A member of the class of 1966, the University’s first baccalaureate class, and the University’s first African-American graduate, Francine contributed a lifetime of service to Asheville and the surrounding community in support of childhood education. This award recognizes one alumnus/a (degreed or non-degreed) for exemplary service to their community, state, or nation.
Mary B. Nesbitt (Class of 1984)
Mary B. Nesbitt ’84 – Francine Delany Award for Service to the Community – Nesbitt is the chief development officer for MANNA FoodBank in Asheville, North Carolina, providing enthusiastic leadership and direction for fundraising, volunteerism, and marketing and communication. In this role, she works to expand the base of support and grow MANNA’s efforts to provide food to those in need across a 16-county service area. She began her nonprofit career with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of WNC, later moving on to serving at Helpmate and then to serving in numerous leadership roles for the American Cancer Society for nearly two decades.
Nesbitt earned a B.A. in sociology from UNC Asheville, was a recipient of the UNCA Senior Scholar award, and member of Alpha Kappa Delta. It was while pursuing her Sociology degree, mentored by Dr. Phyllis Betts that a great passion for serving in causes that deeply matter was ignited in her and it continues to burn brightly to this day. She continues to find ways to engage in leadership roles, finding it extremely rewarding to serve as a speaker, trainer, and advocate at a number of regional, nationwide, and international conferences to motivate and inspire others to further our collective efforts.
Amarra Ghani (Class of 2012)
Amarra Ghani ’12 – Francine Delany Award for Service to the Community – for her work on campus and beyond. As a student, she completed undergraduate research, was editor of the student newspaper, and was co-founder and president of the Muslim Student Association (which won the Outstanding Student Organization of the Year award in 2012). She also won the Carolyn Briggs Diversity Award for her work with the Muslim Student Association and graduated with a degree in mass communication. After graduation, she worked within the National Forest Service unit for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She also interned at National Public Radio’s The Race Card Project before becoming a Production Assistant for NPR’s Morning Edition, Tell Me More with Michelle Martin, and Weekend All Things Considered. In between her production roles, she produced a podcast that highlighted former representatives of the U.S. Congress and Senate, called Decode DC at Scripps News. Currently, she is the founder and executive director of Welcome Home, a grassroots refugee relief organization based in Charlotte.
Sergio Mariaca (Class of 1997)
Sergio Mariaca ’97 is an accredited investment fiduciary analyst and the president of Mariaca Wealth Management LLC, a Florida-based registered investment advisory firm that serves the financial and wealth management needs of people and businesses. Throughout his career, Mariaca has shown true commitment to community service and is a strong advocate for children, education, and people living with special needs. His commitment to volunteerism is consistently displayed through his extensive board experience serving nonprofit organizations such as the Economic Council of Palm Beach County, the Autism Society of America (2010-2016), the United Way of Palm Beach County, the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County (2002-2008), SunFest, Girl Scouts of America, the Area Agency on Aging of the Palm Beaches and Treasure Coast, and, most recently, Nonprofits First in Palm Beach County.
Sabine Moses ’12, a WNC native, is a North Carolina Teaching Fellow and one of three women math teachers at Erwin High School. Since starting her career as a teacher, she has been voted Teacher of the Month multiple times and has been nominated for Teacher of the Year.
Bill Gettys ’74 has a long and storied career in the IT field, having worked for Oracle for many years. The Asheville native is currently employed by Electronic Office. He is a member and treasurer of Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church and well known for his work in the community garden there, inspired from his trip to Haiti to work in a medical laboratory. He is a board member and past president of the Asheville Symphony Orchestra, an enthusiastic supporter of bringing the Music Works! Program to the Asheville City Schools, and a volunteer with the Veterans Restoration Quarters. Gettys, a physics major, is the 2017 recipient of the Francine M. Delany Award for Service to the Community.
Jacquelyn Hallum received the Francine Delany Alumni Award for Service to the Community. Hallum, a former chair of the Asheville City Schools Board of Education and current director of health careers and diversity education at Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC), is a leader in the effort to support workforce diversity in health care and educate area youth about health care careers. After studying at UNC Asheville for some of her undergraduate years, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree from North Carolina A&T State University, and earned a dual master’s degree at Pfeiffer University.
The Francine M. Delany Alumni Award for Service to the Community, State or Nation was presented to Etta Mae Whitner Patterson, who bravely broke the color barrier and became UNC Asheville’s first African-American student. She was chosen in 1961 to test segregation policies by leaders in Asheville’s African-American community because of her outstanding academic record at Stephens-Lee High School and her role in the Asheville Student Committee on Racial Equality, which led the effort to desegregate many Asheville stores and businesses. Patterson enjoyed a friendship with the late Francine Delany for whom the award is named. Delany, UNC Asheville’s first African-American graduate, joined the student body a semester after Patterson.
