Meredith Alumnae Awards Presented During Reunion Weekend

blog post 5.25.17Meredith College alumnae gathered on campus May 19-21 for Meredith Alumnae Reunion Weekend. More than 600 were in attendance for the weekend of events.

The Class of 1967 celebrated their 50th reunion and were inducted into the Golden Oaks Society at a luncheon on May 19. In her remarks, President Jo Allen, ʼ80, reminded alumnae of what Meredith was like during their time on campus, including world and state events and popular television shows. Allen concluded with a list of impressive careers from the Class of 1967. After reciting their oath, President Allen gave each alumnae a pin as a symbol of their membership to the Golden Oaks Society.

Friday evening all classes celebrated together in the Johnson Hall Rotunda and enjoyed music from the Fantastic Shakers in the courtyard.

Saturday morning alumnae awards were presented and President Allen gave a State of the College. President Allen’s talk covered issues in higher education, perceptions about private colleges, as well as a Meredith College update which included enrollment, facility enhancements, athletic accomplishments, and a Beyond Strong │ The Campaign for Meredith update.

In addition, Claire Sullivan Slaughter, ʼ72, president of the Meredith Alumnae Association, passed on her duties to Amanda Steele Johnson, ʼ96, who will serve in the role of two years.

Class meetings were held that afternoon and on Saturday evening individual classes held activities. The weekend concluded with a worship service in Jones Chapel and a brunch Sunday morning.

Congratulations to this year’s alumnae and philanthropy award recipients. Read more about this year’s recipients below.

Yvette Brown, ’90
Distinguished Alumna Award

Yvette Brown, ’90, was an outstanding student and leader at Meredith and through her professional work and community involvement she is educating the next leaders in the medical field.

Brown received her medical degree from Medical College of Pennsylvania. She is an obstetrician/gynecologist and the assistant medical officer for Keystone Women’s Care in Pennsylvania. She is a member of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, and the American Association for Physician Leadership. She has also held positions as a board member of the Cumberland Valley Health Network, board chair of the Cumberland Valley Physicians, and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Brown enjoys teaching nursing students while performing procedures in the operating room and lectures at nursing conferences. She also provides sexual health education to college students.

Brown serves on the Meredith Board of Trustees and she and her family have established a scholarship for Meredith students. She has also served on the Meredith College Alumnae Board, Kresge Foundation Grant chairperson, co-chair of the Campaign for Meredith, and as a Meredith Leadershape speaker.

Kahran Myers, ’09
Recent Graduate Award

Kahran Myers, ’09, is making an impact on her community by using the knowledge she gained in the classroom at Meredith and at Charlotte School of Law to help those in need.

Myers is employed by Wells Fargo Bank N.A. as an operational risk consultant and is on the risk assurance and testing team. She is also a managing attorney for the law offices of T. Greg Doucette where she focuses on areas of business law, civil rights, criminal defense, civil litigation, contract drafting, and negotiation. Myers also works with Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights to offer pro-bono representation in Charlotte. That work led her to stand up and be heard in September 2016 when protests began in the aftermath of a fatal shooting of an African American man by a police officer. Myers risked her own physical safety each night, so that her voice could be heard through multiple media outlets to make sure the true story was being told. She live-tweeted during the demonstrations, did interviews with the BBC, CNN, multiple online publications, and was featured in an episode of The TD Jakes Show. In addition, she provided pro bono defense work to people unlawfully arrested while exercising their constitutional rights. Over the span of four days Myers displayed an immense level of compassion, strength, fearlessness, and resiliency. She made a real impact on her community and showed that she is a true representation of Going Strong.

Margaret Currin, ’72
Career Achievement Award

Margaret Currin, ’72, has had a well-respected and lengthy career of service in the justice and legal education professional field.

In 1976, Currin was the first person to enroll at Campbell University’s law school and as a student she clerked for the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. She graduated second in her class in 1979. Afterwards she went to Washington, D.C., to serve as a legislative assistant and counsel to U.S. Senator John Tower. Currin returned to Campbell in 1981 to serve as assistant dean of the law school and associate professor.

