Distinguished Achievement Award Winners

2022: Michael Young

A member of the E&H Class of 1986, Mike Young was named head men’s basketball coach at Virginia Tech in 2019. This appointment followed a successful stint as head coach at Wofford College, where he took the program to new levels of success, including a memorable 2017 win over North Carolina.


2021: Dr. Lisa Jordan

Dr. Jordan, E&H Class of 1984, is the Director of Education for the United Steelworkers. She has a Ph.D. in Labor Economics from Notre Dame University, and in 2016 she was elected to the National Board of Economic Research (NBER) Board of Directors. NBER is an American private nonprofit research organization that aims to conduct unbiased research among public policymakers, business professionals, and the academic community.


2020: Harold Craw

Harold Craw, E&H Class of 1999, has been in sports management for more than 19 years, and is currently the Executive Vice-President and General Manager of the Miami Marlins affiliate, the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. In 2017 he became the first African-American to win Executive of the Year for any league in Minor League Baseball. He was named the Southern League Jimmy Bragan Executive of the Year by the general managers of the league member clubs. Under Harold’s leadership, the newly rebranded Jumbo Shrimp experienced a 23 percent increase in attendance during their inaugural season in 2017— the largest increase for any Double-A club. Harold and his team are careful to create a service component to every promotion sponsored by the team.


2019: Rev. Myron Wingfield

The Rev. Myron D. Wingfield (’83) received his master of divinity degree from Candler School of Theology at Emory University in 1989. He is an elder in the California-Pacific Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and is serving as executive director of connectional ministries for that conference. From 2013 to 2017, he served as associate general secretary for the division of ordained ministry with the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM). Prior to that, he served as the assistant general secretary for clergy life at GBHEM. Wingfield also served seven years as superintendent of the San Diego District (now the South District) of the California-Pacific Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.


2018: Judge Jerry Beck
The Honorable R. Jerry Beck is a 1965 graduate of Emory & Henry College. He received his law degree from George Taylor School of Law of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and post-graduate course work in Criminology and Criminal Justice at East Tennessee State University. He served as Assistant District Attorney in Sullivan County, Tennessee, for 20 years, and was appointed to the bench in 1993 by Tennessee Governor Ned McWherter.  He was later elected to the position by Sullivan County voters where he served until his retirement in 2017. Judge Beck’s position was the only judgeship in Sullivan County that required work in criminal, chancery, and law courts. He was a member of the Kingsport Bar Association, the Tennessee Judicial Conference, and served on the Tennessee Pattern Jury Instruction-Criminal Committee for 24 years. His fellow judges elected him as presiding judge for Sullivan County. He is a former member of the E&H Alumni Board of Directors, a member of the Kingsport Rotary Club, Kingsport Free Masons, and is a Shriner. In 2017 he was inducted into the Dobyns-Bennett High School Alumni Hall of Fame.


2017: Thomas J. Bondurant, Jr. ’76

Thomas J. Bondurant, Jr., graduated from Emory & Henry in 1976 and earned his Juris Doctorate degree from the T.C. Williams School of Law at the University of Richmond in 1979. He served as a Federal Prosecutor for 30 years, trying more than 200 criminal and jury trials ranging in matters from white collar fraud, tax issues, public corruption, healthcare fraud, regulatory matters and racketeering. He is admitted to practice in Virginia and the District of Columbia, and he is a Fellow with the American College of Trial Lawyers and the Virginia Law Foundation. He is consistently noted among the Best Lawyers in America for Corporate Compliance Law and White Collar Criminal Defense, and he is regularly recognized as a Virginia Super Lawyer in the areas of Criminal Defense and White Collar Crime. He is currently a partner with Gentry Locke in Roanoke, Virginia, where he represents corporations and individuals in all phases of the criminal process including healthcare fraud, government fraud, tax evasion, public corruption, espionage and capital murder and conducts corporate internal investigations.  He and his wife, Roberta Motherway Bondurant, have three children, Kate, Jack, and Nick.


2016: Pam Kestner, ’83

Pam Kestner graduated from Emory & Henry in 1983.  She received a Master of Social Work degree from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1988. She served the Council for Community Services in Roanoke as Director of Community Resources for 14 years, and then as President and CEO of that organization for 12 years.  She served on the Board of Directors for the Roanoke Valley Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the National Association of Planning Councils and the Virginia Alliance of Information & Referral Systems (on which she continues to serve). Previously, she was a Juvenile Probation Officer for the 29th District Court Services Unit in Lebanon, Virginia. In 2011, she was honored by Emory & Henry College with a Charter Day Citation. In 2012, she was tapped by the governor’s administration of the Commonwealth of Virginia to serve as Virginia’s Homeless Outcomes Coordinator. She continues to serve the Commonwealth in that capacity, while also serving as Special Advisor on Families, Children and Poverty. Pam has one daughter, Olivia (E&H ’15).


