Roy A. Taylor Distinguished Alumnus or Alumna of the Year Award

Named in honor of the University’s first valedictorian, founder of its first Alumni Association, and distinguished member of the United States Congress, the Roy A. Taylor Distinguished Alumnus or Alumna Award is the highest award given to an alumnus/a and recognizes those graduates of UNC Asheville and its predecessor colleges for extraordinary achievement.

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Past Recipients



Kevan Frazier (Class of 1992)

Kevan Frazier, Ph.D. ‘92 — has a long and storied connection to UNC Asheville. As a student he was student body president and an active leader on campus. He returned to UNC Asheville after graduate school as a member of the History Faculty and as a leader in the administration in Advancement. Kevan led the construction of the Highsmith Student Union and the creation of the Student Life department and the Division of University Advancement. Kevan is also known as the tradition maker at UNC Asheville and in one notable example from his tenure, he spearheaded the first “Turning of the Maples.” The event is now a beloved tradition that continues to this day. He has been active in the community as both a successful entrepreneur and advocate for Asheville’s history, culture, and economic development.

He currently serves as the Executive Director of Western Carolina University’s Program in Asheville. He also owns Asheville by Foot Walking Tours and co-owns Asheville Brewery Tours and Well Played Board Game Café, which successfully relaunched in 2023 to become a welcome gathering place and staple in Asheville.


Chris Mathis (Class of 1979)

Christopher “Chris” Mathis ’79 – has spent the past 40 years focusing on how buildings and building products perform — from energy efficiency and code compliance to long-term durability and sustainability. Today, as president of Mathis Consulting Company (MC2), he works with strategically-aligned clients, leveraging that knowledge and understanding to improve buildings, building products, and the codes and standards that govern them.
Mathis earned his undergraduate degree in 1979 from the University of North Carolina at Asheville where he double-majored in physics and theatre. He received a Master of Science in Architecture Studies from MIT in 1982, where his graduate work focused on energy use in buildings. He began his career as a scientist in the Insulation Technology Laboratory at the Owens Corning Fiberglass Technical Center in Granville, Ohio. From there, he became the director of the Thermal Testing Laboratory for the National Association of Home Builders Research Center in Rockville, Maryland.
While with the Research Center, he began investigating the need for quantifying and certifying the energy performance of windows and he has become an expert with issues of window performance since 1986. He is a leader in standards and codes development nationally and internationally, and he is a member of ASHRAE (formerly the American Society of Heating Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers. Author of numerous technical papers and conference presentations, Mathis has presented his hallmark lecture — Why buildings Matter — in over 26 countries and across the U.S.



Dr. Johan Nordenstam (Class of 1991)

Dr. Johan Nordenstam ’91 – Roy Taylor Award for Distinguished Alumnus of the Year – in recognition of his distinguished medical career. He started as an attending surgeon in Sweden before he returned to the U.S. as a clinical professor of surgery with the University of Minnesota. He was the medical director of the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute, a partner and attending surgeon at Colon & Rectal Surgery Associates, and has now been a professor of surgery and colorectal surgeon with the University of Illinois at Chicago for seven years. He is a member of the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons. Nordenstam graduated from UNC Asheville with a degree in chemistry and earned an M.S. from the University of Minnesota and an M.D. from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.


Donna Glick (Class of 1975)

Donna Glick ’75 served as the Director of Huntington Theatre Company’s Department of Education and Community Programs for 22 years. Her work exemplifies the spirit of a UNC Asheville liberal arts education by examining the role and influence of the arts in the way that individuals participate in society.



David Ramseur (Class of 1976)

Political science graduate and student activist David Ramseur has had a noted career as a political aid, serving as press secretary and chief of staff to two Alaska governors, then as chief of staff to Anchorage’s mayor and to the state’s first Democratic US Senator in nearly 40 years.



Steve Woody (Class of 1989)

Steve Woody is the founder and CEO of Avadim Technologies in Asheville and is named the Roy A. Taylor Distinguished Alumnus of the Year – the highest honor given to an alumnus of UNC Asheville. Woody is an innovator and entrepreneur who created the product line Theraworx, a patented product that’s clinically proven to help control hospital-acquired infections by restoring the skin’s natural defense properties. At UNC Asheville, the math major was a standout men’s soccer player. He has served on the UNC Asheville Foundation Board and also serves on the A-TEAM, the advisory team of former student-athletes.



Jennifer Forsyth (Class of 1990)

UNC Asheville’s highest alumni recognition, the Roy A. Taylor Distinguished Alumnus Award, was presented to Jennifer Forsyth, class of 1990, for her notable career at The Wall Street Journal where she served as U.S. editor for three years prior to being promoted to her current position as Deputy Editor, Investigations in 2014.



Ed Sheary (Class of 1975)

UNC Asheville’s highest alumni recognition, the Roy A. Taylor Distinguished Alumnus Award, was presented to Ed Sheary, class of 1975, to honor his distinguished 24-year tenure as Buncombe County’s director of libraries. As part of many state committees, Sheary helped improve library services across North Carolina and in 2011 was named the state’s Library Director of the Year.



Harriette Winner (Class of 1982)

UNC Asheville’s highest alumni recognition, the Roy A. Taylor Distinguished Alumnus Award, was presented to Harriette Winner (Class of 1982), for her notable career as director of volunteer services at Mission Health and her exceptional service to UNC Asheville. Winner has served on the UNC Asheville Board of Trustees, is a graduate of the Leadership Asheville program, is an associate member of the Children’s Welfare League, and is a sustaining partner of UNC Asheville’s Reuter Center and the Bulldog Athletics program.