President Ronald Reagan nominated Currin to be U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina in March 1988 and she served until 1993. Following this appointment she returned to Campbell once again and taught law until her retirement in May 2013. During that time she established the Campbell Law Externship Program to give students experience in public service, non-profit, corporate, and pro-bono environments.

Currin has served the Raleigh legal community in numerous roles including president of the National Association of Former U.S. Attorneys, chair of the Wake County Board of Elections, served as General Counsel for the state Republican Party, and represented political committees before the Federal Election Commission. She remains active in the N.C. and Wake County Bar Associations and serves on the N.C. Bar Association BarCares Board of Directors.

Ann Batson James, ’67
Meredith Philanthropy Award

Ann Batson James, ’67, has a strong commitment to Meredith College and supporting programs at Meredith that she holds dear.

For example, James and her husband, Allen, made a gift to support Meredith’s study abroad program in Sansepolcro, Italy, in honor of Betty Webb, one of Ann’s classmates, as well as in the memory of her aunt, Mary Alice Batson Ward, Class of 1937, who she affectionately called Aunt Sister.

As a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Ann is committed to historic preservation, so her gifts to The Meredith Fund are intended to care for Meredith’s historic campus.

James also supports the Class of ’67 Scholarship Fund, the president’s discretionary fund, the Meredith Legacy program, and has a planned gift.

James majored in home economics at Meredith and went on to earn an M.S. in rehabilitation counseling at East Carolina University. She has been a member of the Meredith College Board of Trustees since 2013, serving on the investment and outreach committees; is a member of the Meredith Legacy Scholars Committee, the Friends of Sansepolcro, and has served on the Human Environmental Services Centennial Committee.

Bobbitt Clay Williams, ’57
Meredith Philanthropy Award

Bobbitt Clay Williams, ’57, lives in Newport Beach, Calif., with her husband of almost 62 years, Bill. Williams majored in business administration and believes Meredith has directly contributed to the wonderful life she has led.

In 2015, Bobbitt’s husband wanted to commemorate the couple’s 60th wedding anniversary with a gift to Meredith. They gave a $1 million gift to name a space on the second floor of Johnson Hall the Bobbitt Clay Williams Executive Suite. The gift helped renovate Johnson Hall and moved all the College’s executive team to one area helping to centralize functions.

Bobbitt has been a devoted volunteer of her time, talents, and financial resources to causes such as the American Cancer Society, the Arts in Orange County, the Philharmonic Society, and the Catalina Island Conservancy.

In 2010, she received the Golden Baton Award from the Philharmonic Society of Orange County presented in recognition of outstanding commitment to the Arts in Orange County. In 2004, she received the prestigious St. George National Award from the American Cancer Society in recognition of her leadership in her community to eliminate cancer. She has helped expand the programs and services of the region and supported the Society’s mission through fundraising efforts. Her devotion of working with the organization began in 1982 after her brother passed away from cancer.

Meredith is grateful for her gift in the Beyond Strong Campaign and lasting impact students will experience when they come into Johnson Hall.

Josephine Cooper, ’67
Reunion Philanthropy Award

Jo Cooper, ʼ67, is a member of the Board of Trustees and co-chair of the Beyond Strong Campaign Steering Committee. Cooper has played an important role in guiding the Campaign with her expertise and for that Meredith is grateful.

Cooper has had substantial accomplishments in her life after majoring in business administration at Meredith and receiving her MBA from Duke University. Her career in public policy has been focused primarily on environmental and energy issues. Since her retirement from Toyota Motors North America as vice president for public policy and government affairs, she started her own consulting firm that provides crisis management, public policy, and communication services.

Cooper feels it is important for alumnae to figure out what they are passionate about at Meredith and remember what the College gave them during their time here and give to keep Meredith Going Strong.

The degree she has a great passion for is international business. She recently setup the Cooper International Business Travel Trust, a program that allows Meredith students and a professor to go to different countries during the summer to learn about their business practices.

She also supports the Lois Frazier Endowment for Women in Business, the Class of 1967 Scholarship, and the Meredith Fund.

