Accomplished Elon graduates receive Alumni Association Awards

Five Elon alumni - Joan Summers Drummond ’52, Lundon B. Sims ’02, Laith al-Majali ’05, Bonnie K. Baxter ’88  and Noel L. Allen ’69, P’07 - were honored by the university on Nov. 8 for the contributions they have made to their professions, and for the honor they bring their alma mater.

The award winners also will be recognized at halftime at the Phoenix football game.

Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award
Noel L. Allen ’69

Thisaward is presented to an alumnus who has distinguished himself in aprofession and in the community and brought honor to Elon.

Inthe nearly four decades since his graduation from Elon College, Allenhas become one of the nation’s preeminent attorneys and legal scholars,distinguishing himself in his profession and in service to his almamater.

“Everything we do right at Elon we do as a family, as acommunity,” Allen said. “In that sense, all that I’ve become, all thatI may become, and all that the institution becomes, is thanks to all ofus.”

A native of Elon, Allen earned his bachelor’s degree in history fromElon in 1969, his law degree from the University of North Carolina atChapel Hill in 1973, and a diploma in international law from theUniversity of Amsterdam in 1974.

Allen served as an assistant attorney general with the state of NorthCarolina from 1974 to 1977 before becoming president and founding andmanaging partner of Allen and Pinnix law firm in Raleigh. His practicefocuses on public policy, occupational licensing, and administrative,antitrust, and trade regulation law. He has tried numerous cases instate and federal courts and prevailed in complex, precedent-settinglitigation.

Allen serves as legal counsel for the National Association of StateBoards of Accountancy and several North Carolina professional licensingboards, including the Board of CPA Examiners and the Board ofArchitecture, and has served as chair of the Antitrust Section and theInternational Law Section of the North Carolina Bar Association.

Arespected legal educator, Allen has taught as an adjunct professor atCampbell University School of Law and published articles on ethics, theuse of expert witnesses, and legal challenges for regulating Internetpractice. He serves as U.S. editor of the multi-volume treatiseCompetition Law of Western Europe and The United States (Kluwer LawInternational) and is the author of both North Carolina Unfair BusinessPractice and Antitrust Law in North Carolina.

In what hecalls his greatest honor, Allen has served with distinction as a memberof Elon’s Board of Trustees since 1985, including terms as board chairfrom 2001 to 2003. He chaired the trustee committees that created thePlan for the 90s, Elon Vision, and NewCentury@Elon strategic plans andchaired the 1998 presidential search committee that brought PresidentLambert to Elon. He played a pivotal role in the board’s decision toopen the Elon University School of Law in Greensboro in 2006 and serveson the law school’s board of advisors.

Allen’s professional accomplishments have earned him recognition in The Best Lawyers in America in the area of administrative law and in Business North Carolina magazine’s list of the state’s “Legal Elite.” He has been named one of the state’s top lawyers by North Carolina Super Lawyers and received the International Service Award from the North Carolina Bar Association’s International Law and Practice Section.

Membersof the Order of the Oak and the School of Law’s Founders’ Society,Allen and his wife, Sandra Robinson Allen ’72, have generouslysupported their alma mater. The couple are the proud parents of Brennerand Jeremy, a 2007 Elon alumnus.

Distinguished Alumna of the Year Award
Bonnie Baxter ’88

Thisaward is presented to an alumna who has distinguished herself in aprofession and in the community and brought honor to Elon.

BonnieBaxter has spent her career making groundbreaking discoveries inbiology and astrobiology, believing passionately that the study oforganisms on Earth can provide insight into the possibility of life onother planets. 

“I’m inspired by Elon. When I decided to goto college here, I realized I wanted to be a place like Elon for therest of my life,” Baxter said. “My career path was really influenced bywhere I grew up and where I went to college and all the professors whowere here.”

She earned a degree in biology at Elon before going on to earn adoctorate in the same field from the University of North Carolina atChapel Hill and completing three years of post-doctoral study in thedepartment of biochemistry and biophysics at Washington StateUniversity. Among her biggest fans at Elon was her father, the lateRobert C. Baxter Jr., a 1956 Elon alumnus who served the institution asa distinguished faculty and staff member for nearly 50 years.

