Fall 2011: Meet the 2011 Alumni Association Award recipients

Ten outstanding Elon graduates were honored during Homecoming at the annual Alumni Association Awards Ceremony on Oct. 22. The awards, the most prestigious given by the Elon Alumni Association, recognize Elon graduates for professional achievement, community service and contributions to Elon.

The 2011 Elon Alumni Association Award winners. Front row, l-r: Shelly Skeens Hazel ’78 LP’09, Zac Walker III ’60, Dot S. Walker, Sam Burke ’89 and Daniel Watts ’04. Back row, l-r: Jay Hendrickson ’71, Amy Hendrickson ’69, The Rev. Sir Walter L. Mack Jr. ’89, Josh Voss ’01 and Tom Amick ’69 P’13

Short biographies of each recipient appear below. Please click the links to the right to view video excerpts from the acceptance speeches of the recipients.

Distinguished Alumna of the Year: Michele Skeens Hazel ’78 LP’09

Shelly Hazel developed a passion for making a difference in the lives of others while she studied human services at Elon. After graduating in 1978, she launched a successful career as a philanthropist, providing visionary leadership for charitable and educational causes in the Washington, D.C., area. A firm believer in the promise of an Elon education, Shelly has devoted her extraordinary talents to bring national prestige to her alma mater. A member of the board of trustees since 1995, Shelly has served as a vice-chair of the Ever Elon Campaign, playing a significant role in cultivating support among Elon’s friends in in the Nation’s Capital. She and her husband, Jack Hazel, also made a major gift to the campaign, endowing the Skeen-Watson Law Professorship at Elon University School of Law. The couple’s daughter, Alix, graduated from Elon Law in 2009.

Young Alumnus of the Year Award: Dr. Joshua D. Voss ’01

A Florida native, Josh Voss spent much of his childhood on the shores of the Sunshine State and he has dedicated his career to conducting significant marine research that protects and preserves his beloved coastline. Josh currently serves as an assistant research professor at the Robertson Coral Reef Institute at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, where he has developed cutting-edge techniques that assess the impact of climate change and oil exposure on corals.The techniques were invaluable in the summer of 2010, when Josh was assigned to lead a project to study how the corals in the West Florida Shelf were affected by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. During his work, Josh was featured in segments that aired on NBC’s “Today” and “Dateline” news shows, as well as The Weather Channel and MSNBC. The important work undertaken by Josh and his team will be used in the coming years as a baseline to determine the effect of the oil spill on marine environments and to support individual and government efforts to recoup damages.

Young Alumnus of the Year Award: Daniel J. Watts ’04

Considered among the university’s best and brightest music theatre graduates, Daniel J. Watts has achieved success on stages and screens across the country, fulfilling the promise he displayed as a student at Elon. In 2006, Daniel fulfilled a lifelong dream when he accepted the role of Bobby in the Broadway production of “The Color Purple.” His outstanding performance opened several other Broadway doors for him, as he was cast in the original productions of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” and “Memphis,” and accepted a role in “In the Heights.” Daniel’s most recent role briefly took him away from the bright lights of New York City. He appeared as Prince Salim in the world premiere run of Disney’s “Aladdin” at the Fifth Avenue Theatre in Seattle this July. Daniel, an avid poet, has also founded and led two workshops in New York called “WORDS!” and “D. Watts Spoken Word Preserves: The Jam.”

Service to Church and Society Award: The Rev. Dr. Sir Walter L. Mack Jr. ’89

The Rev. Dr. Sir Walter L. Mack, Jr. is a wildly popular pastor whose dynamic personality has brought Christian teachings and principles to people well beyond his native Winston-Salem, N.C., and the Union Baptist Church, where he serves as pastor. He is credited with growing the church’s membership from 300 to more than 4,000 people and introducing innovative church and community initiatives in Winston-Salem and the greater Triad region. One of Sir Walter’s most successful programs, the Corner-to-Corner Drug Dealer Conference, encourages individuals engaged in the drug trade to turn away from lawlessness by developing a relationship with God. The program has been replicated in communities nationwide. Sir Walter also is the author of four influential book and his sermons and missives have appeared in evangelical media from coast to coast. His devotion to his community and his church is surpassed only by his love for his wife, Kim Romaine Bush, a 1987 Elon graduate.

