2024 Alumni Award Winners announced

The Distinguished Alumni Awards and Top 10 Under 10 award winners will be recognized at Alumni Awards Weekend to be held April 26-27.

The Office of Alumni Engagement is excited to host Alumni Awards Weekend and recognize two distinct and deserving groups of alumni for their accomplishments since graduating.

Elon will recognize four alumni for their leadership, accomplishments and service during this year’s Distinguished Alumni Awards ceremony on April 26 at The Inn at Elon. Award recipients include:

Sam Troy ’67 

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.

An English major, Sam Troy currently serves as executive-in-residence at the Bryan School of Business and Economics at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where his primary focus has been conducting research on and promoting the North Carolina wine industry. He is the epitome of an engaged alumnus, faithfully supporting the university with a gift every year since he graduated as well as volunteering his time.

Kristen Yntema ’95 

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. 

A double major in business administration and public administration, Kristen Yntema is the president and CEO of AuthoraCare Collective, one of the largest nonprofit hospice and palliative care organizations in central North Carolina. Triad Business Journal recognized Kristen as one of its 40 Leaders Under 40 in 2011, one of its Outstanding Women in Business in 2016 and a Most Admired CEO in 2019.

Carol Brown ’68 

Distinguished Service to Elon Award   

Awarded to an organization, business, foundation, orindividual who has demonstrated outstanding service that promotes the advancement of Elon. 

A mathematics major, Carol Lupinacci Brown spent 30 years with the Christina School District in Delaware as a middle and high school teacher, building administrator and central office administrator. All the while, Carol has maintained a meaningful connection with Elon, serving as an Elon Alumni Board member and previously served as an Alumni 360 volunteer, peer agent and class reunion volunteer. In 2019, she made an estate gift and created an Elon Experiences scholarship in 2023.

Erica Ayala ’08 

Distinguished Alumni Service Award   

Awarded to an alumnus or alumna who has given extraordinary service to his or her community. 

A political science major, Erica Ayala joined CBS Sports in 2023 as a writer and on-air analyst, primarily covering WNBA, NCAA Women’s Basketball and NHL stories. She is considered the only Black/Latina broadcaster to call an NHL game. Outside of her career, Erica has volunteered her time with the Children’s Defense Fund and Westchester Children’s Association, holding multiple roles to advance child advocacy and social action. In 2017 New York Nonprofit Media recognized her as a “40 Under 40 Rising Star” in the nonprofit world.

The Office of Alumni Engagement and the Young Alumni Council have announced the 2024 Top 10 Under 10 award recipients, who will be celebrated during an April 27 ceremony in Snow Family Grand Atrium.

These 10 accomplished alumni from the past decade have achieved professional success, continuously work to better their communities and serve as loyal alumni role models. Award recipients include:

Sarah Alger ’17 

Information Officer at USAID – Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance 

Sarah Alger graduated with a degree in public health and for her undergraduate research, Sarah collaborated with Dr. Cynthia Fair to publish the first-known study on the needs of internationally adopted children with HIV in the United States.

After spending a year in Uganda serving as a Strategic Information Fellow with the CDC Global Health Fellowship Program, Sarah joined USAID Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance as a full-time Information Officer.

Katherine Blunt ’15 

Energy Reporter at the Wall Street Journa

Katherine Blunt earned her degree in journalism, with a focus on print and online news. Katie, along with two colleagues from the Houston office of the Wall Street Journal, investigated the massive wildfire that engulfed Northern California due to faulty infrastructure from power provider Pacific Gas & Electric.

Katie’s work on the disaster was the foundation for her 2022 book, California Burning: The Fall of Pacific Gas and Electric – and What It Means for America’s Power Grid.

Sean Burke ’14 

Multifamily Debt Originations at PGIM Real Estate 

Sean Burke graduated with a bachelor’s degree in finance and joined PGIM in 2017, assisting with the structuring of more than $2.7B in debt financing transactions.

In his current role as a Loan Officer, he is responsible for originating and structuring multifamily affordable and conventional loans. Sean’s passion for affordable housing stems from his time at Elon when he volunteered with the Odyssey Scholars in the Mississippi Delta.

Ashley Braun Darling ’13 & Tom Darling ’13 

Co-Founders of Darling Wines 

Ashley Braun Darling earned her degree in media arts and entertainment, specializing in broadcast and news media. Tom Darling graduated with a bachelor’s in sport and event management.

In 2017, Ashley and Tom launched Darling Wines. Beginning with a Syrah, Darling Wines has since added a Pinot Noir and a Chardonnay to their listings. Bottles can be enjoyed at several Michelin-starred restaurants as well as local favorites and retail wine shops in the Bay area.

Peter Fox ’14 

Vice President at The Blackstone Group 

Peter Fox earned a degree in finance and during his final year at Elon, Peter was part of a team that qualified as state finalists in the 2014 CFA Institute Research Challenge.

Since graduating, Peter has steadily advanced his career in investment banking. Beginning as an analyst with the Corporate Finance Group at Credit Suisse, he progressed into associate and senior associate roles at Coller Capital before joining the team at Blackstone in 2021.

Phylicia Pearl Mpasi ’15 

Actress, currently in The Color Purple 

Phylicia Pearl Mpasi is a graduate of Elon’s musical theatre program and before graduating, she was cast as a vocal swing and the understudy for Shenzi in “The Lion King.” In May 2023, she celebrated the premiere of Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies for Paramount+ working as a writer for the first season.

Most recently, Phylicia Pearl stars as young Celie in the remake of The Color Purple, produced by Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg.

Oscar Miranda Tapia ’17

PhD Candidate in Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Development at NC State

Oscar Miranda Tapia earned a degree in psychology and spent a year as a Community Impact Fellow with Alamance Achieves before earning his master’s degree in education from Harvard University in 2019. Oscar returned to his alma mater to help launch The First-Generation Initiative through his role as Assistant Director of First-Generation Student Support Services.

This meaningful work is highlighted in the book that Oscar recently co-authored with President Emeritus Leo M. Lambert, Assistant Provost Peter Felten, and Isis Artze-Vega in August 2023, Connections are Everything: A College Student’s Guide to Relationship Education.

Dmitri Thompson ’18 

CEO at Rise Media, Co-founder of Rise League Inc. 

Dmitri Thompson is a former captain of Elon’s Division I Men’s Basketball team who graduated with a degree in sport and event management and ended his career as one of the best scorers in program history. Following graduation, he spent two years playing professional basketball in Cyprus. While playing abroad, Dmitri and his brother, Dwight, sold shirts to raise money for the Boys & Girls Club, creating RISE League.In November 2023, they received a $75K grant from Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Most recently, the Thompson brothers started Rise Media, a full-service creative agency that offers photography, videography, editing and Photoshop services for businesses and the public.

Erin Wilkins ’18 

Manager, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Goodwin Law firm 

Erin Wilkins earned a degree in public health studies before going on to receive an MA in education and human development from The George Washington University.

In a short span of time, Erin has built a distinguished career in the legal industry and currently serves as the Manager of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the law firm, Goodwin. As a testament to her expertise in DEI, Erin has been invited to speak at the National Association for Law Placement Annual Education Conference in Boston, MA, in 2024.

To read more about this year’s alumni award winners, visit the Alumni Awards page here and for more information about this year’s awards, please contact Hannah Hattori, Assistant Director of Alumni Engagement—Special Events, at hhattori@elon.edu.