2013 Top 10 Under 10 award recipients honored

The 10 outstanding young alumni from the past decade were recognized during an April 20 ceremony on campus.

Touted as leaders in their profession, difference-makers in their communities and loyal supporters of their alma mater, 10 Elon alumni were honored as the 2013 Top 10 Under 10 award winners at an April 20 banquet held in the new Lakeside meeting rooms.

These are alumni who have graduated in the past 10 years, enjoyed major professional success, made a big difference in their community and been a loyal supporter of Elon.

“We are so deeply proud in our hearts for your accomplishments and the good you do in the world and how well you represent your alma mater,” Elon President Leo M. Lambert said during the ceremony. “We salute you.”

Brett “Coop” Cooper ’05
Political director, Patriot Majority USA
“We have never met a person that embodies the characteristics of a partner, advocate and investor for Elon University more than Brett Cooper.”

Brett has been engaging people in the political process since his days as an undergraduate student at Elon.

A political science major, Brett spent two summers interning in the N.C. House of Representatives. He also worked with Harvard University to create the National Campaign for Political and Civic Engagement. After graduation, Brett returned home to Virginia Beach to work for the Democratic Coordinated Campaign of Virginia. Following that campaign, he moved to Washington, D.C, to work as a field organizer for the Foundation for Virginia and a staff assistant for the National Committee for an Effective Congress. After working for several political campaigns in New Hampshire, Colorado and Washington, Brett is now political director for Patriot Majority USA, an independent-expenditure nonprofit that promotes discussion of national economic issues.

Despite a busy schedule, Brett remains involved with his alma mater. He is a founding member of the Elon University Young Alumni Council and an active member of the Elon Alumni Association’s D.C. Alumni Chapter.

Hilary Corna ’07
Author and speaker
“Hilary has taken her experience of living and working in Asia and transformed it into a teaching and learning opportunity for others.”

When Hilary was 20 years old, she bought a one-way ticket to Singapore to pursue her dream of launching a post-college career in Asia.

Successfully landing a job with Toyota in Singapore as a senior executive officer, she served the company for three years as a kaizen leader, working with dealerships in Asia—with the Philippines and India being her main projects—to improve operations and share best practices. After returning to the United States in late 2010, Hilary wrote her first book, One White Face, a narrative nonfiction account of her time abroad. Since its release in September 2011, One White Face, which is being adapted into a screenplay, has been featured in The New York Times and ForbesWoman.

Hilary, who graduated from Elon with degrees in international business and Asian studies, is now on a nationwide book tour sponsored by Toyota Motor USA. She has spoken at TED and been featured in Pearson’s 2011 Business Communication college textbook.

Ashley White Creech ’03
Attorney, McGowan Hood & Felder LLC
“Ashley has a passion for serving and seeking justice for underrepresented populations, working hard and going the extra mile for clients.”

A history major at Elon, Ashley obtained her law degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 2007. Shortly after, she landed a job at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough and devoted two years of pro bono work to a class action suit representing mentally ill inmates in the South Carolina Department of Corrections. The case has been tried and the results are pending.

In 2011, Ashley moved to Rock Hill, S.C., where she joined McGowan, Hood & Felder LLC. Her practice is devoted to litigation and covers a variety of personal injury claims, ranging from product liability to medical malpractice cases. She also represents veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, who have been unable to receive the mental health care they need.

Ashley is an active member of her community, volunteering for various local organizations through the Junior Welfare League of York County. She also is a member of various professional organizations and attends Eternal Church.

Mark Hendrix ’04
Mobile sales and strategy lead, Google
“Mark is passionate about his work and has consistently been leaps ahead of everyone else in the marketing field, especially mobile marketing.”

As the person responsible for developing digital marketing strategies for the top 1 percent of Google’s clients, Mark never has a dull moment at work. He’s constantly challenging brands to think differently about the way they use new and emerging media platforms to reach consumers while promoting Google’s newest products and innovations.

