Distinguished Alumni Recognized

Steve Ellington ’80, Michelle Wideman ’00, Priscilla Awkard ’95 and Kevin Gilmore ’96 were honored Friday with the Distinguished Alumni Awards during Homecoming & Reunion Weekend.

They are visionaries, change-makers and leaders in their fields. They are the recipients of the Distinguished Elon Alumni Awards, but above all, Steve Ellington ’80, Priscilla Awkard ’95, Kevin Gilmore ’96 and Michelle Wideman ’00 are passionate about their alma mater and living examples of the transformative power of an Elon education.

Ellington, who serves as president of Trivantage, LLC, Glen Raven’s distribution and marketing services subsidiary, received the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award. He credits his education and experiences at Elon, including the lifelong relationships formed with professors, for providing a solid foundation to build his professional career and personal journey. “The takeaway for me is the value of a liberal arts education,” he said. “It’s been invaluable to me throughout my career.”

The recipient of the Distinguished Alumna of the Year Award, Wideman serves as chief customer officer for technology company Onna. She took the opportunity to share a message with her children, who were in the audience, about the importance of being true to oneself. “It’s extremely important to me that you are good humans, and that you have a passion,” she said. “Elon has been my passion. Dr. Lambert always used to say, ‘The world needs Elon graduates.’ In this crazy world, this is true now more than ever.”

Awkard, who received the Distinguished Service to Elon Award and serves as vice president of Coastal Credit Union’s Teller Center, challenged those in attendance to focus on developing their Elon DNA – those ripples we create through our service and philanthropic support of Elon that touch countless others, both in big and small ways. “Every individual who is here today to support me, is the reason why I do what I do for Elon,” she said. “It’s never too late to shape your Elon DNA. I am deeply humbled and only driven to do more.”

The executive director of the Sussex County Habitat for Humanity in Delaware, Gilmore first learned about the organization in 1992 while participating in Elon’s PreSERVE program the summer of his first year. “At Elon, I learned to embrace who I am, I learned to raise up other people. And though it was only four years, it set me on a course for a meaningful and fulfilling life journey,” said Gilmore, who was honored with the Distinguished Alumni Service Award. “Each year was full of those opportunities to serve and to become a better leader.”

The awards ceremony took place Nov. 5 at The Inn at Elon, kicking off the 2021 Homecoming & Reunion Weekend festivities.

“Celebrations like these offer a reflective moment for all of us in the power of education,” President Connie Ledoux Book said during her closing remarks. “It’s in education that we find a sense of purpose. … When I hear these stories, I am so proud to be Elon’s president.”

About the Award Recipients

Steven L. Ellington ’80

Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award

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

A seasoned professional and 38-year veteran of Glen Raven Incorporated, Steven L. Ellington ’80 serves as president of Trivantage, LLC, Glen Raven’s distribution and marketing services subsidiary.

Steve’s career in the textile industry began in 1980, after he graduated from Elon with a degree in accounting. He joined Glen Raven three years later.

During his time with the company, he earned an MBA from the Bryan School of Business at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and has served in roles as regional and national sales manager, as well as president of Glen Raven Custom Fabrics Global. He was named to his current position in 2009 and is a member of Glen Raven’s Executive Leadership Team. Throughout his career he has made connecting with manufacturers a priority, and he credits those manufacturers for providing him with a good foundation and understanding of the industry.

A member of Elon’s honor society for accounting and business administration, Steve has previously served on the Elon Alumni Board and the Elon University Board of Visitors. He is the Industrial Fabrics Association International Board’s past chairman, having served on IFAI’s board of directors since the late 1990s. Additionally, Steve serves on the Marine Leadership Alliance Board, where he is past president, and the Industry Advisory Council for the College of Textiles at North Carolina State University.

Elon is a family affair for Steve. His brother, Ken, is a member of the Class of 1976, and his sister-in-law, Susan, is a member of the Class of 1975. He credits his education and experience at Elon for providing a solid foundation to build his professional career and personal journey. Studies in disciplines beyond his major have proven to be invaluable in all aspects of his life.

Active in both the professional and local communities, Steve travels the world extensively for his responsibilities. As a member of the Elon Society, the university’s premier annual giving recognition society, Steve is committed to the future growth of the university.

Steve and his wife, Cindy, live in Greensboro with their golden retriever, Bella. When he is not working, he enjoys golf, exercising, practicing martial arts and spending time at the coast.

Michelle Wideman ’00

Distinguished Alumna of the Year Award

Awarded to an alumna who has distinguished herself in a profession and in the community and brought honor to Elon.

The leadership, communication and service skills Michelle Wideman ’00 acquired as an undergraduate student at Elon continue to drive her success as a leader in technology.

While pursuing a double major in broadcast communications and journalism and triple minors in Spanish, international relations and political science, Michelle was actively involved on campus. An Isabella Cannon Leadership Fellow, she served as a teacher assistant for Elon 101. For two years, she lived in the Service-Learning Community, dedicating time to Elon Volunteers! by coordinating and leading two Habitat for Humanity alternative break trips to Immokalee, Florida, and Vicksburg, Mississippi. At Elon Television, she co-hosted “The Extra Mile,” a show focused on volunteer activities in the community.

During her junior and senior years, she spent time studying abroad in Spain, Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. Joining Phi Mu as a first-year student, she later became house mom, president and alumni adviser. She’s been recognized as Elon Homecoming Queen, Greek Woman of the Year and Alumni Advisor of the Year.

