Seven outstanding alumni were recognized for their professional success, community engagement and loyal support of Elon at a Nov. 8 ceremony that is part of Elon's Homecoming celebrations.
The awards, formerly known as the Elon Alumni Association Awards, are the highest accolades conferred by the Office of Alumni Engagement and have been presented annually to alumni and friends of Elon since 1941.
The recipients were honored Friday night during the 125 Anniversary Celebration and Alumni Awards Ceremony at Lakeside Meeting Rooms in Moseley Center.
U.S. Navy Adm. William “Bill” E. Gortney ’77
Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award
Presented to an alumnus who has distinguished himself in a profession and in the community and brought honor to Elon.
For the past 35 years, U.S. Navy Adm. William “Bill” E. Gortney has served his country with honor, integrity and dedication. Currently the commander of the U.S. Fleet Forces, Bill entered the Navy as an aviation officer candidate shortly after graduating from Elon with degrees in history and political science in 1977. He received his commission in the U.S. Naval Reserve in September of that year, earned his wings of gold in December 1978 and graduated from the Naval War College in 1996 with a master’s degree in international security affairs.
The son of a retired U.S. Navy captain, Bill has served in a variety of command positions afloat and ashore throughout his career, including director of the joint staff for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2010 to 2012. Before that appointment, Bill served as commander of the U.S. Naval Forces in Central Command, and as commander of the 5th Fleet in Bahrain. The post was his third command tour in the U.S. Central Command area of operations, which supports maritime security and combat operations for operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. He has received the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Bronze Star, four Legion of Merit awards and three Meritorious Service Medals, among others, for his outstanding service to the U.S. military.
At Elon, Bill served as an officer of Lambda-Lambda, Elon’s chapter of Kappa Sigma Fraternity, and was a member of the varsity soccer team and the rugby club. In 2011 he returned to his alma mater to deliver the university’s 121st Commencement address and has been honored by his Kappa Sigma brethren as the 2013 Kappa Sigma Man of the Year. Described by friends as “the ultimate patriot” for his dedication to serving his country, Bill is equally passionate about his family, wife Sherry, son Billy and daughter Stephanie.
Tracey Helton Lewis ’93 P’10
Distinguished Alumna of the Year
Presented to an alumna who has distinguished herself in a profession and in the community and brought honor to Elon.
Since graduating from Elon, Tracey Helton Lewis has devoted her life to educating children to be globally competitive in the 21st century and developing teacher leaders. An accomplished school administrator for Surry County Schools in North Carolina, Tracey earned a degree in public administration and political science from Elon College in 1993, master’s and specialist in education degrees in counseling and educational development from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1997 and a master’s degree in school administration from Gardner Webb University in 2001. She is currently a doctoral student in educational leadership and cultural foundations at UNC-Greensboro.
Tracey served as a school counselor at Surry County Schools and Guilford County Schools from 1999 to 2001. Recognizing her potential as an administrator, she was appointed assistant principal at Westfield Elementary School in 2001. Three years later, she was selected principal at the school, becoming the first black principal in Surry County Schools. Before taking the helm at Flat Rock Elementary, Tracey served for three years as principal of Shoals Elementary School, which was recently recognized as an American Heart Association Gold–level Fit-Friendly Work site for its efforts to promote healthy habits among employees.
Her dedication and service has earned Tracey many awards and recognitions. She was nominated for the 2012-13 Surry County Schools Principal of the Year, an honor she held for the 2007-08 academic year. A loyal supporter of Elon, Tracey has remained active in her alma mater and is working to reconnect and strengthen black alumni involvement and support as the president of the Elon Black Alumni Network. She is also very active in her church, Exodus Progressive Primitive Baptist Church, and the King community, where she lives with husband James and son Brandon, a 2010 Elon graduate.
Darris Means ’05
Young Alumnus of the Year
Presented to an alumnus who has graduated within the past 10 years and has distinguished himself in a profession and in the community.