In 1998, Baxter joined the faculty at Westminster College in SaltLake City, Utah, where she serves as director of the Great Salt LakeInstitute. She has earned international attention for her research ofDNA cell repair and specifically her work at the Great Salt Lake, whereshe found multiple species of microorganisms called “halophiles.” Herdiscovery shattered the belief that life could not exist in such ahigh-saline environment. Armed with this new knowledge, Baxter and herteam worked to identify all the organisms in the Great Salt Lake,creating a catalog of DNA evidence that was unlike anything scientistshad ever seen.

Baxter’s discovery of life in the Great Salt Lake and otherharsh environments has been used as a model for studying thepossibility of microbial life on other planets, particularly Mars,where the NASA Mars Rover has found evidence of an ancient salt lakebed.

At Westminster College, Baxter is known for regularly taking herstudents out of the classroom to the shores of the Great Salt Lake tocollaborate with her on research projects. Many of these students havegone on to present their work at conferences and publish articles inscientific journals. Several have been accepted to prestigious graduateprograms in the sciences.

Baxter, along with several colleagues, received a grant from theNational Science Foundation. Together, they will create methods coursesthat will guide future educators in teaching science by inquiry, usingthe Great Salt Lake as a model system.

In 2007, she received the Utah Governor’s Medal for Science andTechnology for her contributions to science and her efforts totransform undergraduate science education. That same year, Salt Lakemagazine profiled Baxter in a story titled “Five Women Changing Utah.”

Alumni Service Award
Joan Summers Drummond ’52

This award is presented to an alumna/alumnus who has offered distinguished service to the community and brought honor to Elon. “I feel very humbled but an so grateful to receive this award from a university I love so deeply,” Drummond said. “I had no idea I had been nominated, much less selected, to receive such a distinguished award.”

Drummond graduated from Elon in 1952 with a degree in biology and chemistry, and launched her career as an analytical laboratory chemist at Vick Chemical Co., a division of Richardson-Merrell Pharmaceutical, in Greensboro, North Carolina.

She served at Vick Chemical for more than 30 years, earning a reputation as a valued leader and a pioneer among professional women. Joan was the first female salaried employee at Vick Chemical and the first woman to be promoted to manager in 1963. In 1976, she became the first woman to serve as production supervisor at the company. When Vick Chemical was sold to Dow Pharmaceuticals in 1980 and to Procter and Gamble in 1985, Joan maintained her management position, demonstrating her value to the success of all three companies. In 1990, she retired from Procter and Gamble.

For the past 17 years, Joan has worked with the Hospice League of Alamance/Caswell counties and currently serves on the league’s board. She also has devoted countless hours to the Women’s Resource Center of Burlington, Humane Society of Alamance County, Residential Treatment Services of Alamance County and Democratic Women of Alamance County, and has served as a coordinator for Meals on Wheels.

A master gardener in Alamance County, she serves as a member of the beautification committee for the City of Gibsonville, where she resides with her husband, James A. Drummond ’50. She also serves as a master gardener on the Alamance County Extension Advisory Council Board.

Together with Jim, Joan has been a generous supporter of her alma mater. In 2006, the Drummonds made a $25,000 gift to establish the Joan and James Drummond Endowed Scholarship in Chemistry. In addition, a research lab in the Dalton L. McMichael Sr. Science Center bears their name in recognition of their support of the chemistry department.

Joan and Jim have served as co-presidents of Elon’s Golden Alumni group and as members of the National Alumni Executive Board from 2000 to 2007. Joan also served on the executive committee of The Elon Society from 2003 to 2008.

Young Alumna of the Year Award
Lundon B. Sims ’02

This award is presented to an alumna who has graduated within the past 10 years and distinguished herself in a profession and in the community. “I’m definitely honored to accept this award,” said Sims, who then jokingly “blamed” Elon for instilling in her a “travel bug” and an appreciation for beautiful environments.

Sims earned a degree in history education and Spanish. For the past three years, she has taught at R.J. Reynolds High School in her hometown of Winston-Salem, N.C., where she serves as the school’s Graduation Project Coordinator and teaches Advanced Placement World History and Spanish II.