2015: Dr. James McNeer, ’61

Jim graduated from Emory & Henry with a double-major in History and Political Science, and while a student served as student body president and co-captain of the basketball team. He received a master’s degree in History from West Virginia University, and a Doctor of Education at the College of William and Mary.  He served as president of Richard Bland College in Petersburg, Virginia, for 16 years. He was Mayor of Colonial Heights, Virginia, for 12 years, and also served as chairman of the city’s school board and library board. He was previously named the City’s Outstanding Young Man, and was once voted the City’s Hero by Lakeview Elementary School. He was recently named a lifetime member of the Colonial Heights Chamber of Commerce and was awarded the Presidential Award for Leadership and Courage in the Cause for Human Rights by the Virginia State Unit of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He received the Department of the Army Commander’s Award for Public Service and the Gatlin Award from the Petersburg Chamber of Commerce for work done to save Fort Lee.  He currently serves as a director for Virginia Commonwealth Bank and a trustee for Southside Regional Medical Center. He is married to Nancy Wilkinson McNeer, E&H Class of 1962.


2014: Erick H. Long, ’91

Erick H. Long, ’91, joined the Academy of Country Music staff in 2009 and manages the operations of both the Academy of Country Music Awards and the Academy’s office in Encino, California. He oversees components of the awards show that include the All-Star Jam Official After Party, ACM Party for a Cause Festival, security, red carpet, transportation, credentials, and catering. Erick spent over six years coordinating special events for Universal Studios Hollywood organizing up to 300 events a year, including huge corporate events for companies like Coca Cola and Toyota. He worked in event production and operations with the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games where he was special projects manager in charge of the “Look of the Games.” His other event experience includes the Grammys, Latin Grammys and the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.


2013: Ben Jennings, ’68

Ben Jennings is a 1968 graduate of Emory & Henry.  He has served on the Virginia Highlands Festival board since the 1970s, and was a founding member of the A! Magazine for the Arts editorial committee. He serves as program chair for the Friends of the Washington County Public Library, is a former Board of Trustees member for William King Museum, and is credited for starting the Arts Array series in Abingdon which is now sponsored by all SWVA colleges.  He has been a faculty member at Virginia Highlands Community College for 45 years, serving as Associate Professor of English and Film.


2012: Ken Sorenson, ’79

Ken Sorenson, E&H ’79, is an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii. He is a 25-year veteran in the office, and recently achieved a conviction in the United States v. Noshir Gowadia case which has been described as one of the nation’s largest and most significant espionage prosecutions of the past 20 years. Following this conviction, Mr. Sorenson received the National Association of Former United States Attorneys (NAFUSA) Most Outstanding AUSA Award, also known as the J. Michael Bradford Award. The Bradford Award is given annually to the NAFUSA’s choice of the most outstanding AUSA in the country.


2011: Dr. Karen Westerfield Tucker, ’76

Dr. Karen Westerfield Tucker, E&H ’76, is Professor of Worship for the School of Theology at Boston University. She received Ph.D. and M.A. degrees from the University of Notre Dame, and a Master’s of Divinity from the Divinity School of Duke University. She is an ordained Elder with Full Connection in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference of the United Methodist Church. She is currently serving as president of Societas Liturgica, and is Editor-in-Chief of Studia Liturgica, an international ecumenical review for liturgical research and renewal.


2010: Richard “Dick” Kemper, ’64

Richard “Dick” Kemper, Class of 1964, retired after 42 years of service at St. Christopher’s School in Richmond, Virginia. Founded in 1911, St. Christopher’s is a college preparatory school for boys Kindergarten through 12th grade. He served as Assistant Director of Athletics, Head of the Physical Education Department, Head Football Coach, and Head Basketball Coach. He is currently the Executive Director of the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association. He is also CEO of a full service consulting firm, EQ MGR Inc., that offers training and education on all aspects of athletic equipment safety. In 2006, The General of Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia passed a resolution commending him for outstanding service.


2009: Beth Perkinson McCoy, ’69

Beth Perkinson McCoy, Class of 1969, received a master of music education degree from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. In 1991 she was consecrated a diaconal minister in the United Methodist Church, and has served the past 16 years as music director for the East Tennessee Children’s Choir. Ms. McCoy has received the Annual Conductor’s Award from the Johnson City Symphony Orchestra, the Composer of the Year Award from the Appalachian Music Teacher’s Association, and the Tribute to Women Award in the arts category from the Bristol YMCA. She and husband, Dr. Joseph McCoy, retired E&H chemistry professor, reside in Abingdon.


2008: Paul Harrison, ’82

Paul Harrison, Class of 1982, was an economics and business major at Emory & Henry. He holds a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Virginia. A Certified Public Accountant, Mr. Harrison began his career in accounting and until recently was vice president of Krispy Kreme Donuts, Inc. Mr. Harrison then became owner of two Ben and Jerry’s ice cream franchises in the Triad area of North Carolina where he used his business success to serve the greater community through Habitat for Humanity.