Distinguished Service to Elon Award: Amy Thomas Hendrickson ’69 and Jay A. Hendrickson ’71

Amy and Jay Hendrickson, loyal alumni with deep family roots in Elon University, have provided transformative support to Elon and its athletics programs for the past two decades. Both have served in important leadership roles for Elon, including Jay’s service as a university trustee since 2008 and Amy’s service as a former chairperson of the Phoenix Club Advisory Board. They have made generous annual gifts to the Phoenix Club and endowed the James A. and Amy T. Hendrickson Engineering Scholarship, which has attracted some of the nation’s brightest students to Elon’s dual-degree engineering program. Most recently, Amy and Jay made a major gift to the Ever Elon Campaign that funded the Horace J. Hendrickson Football Center in honor of Jay’s father, who built an illustrious career as Elon’s football coach in the 1930s and ’40s. The state-of-the-art facility already has proven to be an invaluable asset to the Phoenix football program’s training and recruitment efforts.

Distinguished Service to Elon Award: Dorothy S. Walker and Zachary T. Walker III ’60

For more than a quarter-century, Zac and Dot Walker have stood among Elon’s most faithful benefactors. They have endowed three scholarships for education majors and student-athletes, and also have supported numerous other important university initiatives, including the King Hussein Scholarship, Rhodes Stadium and the Ernest A. Koury, Sr. Business Center. Recently, Zac, a university trustee, and Dot made a major gift to support the construction of Alumni Field House. The university named two significant locations, the Walker Room and Terrace (a showplace space on the building’s second floor overlooking Rhodes Stadium) and Zac Walker Drive (the roadway leading to the building) in the Field House to honor the Walkers’ gift and the family’s historical links to Elon. Zac’s father, Zachary T. Walker, Jr. ’30, was an Elon football star, and his uncle, D.C. “Peahead” Walker, ranks among Elon’s all-time great football coaches.

Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award: W. Thomas Amick ’69 P’13

Considered among the most innovative executives in the international biotechnology industry, Tom Amick serves as chief executive officer of Philadelphia-based Discovery Laboratories, Inc. Prior to joining Discovery Labs, Tom enjoyed a 30-year career with Johnson & Johnson, where he played an instrumental role in building the company’s now-thriving biotechnology and oncology businesses. He adeptly served in executive capacities for several Johnson & Johnson subsidiaries, including as vice president of business development, before his retirement in 2004. Since then, Tom has served as an advisor to several biotechnology companies. Grateful to Elon for placing him on the path to success, Tom maintains close ties with the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business, serving on the school’s board of advisors and as chair of the Doherty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership. His daughter, Christine Conti, is a member of Elon’s Class of 2013.

Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award: Samuel L. Burke ’89

A former associate chief accountant for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Sam Burke is a leading, respected voice in the nation’s financial services industry. In 2003, Sam became a partner in the national independence office of PricewaterhouseCoopers, the world’s largest professional services provider, where he is influential in crafting critical company policies regarding auditor independence for the thriving international firm. A proud Elon alumnus, Sam has been instrumental in opening the doors of the firm to Elon students, and he and his wife, Kelly, made a gift to the Ever Elon Campaign establishing the Samuel L. Burke Endowed Fund for Engaged Learning in Business. To recognize Sam’s exceptional commitment to Elon undergraduates, the university’s chapter of Beta Alpha Psi, a national accounting, information systems and finance professional society, nominated him for the organization’s national Business Professional of the Year Award. Sam was selected the winner from a pool of nominations submitted from chapters nationwide and received his award at the organization’s 2011 national meeting in Denver.