Before joining Google in 2011, he effectively developed Bank of America’s mobile marketing presence. The results were so successful his work was featured in numerous publications including AdAge, U.S. Banker and The Harvard Business Review. He frequently travels the country consulting and speaking with the world’s leading businesses. He also often talks with Elon students about the industry and potential career opportunities at Google.

But his passion for helping others goes beyond his profession. Mark is active with several nonprofit and community organizations in both North Carolina and Michigan and has held numerous leadership positions in his church. His service has not gone unnoticed and in 2011 and 2012 he received the President’s Volunteer Service award, one of the nation’s highest honors for volunteer service given by the White House.

David Morrow II ’07 L’10
Regulatory attorney, BuckleySandler LLP
“David is a natural born leader, proud Elon alum, successful attorney and cultural enthusiast. He always puts his best foot forward.”

David shows his passion and commitment to the study of law by participating in different initiatives and leadership roles. During law school, he clerked
for the Hon. Patricia Timmons-Goodson of the N.C. Supreme Court and the Hon. James Wynn, then of the N.C. Court of Appeals. Following law school, David worked for the Hon. Anna Blackburne-Rigsby of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

Since moving to Washington, D.C., David has remained active in his profession and community. He is on the board of the Washington Bar Association Young Lawyers Division and National Bar Association Young Lawyers Division. In 2012 David was selected by the American Bar Association for a Young Lawyers Division “Minorities in the Profession” Scholarship that provided funding to attend ABA conferences nationwide. He was also very active in President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign and served as a fundraiser for the Mid-Atlantic Finance Team, and a member of the Obama Victory Counsel, the voter protection arm for the Obama campaign.

A regulatory attorney with BuckleySandler LLP, David assists clients in the financial services industry in transactional, litigation, regulatory and compliance matters. He also remains involved at Elon. He is a past member of the Young Alumni Council and has co-chaired the Elon Black Alumni Scholarship Gala for three years.

Amy Reitnouer ’09
Editor-in-chief, The Bluegrass Situation
“Amy’s breadth and depth of experience, uncontainable energy and enthusiasm and cheerful generosity make her extraordinary.”

Amy spent her four years at Elon immersed in the film and television offices of the McEwen Communications Building. There, she served as executive producer at ETV, head of video services at Elon Television and co-director of Cinelon, Elon’s film society.

Following graduation, Amy moved to New York, taking a temporary position at the Museum of Modern Art. Less than a year later, she moved to the West Coast. She plunged
headfirst into Hollywood, where she landed a position with former William Morris-Endeavor agency head Arnold Rifkin and later with Academy of Motion Pictures President Tom Sherak.

In her spare time, Amy launched BluegrassLA, a blog that allowed her to pursue and share her passion for bluegrass music in the Los Angeles area. The blog caught the attention of actor Ed Helms, who joined forces with Amy in 2012 to launch The Bluegrass Situation, a year round hub for the growing bluegrass, folk and Americana movement. As the site’s full-time editor-in-chief, she spends her time traveling between music festivals or at her company’s bases in Los Angeles and Nashville.

Katie Sherman ’04
Senior copy director, Vogue
“Katie’s endless appetite for making connections is what builds her roster of freelance advertising clients—and what she leverages for recent Elon graduates who move to NYC.”

In the last nine years, Katie has honed her content-creation skills at ad agencies, tech shops and publishers, not to mention all 23 Condé Nast magazines. In her role as Vogue’s senior copy director, she writes campaigns for high-end fashion and beauty clients.

Katie also does freelance work, writing social campaigns, digital ads and branded blogs. Her expertise in product naming resulted in new trademarks for Condé Nast in 2011. When she’s not writing for work, she’s writing for fun. Katie has performed quarterly poetry readings, self-published a poetry compilation and exhibited a solo show in New York City, titled The Loveworn Label.

