The Black Alumni Reunion, sponsored by the UNC General Alumni Association, honored four alumni, a student and a former associate dean at its annual awards dinner Nov. 10.
Recipients of the 2006 Harvey E. Beech Outstanding Alumni Awards are Elbert Avery ’82 of Durham; Joretta Durant ’77 of Kinston; Randy Jones ’79 of Chula Vista, Calif.; and W.H. “Joe” Knight Jr. ’76 of Seattle. The 2006 Harvey E. Beech Outstanding Senior Award was presented to Reba Nunley of Eden. The 2006 Harvey E. Beech Outstanding Faculty/Staff Award was presented to Hayden Bently Renwick of Charlotte.
Named for the late Harvey Beech, the first African-American student to graduate from UNC, the awards have been given annually since 1989 to recognize community leadership and support of UNC and the Black Alumni Reunion.
“This year’s recipients of the Beech Awards share the special qualities that Harvey Beech espoused and exemplified throughout his life,” said GAA President Douglas Dibbert ’70. “These individuals are applying their remarkable talents, skills and experiences to help inspire others.”
Avery, global services manager at IBM, has served UNC on the Board of Visitors, the Morehead Scholarship regional selection committee and the advisory boards of the University Center for International Studies and the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History. He continues to work with Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, where he served as chapter president his senior year. Avery also has worked for the Carolina First fundraising campaign. He and his wife, Dr. Katrina Avery, endowed a scholarship at the UNC School of Medicine.
Durant is a lawyer with Durant & Davis in Kinston. Durant’s cousin Harvey Beech encouraged her academic studies and helped inspire her to become the first member of her immediate family to attend college. After Durant earned her UNC business degree in 1977, she went on to the Emory University School of Law. She then returned to her hometown to open a law firm. Durant has served on the UNC Board of Visitors, and she and two friends from her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, contributed a dance studio to the Sonja Haynes Stone Center at the University.
Jones, a recipient of the GAA’s Distinguished Young Alumni Award in 1998, was the first African-American in his high school to be elected student body president. At UNC, he earned a political science degree in 1979 and a law degree in 1982, then joined the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General Corps, where he attained the rank of commander in the Reserves. Jones also was one of the youngest presidents of the National Bar Association; he led the first delegation of lawyers and judges to East Africa for the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. He is the assistant U.S. attorney for the southern district of California in San Diego. He continues to serve the University as the second vice chair on the GAA Board of Directors, and he has served on the UNC Board of Visitors.
Knight earned a double major in economics and political science at UNC in 1976 and a law degree from Columbia University in 1979. Knight represented Colonial Bancorp before beginning his career in academia. At the University of Iowa, Knight served as law professor and as the university’s vice provost. Under his leadership as dean and professor at the University of Washington School of Law, the school created a graduate program in intellectual property law and raised more than $60 million in donations.
Nunley, a senior sociology major at UNC, is a member of the National Scholars Honor Society and three times has received awards for academic excellence at UNC. Nunley also is a recipient of the Oscar Rand scholarship, based both on academic achievement and financial need. Nunley is an assistant teacher at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, where she manages three classrooms of children up to age 5. She also worked as a Spanish translator for parents at the Institute and developed a Spanish version of the Institute’s application form. She has taught English as a second language with the campus group Students Helping in the Immigration and Naturalization of Elders.
Renwick became the assistant director in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions in 1969, traveling often to recruit students for Carolina. By 1973, Renwick had helped increase African-American student enrollment from 100 students to about 900. Renwick, who also became the founding director and associate dean for the Office of Student Counseling in 1973, kept up with the students throughout the school year, inviting them to dinner and encouraging them to do better in school. Renwick continues to keep in touch with the students he supported, even years after he retired as a special assistant to the chancellor.
A list of previous award winners is available online.