A former basketball player, a community college administrator and a student body president who became advocates for public and volunteer service have been honored by the GAA with the 2009 Distinguished Young Alumni Awards.
Eric Montross ’94 of Chapel Hill, a member of the 1993 NCAA championship Tar Heels team and former professional player, and Emily Williamson ’99 of Hildebran, vice president of student development at Western Piedmont Community College, received the awards at a banquet on Friday for bringing credit to the University through their achievements.
The GAA also made its first such posthumous award to Eve Carson ’08, the student body president from Athens, Ga., who was slain in March 2008, two months before she was to have graduated. The University subsequently awarded her degree.
“The remarkable accomplishments of many of Carolina’s younger alumni such as Eric and Emily are truly inspiring,” said Douglas Dibbert ’70, association president. “It is particularly special that we are able to recognize Eve Carson and her remarkable legacy, which continues to motivate others.”
Carson, a Morehead Scholar and political science and biology major, championed “The Carolina Way,” defining it as pursuing academic excellence while serving the broader community. She had served as a freshman camp counselor and with the anti-poverty nonprofit Nourish International and the UNC Dance Marathon fundraiser, among other groups. She tutored in local schools, and she spent summers volunteering in Ecuador, Egypt and Ghana as part of the Morehead Summer Enrichment program.
As a North Carolina Fellow, Carson participated in a four-year leadership-development program for undergraduates. She served as co-president of the Honors Program Student Executive Board and on the Committee on Scholarships, Awards and Student Aid, the Academic Advising Program and the Chancellor’s Committee for University Teaching Awards. As student body president, she was an ex-officio member of the UNC Board of Trustees and the GAA Board of Directors. She was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Golden Fleece honor societies.
Carson’s legacy at UNC includes The Eve Marie Carson Carolina Scholarship for an outstanding out-of-state student; the Eve Marie Carson Memorial Junior-Year Merit Scholarship; and the Eve Marie Carson Garden behind the Campus Y, which will feature a low stone wall topped with glass etched with the names of students who die while attending the university.
Montross, a two-time All-American center for the Tar Heels, was drafted by the Boston Celtics and played in the NBA for 10 years. Since 2006, the Indianapolis native who graduated with a degree in speech has been a commentator for men’s basketball games on the Tar Heel Sports Network radio broadcast.
During his playing days at UNC, Montross regularly visited patients at the N.C. Children’s Hospital. His friendship with a patient led to ideas to make the facility more “child-friendly,” such as a game room for teens too old for the younger playroom. Montross has continued to use his celebrity to support and raise money for the hospital. The Eric Montross Father’s Day Basketball Camp started by him and his wife, Laura ’93, marked its 15th anniversary this year and has raised more than $800,000.
Montross has served on the UNC Board of Visitors and on the GAA board as a representative to the University’s Athletic Council.
Williamson, student body vice president at UNC and now Hildebran Town Council member, graduated in 1999 with a degree in political science. She taught social studies and language arts in her native Burke County until returning to UNC and earning a master’s degree in public administration in 2003.
Her master’s thesis focused on community colleges as incubators for small business, and she went back to Burke County as director of planning and research at Western Piedmont Community College in Morganton. Her current position also includes serving as executive director of the Western Piedmont Foundation, raising funds to support the college’s mission.
Williamson serves with several economic development organizations, including the Burke Partnership for Economic Development and the Western Piedmont Workforce Development Board. She also works with several organizations addressing community issues, such as Options Inc., serving victims and addressing issues of domestic violence, and the United Hmong Association of North Carolina, helping these Southeast Asian immigrants assimilate into their new community. She is the 2009 Burke County Woman of the Year.
Since 1989, the GAA’s Distinguished Young Alumni Awards have recognized alumni aged 40 or younger whose accomplishments have brought credit to the university.