2006 Harvey E. Beech Outstanding Alumni Award
Elbert L. Avery ’82
Is Ave here? If you don’t see him, Linda Brown Douglas ’82 might know where to look. She was at a reception at the DeBose House the night that a very important football game was being played. When she and a coworker walked through the elegant mansion on an impromptu tour, they opened the door of one of the upstairs rooms and discovered Elbert Avery, looking very sheepish. He had poked around until he found a television tucked away in a cabinet, and he was upstairs watching the game.
Finding a television hidden behind all that carved wood when he really needed one is indicative of the thoroughness with which Elbert approaches every task. He impressed his fellow Board of Visitors members by always doing his homework before meetings, contributing pertinent ideas to the discussions. He never missed a meeting.
One of his fraternity brothers, Dr. Kelvin Harris ’82, says Ave is a fun-loving person, but when it came down to getting something done, he was the person you wanted to do it.
It’s not that Elbert has any more free time than anyone else. As global services manager for IBM, he has won numerous performance awards. Aside from the time he contributed to the Board of Visitors, he was a member of the advisory boards of the University Center for International Studies and the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History, as well as serving on the Morehead Award regional selection committee. A member of Kappa Alpha Psi, he was chapter president his senior year and continues to work with the organization.
Elbert’s wife, Katrina, is a 1982 graduate of the University and a 1991 graduate of the medical school. The Averys are pretty proud of having established a scholarship in the medical school. And they are the proud mom and dad of Jonathan Wesley Avery.
Elbert also has been busy in the community as a board member of the Self Help Credit Union, treasurer of his Cub Scout pack, a program coordinator for the Big Brother/Little Brother program and as a member of the advisory board of the Rural Economic Development Center’s Micro Enterprise Lending Program.
Some years back, he became certified as an NFL and NBA agent. What prompted him to put in the extra study required to sit for the exam, he confided to his friend Kelvin, was that he had seen too many young men who had been taken advantage of by unscrupulous agents, and he wanted to make a positive change. That sort of commitment to using his gifts to help people is characteristic of him. “If you survey NFL agents,” Kelvin says, “I don’t think many of them have gone into that work to help somebody.”
Joseph Jordan, the director of the Stone Center, got to know Elbert through their common interest in supporting the Stone Center and the University Center for International Studies. Joseph said Elbert’s selfless giving of his time and resources to bring more students of color into these corridors of opportunity makes him stand out. Many students don’t know Elbert by name, yet there are many who have benefited from his commitment to quality education for all who enter this University.
Elbert sets high standards for himself, and he has high expectations for people around him, too. He is what’s known in the development office as an active donor. He has been a part of the Carolina First campaign from the outset, giving feedback on his experiences as a student to help shape outreach to various groups.
“There was always an aura of leadership about him,” Kelvin Harris said. “You just had to spend a few minutes with him, and you knew he was a leader.”