Homecoming kicks off with Alumni Awards ceremony

Seven distinguished alumni received the 2016 Alumni Awards on Oct. 21 in recognition for their professional achievements, leadership and service to society

From left: Geoffrey M. Lynn ’07, John R. Hill ’76, Kelli E. Palmer ’98, Samantha J. Gilman ’08 L’11, Elon President Leo M. Lambert,  Howard F. Arner ’63, Beverly Frye Arner ’66 and Samuel V. Barefoot ’79.
Homecoming festivities kicked off Friday morning with the celebration of seven distinguished alumni for being active Elon partners, advocates and investors.

Surrounded by family and members of the Elon community, Howard F. Arner ’63, Beverly Frye Arner ’66, John R. Hill ’76, Samuel V. Barefoot ’79​, Kelli E. Palmer ’98, Geoffrey M. Lynn ’07 and Samantha J. Gilman ’08 L’11 were recognized with the 2016 Alumni Awards during a ceremony in the McBride Gathering Room in the Numen Lumen Pavilion. 

Since 1941, Elon has recognized outstanding alumni whose professional achievements, leadership and service to society have brought honor to the university. These alumni awards are presented annually during Homecoming weekend and are the highest accolades conferred by the Office of Alumni Engagement. 

John R. Hill ’76 

This award is presented to an alumnus who has distinguished himself in a profession and in the community and brought honor to Elon.

John R. Hill is chief executive officer of Pinnacle Advisory Group, a leading and privately held wealth management firm in the United States he founded with two trusted friends in 1993. He is passionate about providing objective, independent financial advice, as he believes well-informed people can make excellent financial decisions. In addition to his role at Pinnacle, he leads Pinnacle Advisor Solutions, a sister company that establishes independent strategic partnerships with small wealth management firms around the country.

Having received many blessings in his life, John is committed to giving back and adheres to the old Jaycee motto that “Service to humanity is the best work in life.” He has been engaged in a number of important charitable boards and steering committees, including Optimist, the Jaycees, Sheltered Workshop and the American Heart Association, and was chairman of the finance committee at the Maryland School for the Blind. In addition, he has held several high impact positions in the churches he has attended over the years. He is also very involved with Habitat for Humanity. Professionally, he has been engaged with the Financial Planning Association as both a board member and a two-term president of the Financial Planning Association of Maryland.

John graduated from Elon with a degree in business and economics. He later received his Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) designation in 1988 while working for a Fortune 500 financial institution. A strong advocate for the university throughout the years, John has served as president of the Elon Alumni Board and presently serves on the Elon University Board of Trustees. In 2009 he and his wife of more than 40 years, Lesley, established the John R. Hill ’76 and Lesley W. Hill Endowed Fund for Engaged Learning in Business. Most recently, the first-floor conference room in the Inman Admissions Welcome Center was named in honor of the Hill family in recognition for their support for that project. John and Lesley have a son, Brady, who works for a highly respected private equity firm in Boston. They are Florida residents and spend a portion of the year in Maryland. 

Kelli E. Palmer ’98 

This award is presented to an alumna who has distinguished herself in a profession and in the community and brought honor to Elon.

Kelli E. Palmer is passionate about education, sustainability and corporate social responsibility. As the director of organizational environment, social and governance at the CFA Institute, she promotes and advances socially responsible practice in these areas for the organization’s operations and activities. She is responsible for identifying opportunities to establish programs, policies and procedures that are socially conscious related to sustainability, corporate social responsibility and corporate culture. Prior to that role, she worked at the Institute for Shipboard Education as the director of enrichment voyages and at the University of Virginia as assistant to the president.

After graduating from Elon in 1998 with a degree in elementary education, she pursued a master’s degree in counselor education from Wake Forest University and a doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Virginia. Always determined to share her love of learning with undergraduate students, Kelli has served as a teaching assistant at the University of Virginia and dean of residential life at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth.