Cooper recently gave her time on an alumnae panel at a “Strong Women to Success” event on campus, where students were able to hear her wisdom and panelists discuss the role of sponsorship and mentorship in their careers and how it has helped them be successful.

Photo Shows Yvette Brown, ’90, Kahran Myers, ’09, Margaret Currin, ’72, Ann Batson James, ’67, and Jo Cooper, ’67. Not pictured: Bobbitt Clay Williams, ’57. 

Alumnae Spotlight: Christine Kelley Storch, ’02

Christine Storch blog pic

What was your favorite memory during your time at Meredith?

My favorite memory at Meredith would have to be walking into Cornhuskin’ senior year. We had light sabers in the dark and as we all raised them I knew that this was a “snap shot” moment that I would never forget.

What was your favorite tradition?

My Favorite tradition at Meredith would have to be the Ring Dinner. It is such a great reminder that you as a Meredith student are part of a larger Meredith network of alumnae.

 Who was your favorite Professor or what was your favorite class? Why?

This is really hard I had some amazing professors but I would have to say Dr. Novak was my favorite professor. He was also my advisor and was such a great sounding board as I navigated my college career and beyond.

What is your favorite thing about being a Meredith Alumna?

My favorite thing about being a Meredith Alumna is getting back on campus. I am so impressed with what the current student body is accomplishing. Their scholarly works and spirit are inspiring to me as an Alumna.

Tell us what you have been up to since you graduated from Meredith!

It’s hard to believe that it has been almost fifteen years since I graduated. During that time, I have founded my own company, Dashing Social Media, LLC, a boutique marketing firm specializing in the digital marketing needs of small to midsize businesses. I have been involved with many fantastic organizations in the Winston-Salem area including the Junior League of Winston-Salem, Brenner Children’s Hospital and The Children’s Museum of Winston-Salem, to name a few. I am also married to Bain and mom to Nelson (10) and Rand (8).

Porter Byrum: A Champion for Students (1920-2017)

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Porter Byrum, a retired attorney and real estate developer from Charlotte, N.C., known for his educational philanthropy, passed away on March 27, 2017. He was 96.

­­­­Byrum gave an initial gift in 2012 of $1 million to Meredith College in memory of his mother, Isa Ward Byrum, who attended Meredith College from 1906 to 1910.  He loved Meredith College and honored his mother by establishing the Isa Ward Byrum Scholarship and Opportunity Fund to support financial assistance to Meredith students. In subsequent years, Byrum gave an additional $2.5 million dollars to the scholarship.

“He was an incredible man who lived a very full and purposeful life,” said President Jo Allen, ʼ80. “His gifts, which honor his mother and her alma mater, invest in today’s Meredith College students, and our faculty and staff are equally appreciative of his generosity.”

Byrum said in 2012 at a ceremony in the Johnson Hall Rotunda honoring his gift that his mother “believed in education and her dream was for all her sons to get an education. I hope this money will help other mothers’ dreams also come true.”

The son of a Baptist preacher, Byrum was one of five sons of the late John Thomas Byrum and Isa Ward Byrum. Byrum graduated from Wake Forest University in 1942 with a law degree.

After graduating, he joined the Army and was sent to Europe to fight in the Battle of the Bulge. He also helped liberate the Buchenwald concentration camp and later his service continued in Korea.

After returning to Charlotte in the early 1950s, he began practicing law along with real estate development including the Park Road Shopping Center in Charlotte in the late 60s. He managed this property for over 40 years.

Meredith has awarded 163 Isa Ward Byrum scholarships and many of the students receiving them would not have been able to attend Meredith College without the generosity of Byrum.

“Mr. Byrum’s generous gift saved me from having to leave Meredith at a time when I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish my education,” said Sierra Smith, ʼ18. “He gave me the opportunity to continue school and embrace everything that Meredith has to offer. If it were not for him honoring his mother, Isa Ward Byrum, my Meredith experience would not be what it is today.”

“Mr. Byrum has shown compassion towards students who want to pursue higher education at Meredith, and because of that I am very grateful to him for his contribution and being part of my support system,” said Jennifer Coples, ʼ16, at the scholarship dinner in October 2015.

