Alumni News

Dean and Linnea Smith Among Six Honored by School of Education

On Saturday, Oct. 8, 2005, the School of Education hosted its annual awards luncheon honoring several individuals who have made significant contributions to the field of education.  David (Gus) Martin, president of the School of Education Alumni Association, welcomed the crowd of nearly 100 who attended the event at the George Watts Hill Alumni Center.

Receiving the School’s highest honor, The Peabody Award, was former UNC Head Basketball Coach Dean Smith and his wife Linnea.  The couple has been longtime supporters for important causes, including education, literacy, civil rights and women’s rights.  During Dean Smith’s 37 years as Carolina’s basketball coach, 97 percent of his players earned their degrees and nearly half pursued advanced study beyond a bachelor’s degree.  Smith insisted on creating strong student-athletes and continues to promote that cause today. 

Linnea Smith, a psychiatrist by profession, is an advocate for exploited women and children.  She is dedicated to educating parents, teachers, children and the community at large on the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse and the impact of pornography on our society.  Both Dean and Linnea grew up having teachers as parents and emphasized the value their families placed on education. Thomas James, dean of the School of Education, presented the pair with the award in recognition of their extraordinary dedication to education and youth. 

Other 2005 award winners included Leslie Baldwin, who received the Excellence in Teaching Award; H. Dickson Corbett III, who received the Alumni Achievement Award; Alvera Junice Lesane, recipient of the Outstanding Young Alumna Award and James Gordon Merrill, recipient of the Distinguished Leadership Award.

Leslie Baldwin, foreign language program specialist for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, has been a leader and an innovator in foreign language instruction.  Audrey Heining-Boynton, professor of foreign language education at the School of Education, presented Baldwin with the Excellence in Teaching Award.  She described several of Baldwin’s efforts to improve foreign language education, such as her success in convincing the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school board to continue its early language program when the program was in danger of being cut.  Baldwin also single-handedly designed the Spanish language immersion program for a new elementary school in Winston-Salem and arranged for multicultural programs at the school.   Beyond the classroom, Baldwin serves as an officer in the Foreign Language Association of North Carolina and as a workshop trainer. 

Presenting the Alumni Achievement Award to Dick Corbett, who earned all three of his higher education degrees from Carolina, was George Noblit, Joseph R. Neikirk Distinguished Professor.  Corbett is recognized as a leading educational researcher in the United States.  His research focuses on examining school reform strategies in an effort to guide the way to more successful reforms in the future, particularly in schools that serve low-income student populations.  As he has talked with students around the country, he has found that students everywhere have the same thing to say about great teachers.  “They boil it down to one single thing,” Corbett said.  “Great teachers are teachers who care.”  In addition to his ongoing research, Corbett also serves as an adjunct professor at the School of Education, advising doctoral candidates in education.

The Outstanding Young Alumna Award was presented to Alvera Junice Lesane by her current doctoral advisor, Kathleen Brown, associate professor of educational leadership.  Brown recognized Lesane for her many outstanding educational and leadership roles, including service as principal of Troutman Middle School in Iredell County and assistant principal of Statesville High School, where she also taught social studies for four years.  Presently, Lesane serves as the chief quality assurance officer for Iredell-Statesville Schools, where she is responsible for improving the quality of instruction in the schools and insuring that teachers receive ample training to deliver the best instruction possible.  In accepting the award, Lesane expressed her passion for developing great teachers, a passion that she says stems from her time at UNC.  “More than anything else,” she said, “you (the School of Education) have challenged me as I try to do what I can to see that children get the education they deserve.”

Jim Merrill received the School of Education’s Distinguished Leadership Award on Saturday, less than a year after he was named North Carolina’s 2005 Superintendent of the Year by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.  In his fifth year as superintendent of the Alamance-Burlington School District, Merrill is in a leadership position on a daily basis.   He has established his district as one that is very supportive of its teachers and administrators.  Not content with the status quo, he prefers to take risks and is willing to make hard decisions.  When he recently initiated the “Operation Safe Schools” sting in his district, 49 students were arrested on drug charges, including some high-profile student athletes.  Merrill’s leadership has earned him praise throughout his community and the state.  Receiving his award from Ben Matthews, chair of the Awards Committee, Merrill said, “When I arrived at UNC, I had no idea what I was in for.  Four years later, I left ready to right the world . . . and make a mark.”

Each year the School of Education honors select alumni and individuals for their outstanding accomplishments and deep commitment to education.  Past award winners have included UNC President Emeritus William C. Friday and Ida H. Friday, former North Carolina Governor James B. Hunt Jr., former West Virginia Governor Gaston Caperton, former Senator Howard N. Lee and author Clyde Edgerton.