A first-generation college student, Darris Means is passionate about college access, college success and diversity on college and university campuses. In his role as associate director of the Elon Academy—Elon University’s college access and success program for high school students with financial need and/or no family history of college—Darris coordinates the academy’s transition to college, college success and internship programs. He has guided more than 100 high school seniors through the college admission process and provided support for more than 80 students after their college admittance.
Darris graduated magna cum laude from Elon in 2005 with degrees in political science and sociology. He earned a master’s degree in counselor education from Clemson University in 2007 and is currently a doctoral candidate at North Carolina State University. During his time at Elon, Darris was involved with Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity, the Student Government Association and the Office of Admissions. He was also the first black student to be elected president of the Elon University Interfraternity Council, the governing body for historically white fraternities, an accomplishment that earned him a place on the African-American Wall of Fame in Elon’s Multicultural Center.
Darris remained active at Elon after graduation, serving a two-year term as a youth trustee on the Board of Trustees. He also served on the Young Alumni Council from 2007 to 2010 and was instrumental in the formation of the LGBTQIA Alumni Network in 2012. Besides the Elon Academy, his alma mater and his doctoral work, Darris has been active with numerous higher education associations. His devotion to his profession has earned him numerous awards, including Elon University’s Top 10 Under 10 Alumni Award and the Southern Association for College Student Affairs’ Bobby E. Leach Award.
Britten Ginsburg Pund ’06
Young Alumna of the Year
Presented to an alumna who has graduated within the past 10 years and has distinguished herself in a profession and in the community.
Britten Ginsburg Pund continues to apply her intellectual curiosity at the National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors, a nonprofit organization that represents the nation’s leading officials responsible for administering HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis care, prevention and education, and supports state health programs. As an undergraduate student at Elon, and under the tutelage of Professor of Human Service Studies Cindy Fair, Britten conducted, and later co-published, an independent research study that sought to understand the impact of stigma and discrimination among individuals living with HIV/AIDS. As part of the project, Britten interviewed individuals at Higher Ground, a day center in Greensboro, N.C., which serves individuals infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Research at Higher Ground soon transitioned into a volunteer and internship opportunity.
Now a senior manager for the Alliance’s Health Care Access Program, Britten works to ensure low income, under and uninsured individuals living with HIV/AIDS nationwide have access to care and treatment. This work includes monitoring each state’s HIV/AIDS care and treatment program to understand the services they are providing and the demand on and projected need of their programs. In 2010 her advocacy efforts for AIDS patients and caregivers earned Britten the title of “Renegade to Celebrate” by Housing Works, a national nonprofit organization that works to end AIDS and homelessness, in its annual list of “AIDS Heroes and Villains.”
A strong supporter of Elon, Britten has been a volunteer for the university since 2010, having served as a member of and president for the Young Alumni Council, which strengthens connections between young alumni and the university. In 2012 Britten and her husband, Zachary Pund ’05, began a scholarship for individuals conducting research in Elon’s Department of Human Services, and Britten was selected as the recipient of the 2012 Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Alumni Award in the Social Sciences.
The Rev. Jonathan Chapman ’07
Service to Church and Society
Presented to an alumnus or alumna whose life demonstrates service to church and society.
From the first day Jonathan Chapman set foot on Elon’s campus, it was clear he had a special calling. The grandson of a Southern Baptist preacher, Jonathan longed to become a minister from an early age. He enrolled at Elon to pursue a degree in religious studies and worked extensively with the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life as an undergraduate student. He also served as student coordinator for College Chapel and university worship and joined Elon Community Church, United Church of Christ, the congregation in which he was later ordained. His charismatic personality earned him the W. L. Monroe Christian Education and Personality Award his senior year. Jonathan was also selected as a 2007 Congregational Fellow and 2006 Undergraduate Fellow with The Fund for Theological Education.