Byrum received many letters from Meredith students thanking him for his generosity. Those letters meant a great deal to him and showed him the impact his gift was having on students. He also enjoyed visiting his scholarship students at Meredith and learning more about how they planned to use their degree.

“The Byrum Scholarship allowed me to pursue my dreams. I did not have to sacrifice anything for financial circumstances that were out of my control,” said Raven Gregory, ʼ16.

“We have lost a dear friend to Meredith College, but through his gifts he has changed the lives of students following in his mother’s footsteps at Meredith,” said President Allen. “Hundreds of our students honor his memory and are set to live better lives because he believed in Meredith College.”

Byrum’s love for his mother was evident in the way he spoke about her. He knew that education was important to his mother and that her Meredith education influenced her greatly.

In 2012 when the college celebrated the initial gift, Byrum said, “It is a great pleasure to be able to honor my mother and it is a wonderful feeling that in the future, long after I’m gone, some good person will get some help from the money we give now.”

Byrum was survived by nieces and nephews and their families and his longtime friend Grace Smith Thomas.

Join Us for Alumnae Reunion Weekend!

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The Alumnae Reunion Weekend brochure came out last week and was emailed to all of us.  The weekend of May 19-21 I will celebrate with my classmates the 45 years I have been out of college.  Or maybe I should put that another way—-I will celebrate the four years I spent at Meredith with the women who shared it with me.  We will stay in the dorm and laugh, cry and mourn those of us who are gone.  We will party in the quad and at the Player’s Retreat and help fill in each other’s memories of events that took place long ago and feel the same today.  And we will mingle with generations of Meredith women who have more in common than we realize except when we come together in that one place that binds us to each other.

Not a year goes by that I don’t dream I am moving into the dorm for a fall semester or that I am late with a term paper.  Clearly my college years held so much joy and so much fear that they are forever with me!  And the faces and names of my classmates are forever 21 in those dreams—-they never change.  We come to reunion weekend to celebrate our young lives and the wonder we all felt about what lay ahead.  It doesn’t matter to us where we have been or what we have accomplished in the meantime—-just that we are there at Meredith together again.

Please join us—The Class of 1972—and all the other 2s and 7s when we come back home this May.  I promise you it will be fun!

Claire Sullivan Slaughter, ’72
President, Meredith College Alumnae Association

Alumnae Spotlight: Emily Cochran, ’03

What was your favorite memory during your time at Meredith?

I have so many good memories. I think my favorite was the opening to Cornhuskin’ my senior year. The entire class was down in the amphitheater and we did our grand entrance and I remember thinking to myself, ‘SOAK IT IN, PAY ATTENTION TO THIS MOMENT, IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN.’ It was so special. I still get chills!

What was your favorite tradition?

Oh goodness, again… every tradition meant so much. I loved Ring Dinner. Since I was a very little girl, I dreamt of getting my onyx. All of my babysitters had them and I thought they were so cool. Once I got to Meredith, the ring became like a badge of honor. Now, it connects me to so many alumnae! I can be anywhere and see a young or old woman with an onyx and we instantly have a moment!

 Who was your favorite Professor or what was your favorite class? Why?

I majored in Interior Design and LOVED all of my ID classes. One class that surprised me was Art History. I found it to be profoundly moving as I was exposed to pieces that I had never seen, some that have impacted me for life. I discovered one of my favorite paintings in that class. Years later, I was wandering through the Art Institute in Chicago and I saw the painting, without knowing it was there. It was a major life moment.

 What is your favorite thing about being a Meredith Alumna?

Remembering my glorious years at Meredith 😉

Tell us what you have been up to since you graduated from Meredith!

Since graduating, I have held all sorts of positions within the design world. I have managed facilities for major companies in RTP, I have designed shops at North Hills, I have designed schools for Wake County, and most recently, I have opened my own business. In November, I opened a little shop on Hillsborough Street in downtown Raleigh. It’s full of vintage furniture and fun home finds, and it serves as my studio for design projects. Thank you, Meredith, for encouraging me to live my best life!

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