Kelli is also active in many nonprofit organizations in her community. She is a member of the governing board at the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation, and has served on the board of directors of the Center for Nonprofit Excellence and Live Arts. At Elon, she has served on the Elon Alumni Board and actively supported the Elon Black Alumni Network Scholarship. She has received several awards recognizing her accomplishments, including Elon’s Young Alumna of the Year award in 2007. Kelli and her husband, James Bennet, have three daughters, Kalani, Ellie and Emma.


Geoffrey M. Lynn ’07 

This award is presented to an alumnus who has graduated within the past 10 years and has distinguished himself in his profession.

Geoffrey M. Lynn is a biomedical scientist who is determined to improve patient care through innovations in cancer treatment and infectious disease prevention. He graduated from Elon University in 2007 as an Elon College Fellow majoring in chemistry and minoring in biology. He went on to pursue combined medical and doctoral degree training between Johns Hopkins University and the University of Oxford as a National Institutes of Health Oxford-Cambridge Scholar.

After receiving a doctorate in biomedical engineering from the University of Oxford in 2014, Geoffrey co-founded a biotechnology company, Avidea Technologies, with the goal of developing safer and more effective therapies for cancer patients. He is expected to receive his medical degree in 2019. As the company’s chief executive officer, Geoffrey is leading efforts to develop and clinically translate Avidea’s personalized cancer vaccine technology. While his work has led to several patents and high-impact publications on vaccines, including two recently published in Nature Publishing Group journals, his ultimate goal is to see his work bring meaningful benefits to cancer patients and their families.

Outside of work, Geoffrey enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and is an outdoors and sports enthusiast. His favorite pastime is sailing the Chesapeake Bay near his home in Baltimore. Still ascribing to the “Sound Mind – Sound Body” credo of the Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity, which he belonged to at Elon, he is an avid runner and powerlifter.  

While at Elon, Geoffrey served as vice president of the Phi Kappa Phi honor society and joined the American Chemical Society as a student affiliate. He was also the first Elon student to receive a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. He credits his professors, mentors and early opportunities in research at Elon for not only his motivation to enter medical research but also for providing him with the educational foundations that have made him into a successful researcher.

Samantha J. Gilman ’08 L’11

This award is presented to an alumna who has graduated within the past 10 years and has distinguished herself in her profession.

Samantha J. Gilman’s passion for the public good and love of North Carolina led her to Elon University in 2004. She graduated with a degree in political science and public administration in 2008 and was admitted to the North Carolina State Bar in 2011 after completing a law degree at Elon University School of Law.

While at Elon, Samantha worked as a medical malpractice law clerk and was selected as a Leadership Fellow, working with the Town of Elon’s Board of Aldermen to lead the designation of the town as a Tree City USA and serving as the vice president of administration for Tri Delta at Elon. At Elon Law, she served as managing editor of the Elon Law Review and co-founded the law school’s chapter of Phi Alpha Delta. Now a senior associate in the policy practice of Washington, D.C.-based Avalere Health, Samantha advises clients on the implications of health care reform. She has specific experience in Medicaid managed care and health insurance exchanges, policies impacting the dual-eligible population, drug pricing issues related to both the commercial market and public programs, and health care compliance.

Prior to this position, Samantha worked with the Lewin Group as a research consultant after completing her master’s degree in public health policy and management at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Her focus at Lewin was assisting state clients with Medicaid managed care; health exchange operations, planning and implementation; and building tools to connect health plans with local community resources. While at Columbia, Samantha worked in the corporate compliance and internal audit department at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where she focused on health care privacy and conflict of interest issues.

An avid advocate for her alma mater, Samantha serves as an Elon Career Mentor, working with the Office of Alumni Engagement and the Student Professional Development Center to empower alumni and students to achieve their professional development goals, and is an
active member of the Elon Law Alumni Council.

Samuel V. Barefoot ’79 

This award is given to an alumnus whose life demonstrates service to church and society.