Following his graduation from Elon in 2007, Jonathan attended the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, graduating in 2010 with a Master of Divinity. While at Candler, he worked at the Loganville First United Methodist Church, where he was hired as an assistant pastor of worship and community. In addition to planning worship, he was responsible for developing the online presence of the church.
Jonathan was called to serve at Westfield Congregational Church, a historic church in northeast Connecticut, in fall 2012. He was officially installed as pastor and teacher in May. In that role, he has worked to make sure the church, which was built in 1802, goes beyond serving as a “cultural museum” by implementing innovative programs to boost attendance and increase involvement. That was the case this past Advent season, when he organized Victorian Christmas services and encouraged worshippers to dress in Victorian costume. Attendance grew at each Sunday evening service, going from 85 to more than 200 people, helping people come together and connect with God.
Natasha Christensen ’07
Alumni Service Award
Presented to an alumnus or alumna who has given extraordinary service to his or her community.
A member of Elon’s Periclean Scholar Class of 2007, Natasha Christensen is the epitome of a global citizen. In her position as a senior subject matter expert/governance analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Joint Command, Natasha recently completed a yearlong forward deployment in Afghanistan supporting ISAF/NATO operations.
Natasha graduated from Elon in 2007 with degrees in political science and international studies, and studied abroad in Australia and Honduras. She also spent a semester in Egypt at the American University in Cairo. In 2010 she earned a master’s degree in new professional studies from George Mason University’s School of Public Policy, where she examined the nexus between corruption and operation policy in Afghanistan as part of her final thesis. Her concern for displaced and vulnerable populations is tangible in both her academic and research interests, as well as in her service initiatives. In addition to her regular duties as an analyst in Afghanistan, Natasha worked with Operation Outreach Afghanistan, a volunteer organization that provides humanitarian assistance to Afghan families. In the Washington, D.C. area, Natasha volunteers at hospitals, raises money and collects clothes and supplies for families in need.
Natasha also supports the Wounded Warrior Project and has organized events in support of veterans and veterans’ issues through her affiliation with British aerospace and defense company BAE Systems Inc. She also supports organizations such as Anka Rising, a nonprofit that combats human trafficking, and Miriam’s Kitchen, a food bank in D.C., and volunteers with the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Washington Performing Arts Society.
Lindsey Goodman Baker ’04
Distinguished Service to Elon Award
Presented to an individual or organization that has demonstrated outstanding service that promotes the advancement of Elon.
Lindsey Goodman Baker has been a visionary leader and staunch supporter of alumni initiatives at Elon for almost a decade. After graduating from Elon in 2004 with a degree in business administration, Lindsey joined Octagon, a sports and entertainment content marketing services company in Connecticut, working with the Lexus Champions for Charity National Golf Program. Soon after she was asked to return to Elon to serve a year as the interim director of marketing and home operations for the Department of Athletics, where she worked during her four years as an undergraduate student. Lindsey later moved to the Washington, D.C. area, where after six years at the Club Managers Association of America, she joined the National Association of Corporate Directors in 2012 as a senior account manager, working directly with clients to advance their marketing goals in the corporate governance arena.
Lindsey’s involvement with Elon remained strong after graduation. She has worked tirelessly as part of the Washington, D.C. Alumni Chapter, first as president for four years and more recently as a board member. Under her leadership, the chapter achieved 100 percent donor participation, becoming the first alumni chapter to reach that goal. She substantially expanded the chapter’s programming and in 2010 created the first ever chapter-run golf tournament, bringing many of Elon’s head coaches to the D.C. area. The annual event has continued to be financially beneficial to both the local chapter and the Phoenix Club.
Lindsey has consistently gone above and beyond the responsibilities of an Elon volunteer. Over the years, she has returned to campus numerous times to address leadership summits, participate in alumni board meetings and advise students on their transition to becoming alumni as part of the Destination Washington, D.C. series. In May 2011, she co-led a seminar as part of a Volunteer Leadership Summit that aimed to provide alumni with information on how to become Elon partners, advocates and investors.