2013 Alumnae Awards Presented

Meredith College held the annual Alumnae Reunion Weekend, May 17-19, 2013. More than 530 alumnae – a record number – attended this special event.

As part of the festivities, five alumnae received awards during the Alumnae Association Annual Meeting on Saturday, May 18.

Anne Burke, ’87, and Gwendolyn Noble, ’73, received the Career Achievement Award, Amanda Fletcher, ’03, received the Recent Graduate Award, Sandra Close, ’86, received the Distinguished Alumna Award, and Margaret Tharrington, ’71, received the Philanthropy Award

Read about the award recipients below.

Anne Burke, ’87
Career Achievement Award

Anne Burke, ’87, has spent her career as a force for good, raising awareness and support for Urban Ministries, an organization that serves Wake County’s poorest citizens. She is a compelling advocate for homeless men and women in Raleigh.

Burke has spent her career at the Urban Ministries, first as a volunteer, then as associate director and as executive director from 1986 until her retirement in 2012. She brought together local churches, service organizations, businesses and individuals to make the organization’s goals reality.

Under Burke’s leadership, the non-profit grew to provide services including a food pantry, a free health clinic that serves 6,000 patients, and the Helen Wright Center, a women’s shelter that aims to help women rebuild their lives. In one year, the health clinic provides nearly 7,000 medical and diabetes management visits; the women’s center provides shelter and support for 300 homeless women and the food pantry provides a week-supply of groceries for more than 8,000 families in need.

After earning a Bachelor of Arts in English and sociology, Burke has continued to be involved at Meredith. In 2012, she spoke at an event for students in Meredith’s First Year Experience to help the students connect the issues of homelessness and poverty with the reality found in Wake County.

Gwendolyn Noble, ’73
Career Achievement Award

Gwendolyn Noble, ’73, earned an undergraduate degree at Meredith College, along with a belief that she could achieve any goal she chose. She graduated knowing that she could make a difference in the world.

Armed with a Bachelor of Arts in biology and history from Meredith, Noble earned an M.S. in microbiology and animal science, a Ph.D. in microbiology and a medical degree. For 20 years, Noble has been a physician in private practice, with a specialty in ophthalmology and a subspecialty in pediatric ophthalmology and strabismus, a condition in which the eyes are improperly aligned. In addition to her solo private practice, Noble does inpatient consultations at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. She also teaches examination skills to physicians in training in the Resident Clinic at Lurie Children’s Hospital. She has been awarded for her quality work as an educator, receiving the 2005 Teacher of the Year Award from the Northwestern University Ophthalmology Residency Program.

Another professional achievement is Noble’s participation in the Congenital Toxoplasmosis Study at the University of Chicago, which combines her academic background in microbiology and her clinical training in pediatric ophthalmology. Since 2001, Noble has been one of the pediatric ophthalmology specialists for the study, which has been ongoing for 26 years. There are currently 232 patients in the study, which follows patients from birth to adulthood. The study, with Noble’s contributions, has resulted in successful treatment, leading to normal brain development.

Amanda Fletcher, ’03
Recent Graduate Award

Amanda Fletcher, ’03, is an enthusiastic advocate for global education who seeks to create understanding between cultures whenever possible. She attributes her passion for international education to her experience studying abroad in Italy as a Meredith student. Fletcher has traveled widely, visiting more than 25 countries, including working for one year in New Zealand, teaching a course on the U.S. border with Mexico and presenting at conferences in Brazil and Egypt.

Fletcher serves as associate director for international programming at Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, Washington. In this role, she directs the Northwest Community College Initiative, a scholarship and exchange program funded by the U.S. Department of State. The program brings students to the United States for a year of professional training and cultural immersion. Since 2009, Fletcher has developed an effective program that spans all areas of international support and development. She has written successful grant proposals totaling $3.9 million to fund the program, which has welcomed 170 students from 12 countries over the past four years. In her previous position as interim director of international programs at Presbyterian College, Fletcher recruited the largest study abroad class in the college’s history, doubling the number of students who studied abroad in one year.

Fletcher served on the Young Alumnae Board and has continued to support her alma mater by returning for class events, and recommending Meredith to high school students. She volunteers in her community and supports her professional community by mentoring younger professionals and giving presentations at conferences held by the Association of International Educators.

Sandra Close, ’86
Distinguished Alumna Award

Sandra Close earned a Meredith degree in 1986 as a non-traditional age student, an experience that she said changed her life. As director of Meredith’s 23+ Program, Close helped other women earn their degrees and achieve success.

Close served as the program’s assistant director from 1986-94, and then served as director until her retirement in 2002. As an alumna of the re-entry program, Close recognized the opportunity it gave to women who wanted to return to school to complete degrees, or to begin their college experience after the age of 23.

Alumnae who attended Meredith in the 23+ Program during Close’s tenure credit her encouragement with inspiring them to earn degrees. Close’s enthusiastic leadership and mentoring has resulted in hundreds of successful Meredith College alumnae.

Close continues to be an active alumna who frequently attends College events. She has served as a class agent, as president of the Friends of the Carlyle Campbell Library and as a member of the Alumnae Book Club. She supports the College and her community in numerous ways, and encourages women of all ages to earn their degrees at Meredith. In 2011, The Sandra Critzer Close Scholarship endowment was established in her honor at Meredith, to support 23+ students, ensuring that women follow in her footsteps for years to come.

Margaret Tharrington, ’71
Philanthropy Award

Margaret Tharrington, ’71, credits her family, faith and Meredith College with her success. In recognition of what Tharrington has given back to Meredith, the College has named her the recipient of the 2013 Philanthropy Award.

Tharrington’s grandmother, Margaret Coley Tharrington, graduated from Meredith in 1905 and her father, Henry Tharrington, graduated from Wake Forest in 1938. Margaret Tharrington followed in their footsteps, earning an undergraduate degree from Meredith in history and religion, and a master’s degree in history from Wake Forest. In 1973, with her degrees from Meredith and Wake Forest, Tharrington began a career in banking. She served as a commercial banker for 38 years before retiring in 2011.

Tharrington has created the Estelle and Henry Tharrington Endowment. Her goal for the gift was to honor her parents and encourage young women at Meredith College. Tharrington wants the endowment to help other Meredith students achieve their dreams.

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