Since graduating from Elon, Katie has been vital in guiding other Elon graduates toward jobs and city living. Last year she shared insights with students in Destination NYC via Skype, was a panelist during a Homecoming discussion and mentored the inaugural NYC bridges group. She is the president of the Elon School of Communication’s Alumni Network and is spearheading alumni review of student web portfolios prior to graduation.

Cecelia Thompson ’05
Director of projects, Action Greensboro
“Cecelia commits countless hours to passionately focus on efforts from diversity and inclusion, to leadership development for young professionals and leveraging a more dynamic food community and fundraising for local arts programs.”

A public administration and sociology major, Cecelia has committed herself to making Greensboro, N.C., a more vibrant place for all its residents.

In her role as director of projects for Action Greensboro, an economic development nonprofit focused on improving the city’s quality of life, she directs synerG Young Professionals, manages marketing efforts for Center City Park and Opportunity Greensboro, as well as leads projects for downtown enhancement efforts.

Prior to joining Action Greensboro in 2008, Cecelia served as executive director for the Guilford Green Foundation, where she provided leadership on the foundation’s operations including development, grant writing, event planning and marketing. In 2009, Cecelia launched Mod Meals on Mendenhall, a popular cooking and entertaining blog. Since then, Mod Meals has grown to reach broad audiences and gained a sponsorship by The Fresh Market. In addition to blogging, Cecelia contributes monthly to the News & Record’s Savor Section and teaches cooking classes at the Greensboro Children’s Museum Edible Schoolyard. She also serves as immediate past board president of Elsewhere, a living art museum and collaborative in downtown Greensboro.

Peter Ustach ’09
Business owner, The Fat Frogg and Pandora’s Pies
“Peter is extraordinary in that at a very young age, he has been able to create and manage three successful businesses in Elon. He is extremely hardworking and is an excellent role model for other young entrepreneurs.”

Before he came to Elon to pursue a degree in business administration, Peter knew all too well what it meant to be an entrepreneur.

When he was 10 years old, his parents, Joe and Nancy, fostered his entrepreneurial spirit, wasting little time to teach their son the lesson of a dollar, a lesson Peter learned by shelling and selling pecans on his front lawn. Once at Elon, he launched Elon Laundry, thanks to a $600 loan and a university-approved business plan. After graduation, Peter decided to make Elon his home. Two successful businesses off the ground later, he couldn’t have asked for anything more. He credits his past three years of success to his landlord-turnedmentor and business partner-turned-best friend, Jeff MacKenzie ’79. Together, they opened The Fat Frogg Bar & Grill in 2009 and Pandora’s Pies in 2012, two restaurants that are not only profitable businesses but also the hub for many community charitable events.

As his businesses evolve, Peter has learned another valuable lesson: success isn’t always measured in dollar signs. “Sometimes, a growing community and new, smiling faces are all a young entrepreneur needs,” he says.

Christian Wiggins ’03
Chief operating officer, Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity
“Christian is focused on helping others find their true talents, all in an effort to create a better workplace, campus culture and global community.”

In his role as chief operating officer, Christian has helped Pi Kappa Phi become one of America’s leading fraternities.

After graduating from Elon with a degree in business administration, Christian joined Harrah’s Entertainment as a part of the hotel operations and revenue management team. Two and a half years later, he joined the Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity national staff as director of alumni services, where he was responsible for the information, interaction, involvement and investment strategy for the organization’s 90,000 living alumni. He was named assistant executive director in 2008 and in 2011 was promoted to chief operating officer. In this role, Christian is responsible for the leadership of the fraternity’s 36 full-time staff and 10,000 undergraduate members on 180 campuses.

Beyond his professional career, Christian has remained active at Elon. He is a past board member of the Elon Alumni Association’s Charlotte Alumni Chapter and founding member of the Young Alumni Council. He is now in his first year on the Elon Alumni Board. He is also active in the equality movement, serving on the board of directors for Campus Pride, an organization that supports LGBT student leaders and campus groups.

For more information about the Top 10 Under 10 Awards, please contact the Office of Alumni Engagement at alumni@elon.edu or 877-784-3566.