Arts & Sciences alumni recognized

Wallace “Wally” C. Sawyer ’64, Sandra Reid ’85 and Jeremy B. Jones ’04 received the 2019 Elon College Distinguished Alumni Awards during a May 2 ceremony.

From left: Jeremy B. Jones ’04, Sandra Reid ’85 & Wallace “Wally” C. Sawyer ’64
Three outstanding graduates of Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences were honored during a special awards ceremony May 2 for their contributions to their professions and for bringing honor to the school and to Elon. 

Wallace “Wally” C. Sawyer ’64, a retired NASA scientist, was recognized for his accomplishments in the natural, mathematical and computing sciences. Jeremy B. Jones ’04, an author and associate professor of English at Western Carolina University, was recognized for his contributions to the arts and the humanities. Sandra Reid ’85, a lecturer in Elon’s Department of Human Services Studies, was honored for her work in the social sciences.

During his introductory remarks, Provost Steven House said he enjoys sharing alumni stories with students and prospective students because they exemplify the value of an Elon education. “You make Elon a better place by what you have accomplished and by allowing us to tell your stories,” he said. “You make Elon proud.”

Honored were:

Natural, Mathematical & Computer Sciences

Wallace “Wally” C. Sawyer ’64
Retired NASA scientist

Wallace “Wally” C. Sawyer ’64 is what you would call a rocket scientist. Actively engaged on the cutting edge of high-speed supersonic research, he spent almost four decades working for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. He graduated from Elon in 1964 with degrees in physics and mathematics and went on to the College of William & Mary to pursue a graduate degree in physics when he took an internship at Langley Research Center in Virginia in 1965, which led to the start of his NASA career as an aerospace engineer. During the following 37 years, he served on multiple roles including as director of the High-Speed Research program office, where he was responsible for leading the development of critical technologies in aerodynamic performances, airframe materials and structures, flight deck technology, propulsion technology and system integration to support the development of high-speed civil transport. 

He also served as deputy director of NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California, deputy director of the Langley Research Center in Virginia and special assistant to the director of Kennedy Space Center in Florida. He retired in 2002 but continued serving NASA for several years in an advisory capacity. He has authored or co-authored 45 technical publications and a chapter in a technical textbook and also serves as an associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. 

Wally’s excellence in leadership has been recognized over the years through a series of awards including the NASA Equal Employment Opportunity Medal, NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal and NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, as well as the Presidential rank of Meritorious Executive. At Elon, Wally was actively engaged with his 50th class reunion and previously served on the National Alumni Executive Board from 1999–2002. He and wife Rae live in Tampa.

Arts & Humanities

Jeremy B. Jones ’04
uthor and associate professor of English at Western Carolina University

Jeremy B. Jones ’04 was an English and religious studies double major at Elon whose curiosity and passion for reading and writing often stirred others to do the same. That passion led him to write “Bearwallow: A Personal History of a Mountain Homeland” in 2014. The book won the Appalachian Nonfiction Book of the Year Award, the Gold Medal for autobiography/memoir in the Independent Publisher Book awards and five other awards. Reviewers call it “a fine debut of a fine writer,” noting that “Jeremy Jones represents a new generation of Southern writer, not held captive to the past.” In the book, Jeremy expands the cliché definition of mountain hillbilly to include the voices of the Cherokees, Latinos and urbanites who have moved into the area. In addition to Bearwallow, his individual essays have been named notable in Best American Essays and published in Oxford American, The Iowa Review and Brevity, among others. He frequently publishes in Our State, a monthly magazine highlighting North Carolina people, places and events.

Jeremy’s contributions in service, civic responsibility and multiculturalism are also exemplary. Not only did he spend a year after graduating from Elon teaching English to elementary school students in a Honduran village, but he also taught English to Spanish‐speaking students in rural North Carolina for a second year. Because he spoke Spanish and embraced the culture of the Spanish‐speaking communities he lived and worked in, Jeremy was able to relate to his students and communicate with their families.  

Jeremy, who received a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Iowa, directed the Writing Center at Charleston Southern University before beginning a tenure-track position at Western Carolina University where he is now an associate professor of English. An active participant in writing conferences, he serves as co-editor for a literary nonfiction book series from Vandalia Press, the creative imprint of WVU Press. He is currently finishing his second book of nonfiction focusing on the role his paternal grandfather played in the changing landscape of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

Social Science

Sandra Reid ’85
Lecturer in Human Service Studies, Elon University

Sandra Reid ’85 graduated from Elon with a double major in human services and psychology as member of the first cohort of students completing the psychology major. She worked in the North Carolina juvenile justice system for more than 20 years, advancing quickly in the field as she was promoted from juvenile court counselor to chief court counselor in Alamance County and later to Piedmont-area administrator. In the latter role, she supervised 10 judicial district court programs in central North Carolina, served on the management team for statewide juvenile services and had more than 200 employees under her supervision. She also served on the N.C. Governor’s Crime Commission (2007–13) and the Governor’s Youth Accountability Task Force (2010–12). Over the past decade she has served on numerous panels presenting at conferences across the country on matters related to the disproportionate representation of minority children and youth in the juvenile justice system. 

From the very beginning of her career in juvenile justice, Sandra remained connected to the Department of Human Services Studies and continuously hosted and mentored human service studies majors in their practicums and internships, contributing to the education and career development of countless students over the years. Her talents in working with college students were obvious to faculty in the department and, following the completion of her master’s degree from North Carolina Central University in 1999, she began adjunct teaching in the department. As an alumna, Sandra served on Elon’s National Alumni Executive Board for five years (2002–07), serving as president of the African American alumni group for two of those years. As a faculty member at Elon, Sandra is a well-known champion for human rights, social justice and diversity education. She is an dedicated teacher whose talents have been tapped both in department and throughout the university as a whole.

Sandra’s life outside of the university reflects her deep commitment to the values that she instills in her students, serving at one point as the chair for two human service organizations in Alamance County—Alamance County Community Services Agency and Positive Attitude Youth Center. Sandra’s compassion, coupled with her leadership skills and unwavering commitment to social change, has propelled her to assume these responsibilities and to do so with consummate skill and effectiveness.