Alumni News

School of Education honors five at 2017 Distinguished Alumni Awards Dinner

The School of Education at UNC-Chapel Hill has honored five people – the executive director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and four alumni – at its 16th annual Distinguished Alumni Awards Dinner.

“The people we honor this year embody what it means to be an educator-leader,” said Fouad Abd-El-Khalick, dean of the School of Education. “Each one of them has demonstrated forward-leaning commitment to their communities, on scales that range from the school where they work to the breadth of the state of North Carolina.”

The School, at the Nov. 11 event at the George Watts Hill Alumni Center, gave its highest honor – the Peabody Award – to Maurice “Mo” Green, executive director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

Mo Green

Green became head of the foundation in 2016 after a 15-year career in education, most recently as superintendent of Guilford County Schools, a position he held for seven years. In that position, Green led the process of completing the district's first-ever strategic plan, and launched a second, plans that resulted in increased graduation rates and other academic and non-academic student achievements.

Before joining Guilford County Schools, Green worked at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, beginning in 2001 as general counsel. In 2006, he was named chief operating officer and later moved into the role of deputy superintendent.

Green is the recipient of many awards, including N.C. Association of Educators’ Excellence in Equity Award, N.C. A&T State University’s Human Rights Medal, and the N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s Certificate of Appreciation.

Green earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics and then his law degree – both at Duke University. He began his career as a lawyer in private practice after doing two United States judicial clerkships.

At the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, Green embarked on a yearlong tour of the state to learn more about its needs and to help determine the foundation’s new emerging directions. The foundation is one of state’s largest and gives grants aimed at improving the quality of life of North Carolinians.

Alumni Achievement Award

Ron Miller (Ph.D. ’76), who is in his 51st year as fencing coach at UNC-Chapel Hill, making him the longest-serving coach in Carolina history, was given the Alumni Achievement Award.

Ron Miller

Miller began coaching in 1967, since then leading his teams to 1,500 NCAA dual meet victories, a mark just reached earlier this month.

Among the fencers Miller has coached, 21 have been named All-Americans, two were Olympians and one was a national champion. Meanwhile, average GPAs among his teams ranged from 3.3 to 3.6, never dropping below 3.0.

Many of his student-athletes were Morehead Scholars and Phi Beta Kappa inductees, and many have gone on into careers in law, medicine, finance, and science.

Miller has won many honors. He was named the Collegiate Coach of the Year in 1983 and 1986, and the ACC Women's Fencing Coach of the Year in 2015. In 2016, Miller received the U.S. Fencing Coaches Association’s Award of Merit for achievements and contributions to the sport of fencing. He was recently named the 2017 recipient of USA Fencing’s Jack Baker Award for service to the association.

Miller has announced that this will be his last year coaching.

Distinguished Leadership Award

The Distinguished Leadership Award was given to Muriel Summers (A.B.Ed. ’79).

Muriel Summers

Summers is principal at A.B. Combs Magnet Elementary School in Raleigh, where she has served in that role since 1997. Summers led efforts to make Combs Elementary the first leadership elementary school in the nation, creating and implementing a program modeled after Franklin Covey’s “7 Habits” program.

Summers has co-authored a book about the experience, “The Leader in Me,” outlining a program that has been adopted by more than 3,000 schools in 50 countries around the world. By adopting the “Leader in Me” program, schools seek to help students develop cooperative relationships, a sense of responsibility, kindness and good judgment.

Summers and Combs Elementary have won numerous awards. Combs was named the top magnet school in the nation in 2006 and 2014 by Magnet Schools of America. With the 2014 recognition, Combs became the first school to be named the top magnet school for a second time.

That same year, Summers was awarded the William B. Friday Medal of Honor, one of the highest honors given to North Carolina educators. She also was named the 2016-17 Principal of the Year for Wake County Public Schools.

Excellence in Teaching Award

The School’s Excellence in Teaching Award was given to Lisa Godwin (M.S.A. ’09), North Carolina’s 2017 Teacher of the Year.

Lisa Godwin

Godwin teaches kindergarten at Dixon Elementary School in Holly Ridge in Onslow County, returning to teaching three years ago after working as an assistant principal for four years in Onslow and Lee county schools.

A native of Lee County, Godwin first pursued nursing, but got a job as a teaching assistant in Sanford when her twin sons started school. She later earned her teaching degree from St. Andrews Presbyterian College and taught kindergarten for three years at Deep River Elementary School in Sanford.

She came to the School of Education and earned her master’s in school administration in 2009, and then served as assistant principal at J. Glenn Edwards Elementary School in Sanford and Meadow View Elementary School in Jacksonville. She says she wanted to return to teaching because she missed the daily interaction with students in her own classroom.

As Teacher of the Year, Godwin travels the state as an ambassador for the teaching profession. She also will serve as an advisor to the State Board of Education for two years and as a board member for the N.C. Public School Forum for one year.

Outstanding Young Alumna Award

The Outstanding Young Alumna Award was given to Shanda Hamm (A.B.Ed. ’05).

Shanda Hamm

Hamm has taught mathematics in Guilford County schools since graduation from Carolina in 2005, starting with eighth-graders at The Academy at Lincoln, and since 2012, upon earning her high school mathematics add-on licensure, at the Early Middle College at Guilford Technical Community College-Greensboro.

Hamm earned her Advanced Learning Certification in 2007 and became a National Board Certified Teacher in 2010.

Hamm’s honors include a Distinguished Junior High/Middle School Mathematics Teaching award, three school-level Teacher of the Year honors and the Guilford County Schools High School Teacher of the Year. In September, she was named Guilford County Schools’ Teacher of the Year.