Samuel V. Barefoot is a community leader who has served others with dedication and pride. Sam graduated from Elon in 1979 with a degree in business administration with an emphasis in accounting. While a student at Elon, he was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and served as president for two years. He also served on the Interfraternity Council. In 1981 Sam joined the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina, a Christian nonprofit that provides programs and services throughout the state for children of all ages, teen mothers, single mothers and their children, developmentally disabled adults and aging adults. Sam held the positions of treasurer and chief financial officer for 34 years before being appointed as the nonprofit’s senior vice president. In that role, he oversees the ministry’s estate settlements, statewide properties, investments and insurance. 

Always looking for ways to serve his community, Sam is on the board of directors for Smart Start of Davidson County, a nonprofit responsible for implementing North Carolina’s Smart Start and Pre-K school readiness programs for children birth through 5 years old, and chairs the advisory board for the Academy of Finance at East Davidson High School, helping students who wish to pursue careers in the field of finance. He is also the vice president of the board of directors for the Davidson County Education Foundation, which provides funding for students attending summer leadership academies and college scholarships. Sam has been a volunteer coach, treasurer and president of the Tom A. Finch YMCA. He is an Eagle Scout and has served several years as a Cub Scout leader and Boy Scout Troop’s committee member. He also has served on the board of the Thomasville Salvation Army and as its president. Sam is a Rotarian having served as a past president and district treasurer, and he chairs the board of directors for Novant Health: Thomasville Medical Center and serves on the Novant Health: Triad Board at Forsyth Medical Center. He is a deacon and Sunday school teacher at Green Street Baptist Church in High Point.

For his volunteer work with children’s organizations and other community groups, the Thomasville Area Chamber of Commerce honored him with the Chairperson’s Award in 2014 and the Outstanding Citizen Award in 2008. He also received the North Carolina Governor’s Outstanding Service Volunteer Award in 2003. A native of Garner, Sam and his wife, Pamela, have four children, including N.C. State Sen. Chad Barefoot. They have been blessed with seven grandchildren.

Howard F. ’63 and Beverly Frye ’66 Arner 

This award is presented to individuals who have demonstrated outstanding service that promotes the advancement of Elon.

Howard F. ’63 and Beverly Frye ’66 Arner have been loyal supporters of Elon, and of the athletics program in particular, throughout their lives. Howard’s love for Elon athletics traces back to his undergraduate years, when he transferred from Pennsylvania State University to Elon after completing a tour of duty in the U.S. Army. He enjoyed a stellar football career before graduating in 1963 with a degree in mathematics and a minor in chemistry. He went on to launch a successful career in the insurance and technology industries. He retired in 2001 from his role as president and chief operating officer of Insurance Solutions Group, a division of Fiserv, where he managed technology for insurance, consulting, education, implementation, actuarial and
outsourcing services. 

Though Beverly did not complete her college career, she is considered a proud member of the Class of 1966. Alongside her husband, she has been a loyal partner and a formidable advocate for, as well as a generous investor in, Elon. Beverly and Howard are members of the Order of the Oak, the university’s planned giving society, and the 1889 Society, which recognizes loyal alumni donors. They have made gifts in support of Elon’s Greatest Needs, the Phoenix Club, Rhodes Stadium and the transition to NCAA Division I athletics in the late 1990s. In 2009 they established the Burl Ray Clements Football Scholarship in memory of one of Howard’s late teammates and in 2015 they created the Arner Family Football Scholarship. Earlier this year, the couple also made a substantial gift in support of the Schar Center, which will provide a new gathering space for the university community and serve as the new home for Elon’s basketball and volleyball programs.

Always looking for ways to continue giving back to Elon, Howard serves on the Board of Trustees and served on the Board of Visitors from 2002 to 2006. Beverly also served on the Board of Visitors from 2002 to 2013. When they are not supporting their alma mater, Beverly and Howard spend their time golfing and fishing, two of their favorite pastimes. While they live in Jacksonville, Florida, they split their time at a second property in Cudjoe Key. They have two adult children, Howard “Howie” Jr. and Missy, as well as several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.