The 2012 Meredith College Alumnae Award winners were announced as part of the College’s annual Alumnae Reunion Weekend, held May 18-20, 2012.
Ellen Barney Williams, ’72, of Raleigh, N.C., and Nancy Williams Cheek, ’63, of Chapel Hill, N.C., are the Distinguished Alumna Award recipients. Audrey Harrell, ’07, of Garner, N.C., received the Recent Graduate Award. Katherine Keith Thomas, '79, of Raleigh, N.C. received the Career Achievement Award. The Career Achievement Award was also presented posthumously to Lynn Jones Ennis, ’75.
Read more about this year’s recipients below.
Ellen Barney Williams, ’72
Distinguished Alumna Award
Ellen Williams, ’72, is a performing artist and active member of the Meredith College faculty, which she joined in 1992. She now serves as professor of music and coordinator of vocal studies. Her career as a voice teacher has been exceptional. Her students, who have consistently won honors, have built successful musical careers thanks to Williams’s positive, nurturing and energetic approach to teaching.
Williams performs internationally as a soloist and a director. Her most recent CD, of Mahler’s “Das Lied Von Der Erde,” was released in 2011. She has taught master classes and performed throughout the world, including at UCLA, Austria’s Mozarteum Summer Academy and the Rome Opera Festival. She is the co-founder of Capital Opera of Raleigh, and participated in the company’s merger with the Opera Company of North Carolina. She serves on the board of the directors for the now-thriving North Carolina Opera.
Williams holds a Bachelor of Arts in voice and religion from Meredith, a Master of Music in voice performance from New England Conservatory and a Doctor of Music in voice performance from Florida State University.
Nancy Williams Cheek, ’63
Distinguished Alumna Award
Nancy Williams Cheek, ’63, is an alumna who has immersed herself into the life of Meredith College. Her service has culminated in a 2011-12 term as chair of the College’s Board of Trustees. Cheek is completing her second four-year term on the board, and has previously served as a member of the board’s executive committee. During the 2010-11 academic year, Cheek served as the board’s vice chair. She also served on the presidential search committee, which resulted in the naming of Jo Allen, ’80, as the College’s first alumna president.
An elementary school teacher for more than 30 years, Cheek’s career included teaching at Pearson Town Elementary in Durham, N.C. In 1994, she was asked to join the faculty at Burton Elementary School, becoming part of a team that was charged with creating a magnet program at the school. She worked with enthusiasm to turn Burton Elementary School into a magnet school and to earn accreditation for the school as a pre-international baccalaureate school. Even after retirement, Cheek returned to Burton to help train teachers.
Cheek has been an active member of Chapel Hill’s Binkley Memorial Baptist Church, serving as a deacon, Sunday School teacher, and in a variety of other ways. She has been elected by the congregation to serve on search committees to find new senior ministers for the church. In addition to her Meredith degree, Cheek holds a Master of Education from UNC-Chapel Hill.
Audrey Tamer Harrell, ’07
Recent Graduate Award
Audrey Tamer Harrell, ’07, became an assistant principal at Kinston High School in Kinston, N.C., less than five years after graduating from Meredith College. In this role, she coordinates state tests and other exams, has developed student and faculty handbooks, served as the school professional development coordinator and hired and evaluated faculty. Prior to this appointment, Harrell taught at Holly Springs High School, where she was named the First Year Teacher of the Year.
At Meredith, Harrell was a Teaching Fellow and an Honors Scholar. She served as a resident assistant and worked in the Office of Study Abroad. She continues to serve her alma mater as a member of the Young Alumnae Board and the Teaching Fellows Advisory Committee. She has also served on alumnae panels for a variety of Meredith events.
Harrell holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Meredith College. She also holds a graduate degree in school administration from East Carolina University.
Katherine Keith Thomas, ’79
Career Achievement Award
Katherine Keith Thomas, ’79, has spent her career with CP&L/Progress Energy, most recently as Progress Energy’s director of community relations and economic development. She began with the corporation in 1979, and has served in a variety of roles including director of economic development for the Carolinas and Florida and manager of economic development for the Carolinas. She has earned numerous honors including the 2001 Pinnacle Award from Progress Energy, 2001 Women in Business Award from Triangle Business Journal and 2005 Woman Extraordinaire Award from Business Leader Magazine.
A committed community volunteer, Thomas is a current member of organizations including the North Carolina Economic Developers Association, the North Carolina Commerce Trade and Development Board, the North Carolina Economic Development Board, the North Carolina Rural Center Board, the North Carolina Community College Foundation Board, the Duke University Medical System Board, the Research Triangle Regional Partnership Board, the North Carolina Chamber Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee and Step-Up Ministry. She has previously served on the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce Board and Executive Committee, Communities in Schools of North Carolina Board and the Wake Education Partnership Board.
Thomas is a member of the Meredith College Business Advisory Board and is a class agent.
Lynn Jones Innis, ’75
Career Achievement Award (posthumously)
Lynn Jones Innis, ’75, was an advocate for the arts who worked to promote the arts and its powerful role in our lives. She was associate director and curator of the collection at the Gregg Museum of Art & Design at North Carolina State University. She was also an adjunct professor in the MBA Program at NC State, where she taught Creativity in Management, and at NC Wesleyan College’s Adult Degree Program, where she taught Art Appreciation and Introduction to Humanities.
Innis’s research focus was 20th century American craft history, southern women’s history and craft history. She wrote and lectured extensively on the early years of the Penland School of Crafts. She received the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s James Renwick Fellowship in American Craft, and was chosen to be guest curator at the McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina. She presented at museums, galleries and organizations including the American Craft Council Symposium, the Women in Crafts Arts Conference at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. She was a member of the North Carolina Humanities Council, including a term as vice chair, a member of the Wake County Commission for Women and the Raleigh Fine Arts Society.
Her service to Meredith included a term as president of the Meredith College Alumnae Association, and on the Archives and History Committee. She was a member of the Friends of the Carlyle Campbell Library and the Meredith College Task Force in 1995. In addition to her Bachelor of Arts in history from Meredith College, she held a master’s degree in liberal studies from Duke University and a Ph.D. in American studies at Union Institute.
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