At Elon, Sims distinguished herself as a North Carolina Teaching Fellow and excelled in her studies. She earned membership in seven national honor societies, including Omicron Delta Kappa national leadership honor society and Phi Kappa Phi national honor society.

She also was passionate about service at Elon, volunteering with the group Student Action with Farm Workers, through which she tutored Spanish-speaking children and teenagers in Reidsville, N.C. For her efforts, Sims received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, which is presented annually to graduating Elon seniors who have contributed exceptional service to their community.

Sims joined the Peace Corps after graduation. She spent more than two years in Larreynaga, Nicaragua, training rural primary and secondary school teachers in sustainable agriculture, community waste management and hands-on classroom management. She also taught environmental education to students in kindergarten through 11th grade.

Following her Peace Corps service, Sims joined the teaching ranks at Reynolds High School, where she is known as a passionate advocate for cross-cultural learning. She has brought to her classroom guest speakers from the Republic of Georgia, Nigeria, India and Taiwan. She also started a pen-pal program between her students and students in the Republic of Georgia.

Sims was instrumental in developing “R.J.R. W.O.R.L.D.: Reynolds Joining Relief Workers Offering Resources to the Less Developed,” a program that encourages students in the school’s honors world history classes to volunteer with organizations in Forsyth County. She brought the Project to Reynolds High School, enabling students to research and contribute to Third-World businesses. 

Sims is equally devoted to her Winston-Salem community. She works as a translator with the Centro La Communidad/Community Care Center, assisting Spanish-speaking residents with their medical appointments. She also serves as secretary of the Young Adult Missionaries of Forsyth County and as a youth group teacher and a Habitat for Humanity volunteer coordinator at Friendship Baptist Church. She also has remained connected to the national organization of Zeta Phi Beta, her sorority at Elon.

Earlier this year, she was selected from a national pool of candidates to attend one of 27 seminars supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities. She traveled to Madrid, Spain, for the seminar titled “Authors in the Prado: Spanish Art and the Literature it Inspired.”

Young Alumnus of the Year Award
Laith al-Majali ’05

This award is presented to an alumnus who has graduated within the past 10 years and distinguished himself in a profession and in the community. “What Elon has given me, in terms of an education, no other institution would have been able to do,” Majali said.

Since graduating from Elon in 2005, Majali has become a rising star in filmmaking, fulfilling the promise he displayed as a student in the university’s School of Communications. In January 2008, Majali added award-winning film editor and producer to his list of accomplishments after his film, “Captain Abu Raed,” earned the World Cinema Audience Award at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

Majali traces his dream of becoming a successful filmmaker to his days growing up in Amman, Jordan. He regularly accompanied his uncle to the local movie theater and became captivated by acting and filmmaking. He appeared in his first theater production at age 6, eventually earning roles in Jordanian television shows and films. He also regaled family and friends with his impersonations of the late Saddam Hussein, Yasser Arafat and King Hussein of Jordan.

Majali came to Elon in 2001 as the university’s first King Hussein of Jordan Scholar. He quickly distinguished himself as a campus leader, becoming an Isabella Cannon Leadership Fellow and Elon Ambassador, and joining the Intercultural Relations Club. In the dark days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Majali served as a unifying voice during campus gatherings, eagerly sharing his Arabic culture with fellow students.

Embracing Elon’s engaged learning philosophy, Majali was active in campus media, regularly volunteering to videotape athletics events and Elon Student Television programs in addition to working on his own film projects. Called a “true student of film and photography,” he often could be found working late into the night in the School of Communications, honing his editing skills.

In 2004, Majali landed a film internship in Los Angeles, where he met fellow Jordanian filmmaker Amin Matalqa. The two collaborated on “Captain Abu Raed,” the first feature film to emerge from Jordan in 50 years. After winning the award at Sundance, Majali traveled the globe to promote the film and the Jordanian film industry.

His latest project, a sitcom for the Showtime network, is based on his experiences as an Arab student in the American South. Majali graciously credits Elon with helping him achieve early success and returns to campus when he can to share his skills with students.