Her compassion for others, leadership skills and love of travel set the stage for Michelle’s almost seven-year career at software company Dell Boomi, where she rose through the ranks to become its chief customer success officer in 2019. In that global role, she was responsible for the success and retention of more than 10,000 customers and $130 million in renewal revenue. She joined technology company Onna in 2020 as its chief customer officer, where she leads the sales, professional services, partnerships, technical support and customer success teams. But her true passion is building relationships with customers, mentoring younger generations and supporting women in technology. She’s been recognized among the 2020 Top Female Sales

Practitioners for Your Next Panel, Presentation or Podcast, and recently published an article for Fast Company, a monthly American business magazine that focuses on technology, business and design. Always loyal to her alma mater, Michelle has supported Elon in multiple roles throughout the years. After graduation she was the chapter adviser for Phi Mu, and for four years she’s been an active member of the Elon Alumni Board, having served as president in 2018. During her tenure on the board, she was influential in encouraging Elon to adopt new technology and helped establish the Elon Alumni Board Scholarship for prospective students who are Elon legacies.

Priscilla Awkard ’95

Distinguished Service to Elon Award

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

From the moment Priscilla Awkard ’95 stepped on campus almost 30 years ago, her passion for Elon was palpable. When she was not excelling in the classroom studying accounting, she was leading the volleyball team to three conference titles or helping to retain first-year Black students as a student ambassador. A natural-born leader, Priscilla was a member of the Black Cultural Society, a student worker in Student Life and a resident assistant in Maynard residence hall. Always looking for ways to improve the Elon experience for all students, she was among the students who worked to establish the first African American Resource Room in Moseley Center.

After graduation, Priscilla started her career in nearby Burlington working for the Trust Company of the South. She spent the next 25 years working in the financial world in many roles and developing a love for financial education. This passion for educating people on how to be successful financially has helped shape her positions at Coastal Credit Union in Raleigh. She joined the organization in 2011 and currently serves as a vice president, leading its state-of-the-art Teller Center and overseeing three locations, a fleet of equipment and strategy for the 77-person operation that serves all 24 branches.

Priscilla dedicates much of her time to serving her community, be it by chairing the Crosby Advocacy Group in Southeast Raleigh or serving as a board member for the Academy of Finance at Sanderson High School. She also serves as immediate past president of the African American Credit Union Coalition, Southern Regional Chapter and on the National Board for the African American Credit Union Coalition.

Never forgetting her Elon roots, Priscilla remains very active at her alma mater. She was instrumental in shaping the Elon Black Alumni Network and served on the Elon National Alumni Executive Board shortly after graduating. But she is most proud of the Elon Black Alumni Scholarship, which she and several others started and endowed within three years with the help of many alumni. The scholarship helps academically gifted Black students with high financial need.

A 2011 inductee of the Elon Sports Hall of Fame, Priscilla enjoys spending time with the Elon volleyball team and as a member of the Elon Phoenix Club. Besides EBAN, she is an active member of the Elon University Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and the President’s Black Life Advisory Council and was recently named a cochair of the Elon LEADS Campaign. Her gift of time and talent to the university is evident, but her gift of treasure will live on as a proud member of Elon’s Order of the Oak, the 1889 Society and the 1963 Club.

Kevin Gilmore ’96

Distinguished Alumni Service Award

This award is presented to an alumnus or alumna who has given extraordinary service to his or her community.

Kevin Gilmore’s passion for service has shaped his personal and professional life — and it can all be traced back to his first year at Elon.

The executive director of the Sussex County Habitat for Humanity in Delaware, Kevin first learned about the organization in 1992 during Elon’s PreSERVE, then a new program that introduced him to service opportunities in the community the summer before his first year. He later led several alternative break service trips with Habitat and was a proud member of Elon’s campus Habitat chapter. Kevin was an active leader in Elon Volunteers! and his first full-time job on campus was as the coordinator of service learning. The seeds of service that were clearly planted at Elon later grew into a rewarding career in which he strives to make the world a better place every day.

After graduating from Elon in 1996 with a degree in communications, Kevin worked with Habitat International at its headquarters in Americus, Georgia, where he consulted with college students across the country helping them build their Habitat programs. From there he went on to serve with Habitat in Guatemala for four years. Having minored in Spanish at Elon and studied abroad in Spain, Kevin had a solid foundation which allowed him to quickly engage in helping the local leadership grow the Habitat program in the Central American country.

In 2003, Kevin completed a graduate student fellowship with Public Allies Delaware focusing on nonprofit management and building volunteer programs. After earning his Master of Public Administration degree at the University of Delaware, Kevin came to work with Sussex County Habitat for Humanity in 2004 as its first paid employee. The organization now employs more than 20 people and works with nearly 2,000 volunteers to carry out its mission. During Kevin’s tenure, the Habitat affiliate has built and sold 130 homes, repaired more than 200 homes and assisted more than 600 people through financial coaching services. A native of Milford, Delaware, he is grateful to serve the community that nurtured him growing up.

In recent years, Kevin served on the board of directors of La Esperanza, a bicultural and bilingual nonprofit center in Georgetown, Delaware, and on the U.S. Council of Habitat for Humanity International. He enjoys leading Habitat Global Village trips to Guatemala, where he can introduce others to Guatemalan culture while building homes with those in need.