The Francine Delany Alumni Award for Service to the Community, State or Nation was presented to Jerry VeHaun ’63, and Heather Hudson ’66. VeHaun currently serves as mayor of Woodfin and as the director of Buncombe County Emergency Management Services, where he oversees the county’s response to both local and national disasters. He is an internationally certified emergency manager who is a member of numerous volunteer and professional organizations.
Hudson ’66, a member of the first baccalaureate class at UNC Asheville, served on the National Alumni Council and is a tireless advocate for the university. All five of her children also graduated from UNC Asheville.
The Francine M. Delany Alumni Award for Service to the Community was received by Wes Morrison ’97, a Lieutenant Colonel who currently serves both as the Battalion Commander of the 1st Battalion, 120th Infantry, and Deputy J5 for the State of Partnership Programs and Engagements, of the North Carolina National Guard. Wes also oversees the national State Partnership Program of the NC Guard with the countries of Moldova and Botswana. During his National Guard career, he has commanded an Infantry Company in Iraq in 2004, served as the Executive Officer for the North Carolina Army National Guard Recruiting Battalion and as the Human Resources Officer for a 4,000 soldier brigade combat team. Wes is also on the Executive Council for the North Carolina National Guard Association, a group which represents over 15,000 active and retired National Guardsmen to local and nationally elected officials on issues important to NC National Guardsmen and their families.
The Francine M. Delany Award for Service to the Community was presented to Allison Jordan ’97. As the Executive Director of Children First/Communities in Schools of Buncombe County, Allison has been committed to improving the lives of children and their families both through advocacy and direct services. She has also served on the Board of the United Way, Buncombe County Smart Start, the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council, and the Gang Violence Prevention Project. She volunteers with the Red Cross, the Mediation Center, the Junior League, and Bele Chere.
The Francine M. Delany Award for Service to the Community was given to Carol King ’89 and Amanda Edwards ’99. In addition to building one of Asheville’s most respected accounting firms, Carol L. King and Associates, King ’89 was an instrumental leader in the redevelopment of Pack Square in downtown Asheville. As the founding chair of the Pack Square Conservancy, King brought together a diverse and often discordant group of stakeholders to transform Asheville’s historic city center into a park and community gathering space for the 21st century.
Edwards ’99, an advocate for literacy, served as executive director of the Friends of Literacy in Knoxville, Tenn. and is now executive director of the Literacy Council of Buncombe County. As a result of Edwards’ leadership over the past seven years, the Literacy Council has increased its fundraising by over 60 percent and has significantly expanded its outreach, especially in the Hispanic, Ukrainian and Russian immigrant communities.
The Francine M. Delany Award for Service to the Community was presented to Michael F. Ochsenreiter ’80 for his dedicated civilian career to the U.S. Air Force. Ochsenreiter worked on the F-15 Program and the top-secret SR-71 “Black Bird” Program and served as deputy director of the Air Force Services Agency. When he wrapped up his career with the Air Force, Ochsenreiter was honored by the governors of Texas and North Carolina for his dedicated service.
The Francine M. Delany Award for Service to the Community was presented to Joye Haynes-Ganger ’89. A 1989 management graduate of UNC Asheville, Joye Hanes-Granger has not only built a thriving health care business in Henderson County (Whitley Home Medical) but has used her expertise in the Health Care Equipment industry to serve her community. After the passing of a loved one, many families find themselves with a tremendous amount of unneeded medical equipment. Joye accepts the equipment, repairs it (if needed) and donates it on behalf of the person who passed away to others in need of the equipment. She also donates equipment and her time to Four seasons Hospice to help families in need throughout Henderson County. An active Rotarian, Joye also gives generously to water projects in Ecuador, and to academic scholarship projects in Hendersonville. Joye is committed to improving her community and credits her UNC Asheville education for giving her the tools to serve.
The Francine M. Delany Award for Service to the Community was presented to Esteve Coll-Larrosa ’00 for dedication to educating and supporting the Spanish-speaking communities of Buncombe, Henderson, Jackson and Macon counties. An employee of United Services Credit Union, Coll-Larrosa volunteers to teach Latino residents about their financial rights. He travels widely across Western North Carolina, providing free financial instructional program on topics ranging from the importance of opening a bank account to building a good credit report.
The Francine M. Delany Alumni Award for Service to the Community was presented to James Stickney ’78. A native of Asheville, Stickney serves as the chair of the Board of Directors of the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County Inc. and is the past chair for the YMCA Capital Campaign. He has served on the boards of the American Red Cross, Family Services Center, and The Better Business Bureau of WNC. A past-president of the UNC Asheville Alumni Association, he has also served as a member of the UNC Asheville Foundation Board and The Bulldog Club.