Services in Pittsburgh and is working towards a master’s degree in social work at the University of Pittsburgh.
Hannah Fuller is attending the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, England, pursuing a master’s degree in curation.
Rachael Beach and James Hollifield were married in May. Rachel is a second-year medical student at Lincoln Memorial University, and James is an officer in the Coast Guard.
Ariel Vetter began teaching English at Madison High School this fall.