Drew Van Horn '82, Kevin Pace '02 and Sarah Babcock '09 were awarded Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences' Distinguished Alumni Award
Three outstanding alumni were recognized Thursday by Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences for their contributions to public health, the arts, higher education and for embodying the College’s and Elon’s core values.
Sarah Babcock ’09, Kevin Pace ’02 and Drew Van Horn ’82 received the College’s Distinguished Alumni Award in a ceremony and luncheon hosted by College deans and faculty. Though in different fields, Babcock, Pace and Van Horn each have forged careers of excellence in their fields with a commitment to Elon’s values of integrity, honesty, service and leadership.
“Seeing the connection between faculty, students and alumni that lasts a lifetime is profound and emotional for me. That’s what we see at this event,” said Gabie Smith, dean of Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences, welcoming honorees, their families and faculty. “We are so grateful for you and the gifts you’ve given us. Thank you for being who you are.”
Babcock was recognized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for her emergency preparedness work with the New Orleans public health department before she was tapped last year to create Jefferson Parish’s first health department. Pace is a successful and award-winning jazz musician and composer, as well as co-founder of the D.C. Jazz Composers Collective, a nonprofit that supports the vitality of improvised music in the capital city. Van Horn has served as president of Young Harris College in Georgia since 2017, was previously president of Brevard College in western North Carolina, and performed various administrative roles at Elon and elsewhere.
Thursday’s reception was a long time coming. The College annually selects outstanding alumni to recognize from faculty nominations in each of its three divisions: Arts and Humanities; Natural, Mathematical and Computational Sciences; and Social and Behavioral Sciences. Babcock, Pace and Van Horn were selected as recipients in 2020 just before the pandemic. The ceremony was rescheduled for this spring as cases decreased across the country.
Sarah Babcock ‘09
A biology major, Babcock was deeply involved in public service and leadership from before she arrived on campus. In fact, she chose Elon on the strength of its service-learning opportunities and living-learning community. She coordinated a service trip to Cambodia, participated in the Isabella Cannon Leadership Development Program and Clinton Global Health Initiative.
After receiving her Bachelor of Science in biology, Babcock earned a Master of Public Health, International Health and Development from the Tulane School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine.
Babcock is currently the chief administrative assistant for Jefferson Parish, near New Orleans, where she is creating the parish’s first health department.
“You are looking at the Public Health Center of Jefferson Parish,” Associate Professor of Biology Yuko Miyamoto, who nominated Babcock, said Thursday. “I’m incredibly proud that you’re out there representing Elon by doing things that are meaningful to you and working for the community.”
Previously with the New Orleans Health Department, she served as director of healthy environments and communications and was recognized with FEMA’s Community Preparedness Award in 2015. She received the award at the White House for her work as the health department’s emergency preparedness lead.
Babcock is also a foster and adoptive parent, a role she felt called to as she worked to protect the most vulnerable in her community.
She credits Elon’s instructors and emphasis on broad study of the liberal arts with her success at problem-solving and adapting to rapidly changing needs in public health.
“I am a product of parents who raised me in rural Pennsylvania, so I have that farmgirl work-ethic, but I’m also a product of Elon,” Babcock said. “And not just the biology department. It was the Kernodle Center for Service Learning that taught me that my life is to serve, whether that is in my career where I can serve the most vulnerable … or in my life as a foster and adoptive parent.
“I’ve had a lot of success since Elon. Part of that is me, but a lot of that is all of you.”
Kevin Pace ‘02
Pace came to Elon unsure about his education and his future, only knowing he wanted to play music. The relationships he forged at Elon coupled with courses in jazz music illuminated his path.
He’s since appeared on more than 30 professional recordings, scored a film, and won the Mid-Atlantic Song-Writing Competition. Pace’s debut album, “First Steps,” was selected by Capitol Bop magazine as one of the top five recordings of the year. He co-founded the D.C. Jazz Composers Collective, a 501(c)(3) organization devoted to perpetuating improvised music.
Pace graduated with a music degree after receiving the Billy Crocker Jazz Award in 2001 — the music department’s highest award for jazz studies — as well as the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for service. He then earned his Master of Music from the University of Maryland, College Park.
In addition to touring the globe and playing in some of the performing arts world’s most prestigious venues, Pace has taught at multiple colleges and universities and currently is on the faculty at Shepherd University.
“His students adore him and cherish his mentoring. Already, Kevin has led many of his students to become among the best players in their respective areas,” Professor of Music Emeritx Jon Metzger said. “Kevin is by far the most requested guest artist now among our current students here at Elon. He connects so well with our students here on his return visits, identifies so beautifully with them, and is able to reach them with sound advice. He is also a regular guest on our department’s Senior Day at the Student Professional Development Center, offering helpful advice and encouragement to our graduating seniors.”
Pace routinely teaches master classes and visits with students in the music program, helping them map their own career paths and offering insights as a professional musician.
“Everyone has spoken today about passion and direction and purpose,” Pace said. “It was Elon’s teachers that made the difference for me. It was the first time I really saw passion in teaching.
“When I became a teacher, I made it my job to work extra hard to bring out a love of music in my students,” he continued, describing a current student who began on the sidelines of Shepherd University’s jazz and music program. “He is now the heart and soul of the jazz program. I like to think his journey started here at Elon.”
Drew Van Horn ‘82
Van Horn has spent his career in higher education working to instill the commitment to student-focused teaching he first encountered at Elon at other liberal arts institutions.
Van Horn has held administrative positions at Elon — as director of Student Activities, Alumni and Parent Relations and later Development and Major Gifts — as well as Gardner-Webb University, Lenoir-Rhyne University, Iowa Wesleyan University, and Brevard College, where he was president for nine years. Since 2017, he has served as president of Young Harris College in northwest Georgia. He is also the former executive director of the Independent College Fund for North Carolina.
“Drew has demonstrated unique skills and leadership abilities and put his knowledge to great use,” said Associate Professor of Human Service Studies Bud Warner. “At his inauguration as president of Young Harris College, Dr. Van Horn noted that the college’s mission was to make a difference in the lives of its students and to make a difference in the lives of the community in which it resides. To me, that sounds like how someone might describe Drew Van Horn.”
Van Horn graduated from Elon cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in human service studies, earning numerous awards and recognitions including induction into Alpha Chi and Omicron Delta Kappa and selection as a two-time recipient of both the Academic All-American Award and the CoSIDA (GTE) Academic All-American Award in basketball. He was inducted into the Elon University Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005.
He earned his master’s in counseling from Campbell University. Following graduate school, he returned to Elon as director of student activities. He left that position to become the assistant state director of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, before returning to Elon to lead efforts in advancement.
In addition to his success in higher education, Van Horn founded his own consulting firm, Decision-Matters LLC, focusing on executive leadership training, development, and coaching. Beyond his professional roles, he has worked extensively with human service organizations in the various communities in which he has lived, helping them develop strategic plans and fundraising plans. His excellence in leadership was recognized nationally by his selection as a Thrivent Leadership Program Fellow, one of 12 selected in the US.
“Elon was the place I found my wings and my voice,” Van Horn said Thursday. “My Elon education has prepared me to do many things. Everything I learned here prepared me to be able to know how people think, how people care, and to realize that my job was to be a servant to them.”