2007: Helen Williams Barbrow, ’63 & Sally Ranck Weaver, ’69

Helen Williams Barbrow (posthumous award) graduated from Emory & Henry College in 1963. She began her teaching career at Clifton Forge Elementary School, but spent most of her professional life at Saltville Elementary School where she retired in 2002. She was a founding member of the Museum of the Middle Appalachians where she volunteered faithfully until her death in December 2006. In 2001 she was named by the Virginia Education Media Association as clinch Region Library Media Specialist of the Year.

Sally Ranck Weaver is a 1969 graduate of Emory & Henry College. In 1981 she graduated from Vanderbilt University School of Law. She has served as vice president and general counsel of Goody’s Family Clothing and as an associate professor of law at the University of Montana School of Law. She also has served as chief professional development officer at the law firm of Powell Goldstein where she also practiced law as an associate partner. She recently retired from the position of CEO of the Atlanta Women’s Foundation.


2006: Toni Atkins, ’84

Toni Atkins, E&H ’84, is a member of the City Council of San Diego, California, and in August 2005 was elected by that council to serve as the city’s interim mayor until December 2005. Ms. Atkins is chair of the City Council’s newly formed Committee on Budget and Finance, and is vice chair of both the Land Use and Housing and the Natural Resources and Culture committees. [Find updated info, including her role as interim Governor of California, and becoming the first woman to serve as California Senate President Pro Tem in 2018.]

2005: Dr. P.W. Keaton, ’57

Dr. P.W. Keaton, Class of 1957, is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and received a Ph.D. in physics from John Hopkins University. In 1965, he accepted a position with Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and served there as researcher and division leader until his retirement in 1993. Dr. Keaton was recently an adjunct faculty member at the Colorado School of Mines and he continues to serve as chief scientist for John Frassanito & Associates in Houston, Texas. He received a certificate of appreciation for his work with President Reagan’s National Commission on Space and the Distinguished Performance Project Team Award for his leadership of a strategic defense initiative project.


2004: Dr. A. Ray Merchant, ’52

Dr. A. Ray Merchant, Class of 1952 (posthumous award), served as Executive Vice President of Mary Washington College until his retirement in 1993. Over the course of his career, he served in a variety of positions, including Registrar, Chairman of the Department of Education, Director of Admissions and Vice President. His committee and board involvement supported numerous community organizations including the American Red Cross, the Mary Washington College Community Symphony Orchestra, and the Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center. He served in the U.S. Naval Reserve and taught high school in Smyth County for a short time.


2003: Bill Nickle, ’61

Bill Nickle is a 1961 graduate of Emory & Henry and received his master of divinity degree from Duke University in 1964. From 1980-89, he was the director of and manager of Wesley Woods summer camp in Townsend, Tennessee, during which time he expanded the summer programs to include year-round environmental education for children and adults of all ages and backgrounds. In 1990, Mr. Nickle founded Narrow Ridge, a center for sustainable living and earth literacy in Grainger County, Tennessee. In 2000, he spearheaded the establishment of The Earth Lab at Gray Center in Canton, Mississippi, and he currently serves as director. The Earth Lab is a hands-on earth education program in a 700-acre outdoor classroom. Mr. Nickle has been a tireless teacher and has fostered and developed Earth Knows Publishing. He is a charter member of the National Advisory Board of the Environmental Ethics Institute.


2002: Leslie I. “Ike” Prillaman, ’65

Leslie I. “Ike” Prillaman, E&H ’65, is the Executive Vice President-Marketing of Norfolk Southern Corporation. Over a 32-year career, he has served Norfolk Southern in many leadership positions, including Assistant Vice President, Vice President and Controller, and Vice President-Properties. He recently was selected to serve as the chair of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) Board of Directors. Mr. Prillaman was a member of the Emory & Henry Board of Trustees from 1993 to 2001. As a trustee, he served as treasurer of the board and chair of the Budget/Audit Committee.


2001: Sue Sisk Walker, ’57

Sue Sisk Walker, E&H ’57, has devoted her life to her family and her community. She has given active service to numerous committees, boards and organizations, including the Dogwood Arts Festival Board, The Association of Federated Women’s Clubs, Knoxville Symphony League, Knoxville Bicentennial Coordinator Council and the American Cancer Society. Mrs. Walker served as president of the Alliance of the American Dental Association, the YWCA and the Tennessee Federation of Women’s Clubs. She has been named Tennessee Mother of the Year and First Lady of Knoxville. Mrs. Walker currently serves as executive director of the James White Fort historic site.


2000: Dr. Bob Buchanan, ’58

Dr. Bob Buchanan graduated cum laude from Emory & Henry in 1958 with a bachelor of arts degree in biology. He joined the faculty at the University of California at Berkeley in 1963, and is currently a professor in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology. His work with redox regulation and seed germination has led to the development of many new technologies and has earned him the Charles F. Kettering Award for Excellence.