Tom Steele (Class of 1984)

The Roy A. Taylor Distinguished Alumnus Award, was presented to Tom Steele (Class of 1984). He practices law in multiple areas, and has been a leader in the community serving on numerous boards and committees including the Burlington Parks and Recreation Commission and the Board of Habitat for Humanity. Professionally, he has served as Secretary of the Alamance County Bar Association and as a member of the North Carolina Bar Association’s Large Law Firm Committee.  He is presently a member of the Council of the Real Property Section of the North Carolina Bar Association and is Chairman of the Section’s Ethics Committee.



Dr. James R. Buckner (Class of 1971)

UNC Asheville’s highest alumni recognition, the Roy A. Taylor Distinguished Alumnus Award, was presented to Dr. James R. Buckner (Class of 1971) for his extraordinary career in education.  He has been a teacher, a principal, a superintendent, and an executive in a career that has spanned higher education, government service, and private industry.  Jim has been a national leader in teacher training and retention.  Additionally, his service to the university has been extensive as the founding chair of the National Alumni Council, service as director of the UNC Asheville Foundation Board, and the first alumnus chair of the UNC Asheville Board of Trustees.  Both he and his wife, Mary Elizabeth ’68, have generously contributed their resources to the university with the establishment of an endowed scholarship in memory of Mary’s parents, Bill and Elizabeth Belz.



Pete McDaniel (Class of 1974)

UNC Asheville’s highest alumni recognition, the Roy A. Taylor Distinguished Alumnus Award, was presented to Pete McDaniel (Class of 1974) for his notable career as a sports writer. For more than 13 years McDaniel served as sport editor for the Hendersonville Times-News, and for the past two decades has served as a senior writer for Golf Digest and Gold World magazines. McDaniel and Earl Woods, father of Tiger Woods, co-authored the best-selling book, “Training a Tiger.” McDaniel also co-authored Tiger Woods’ all-time best-selling golf instruction book, “How I Play Golf.” McDaniel wrote the critically acclaimed “Uneven Lies: The Heroic Story of African Americans in Golf,” which resulted in the Golf Channel documentary, “Uneven Fairways,” which McDaniel co-wrote and co-produced.



Ann B. Ross (Class of 1984)

The Roy A. Taylor Distinguished Alumna Award, was presented to Ann B. Ross (Class of 1984) for her notable career as a novelist. The Hendersonville native recently released the 11th installment in the popular “Miss Julia” series. Books in the series have appeared many times on the New York Times Best Seller list.



Jim Daniels (Class of 1960)

The Roy A. Taylor Distinguished Alumnus Award was presented to James W. Daniels (Class of 1960) for his notable career in communications. Daniels is chairman and chief executive officer of Daniels Business Services Inc., a family-owned Asheville business engaging in printing, mailing and call center operations. With two operating divisions, Daniels Graphics and Daniels Communications, the business services a wide variety of customers from industrial corporations to educational institutions. A former UNC Asheville Foundation Board member, Daniels has also been active on a host of local charitable and civic boards.



Mike Grace (Class of 1974)

The Roy A. Taylor Distinguished Alumnus Award was presented to Mike Grace (Class of 1974) for his notable career as an attorney in Winston-Salem. Grace launched Grace, Holton, Tisdale & Clifton in 1981 and has earned a statewide reputation as a top litigator. Prior to opening his own practice, Grace worked as a staff attorney for Congressman Lamar Gudger and as a special assistant to the Assistant Attorney General in the U.S. Department of Justice by appointment of President Jimmy Carter.



Ray West (Class of 1972)

The Roy A. Taylor Distinguished Alumnus Award was presented to Ray F. West (Class of 1972) for his significant humanitarian work in the struggling Republic of Moldova. In 1997, Captain West’s Naval Reserve unit was charged with large-scale humanitarian work in Moldova. When he returned to North Carolina, West was inspired to continue the rebuilding efforts. He founded the Moldova World Children’s Fund in Hendersonville, which has been a driving force in constructing orphanages, renovating schools and providing scholarships.



Audrey Byrd Mosley (Class of 1974)

The 2004 Distinguished Alumna Award was presented to Audrey Byrd Mosley, Class of 1974. Audrey Byrd Mosley entered UNC Asheville in 1970, graduating in 1974 with majors in political science and classics. The University provided fine background for her to enter Harvard Law, where she received her J.D. in 1977.

Following law school, Audrey moved to Washington where she began her legal career as an attorney with the United States Department of Army Materiel and Readiness Command and since 1980.  She has worked in the office of the general counsel of the National Academy of Sciences as Deputy General Counsel, and since 2011 has served as the General Counsel.


James Anderson Shields (Class of 1975)

The 2004 Distinguished Alumnus Award was presented to James Anderson Shields, Class of 1975.

Throughout a very successful business career, his love of learning and the life of the mind have been among Jim’s most passionate interests. And his Alma Mater has never been far from his heart.

Jim is head of Anderson Hamilton, Inc., a Winston-Salem investment firm. He has generously used his talents and his resources over the years so that the university is better for each succeeding generation of students who wish to study here.

As a trustee of UNC Asheville, Jim works in the background and without requirement of attention to ensure the progress of the University in meeting its mission.

As a life-long learner and a true model of Chaucer’s student, Jim is an external graduate student in philosophy at the University of Wales, Lampeter, currently analyzing the philosophical papers of Gilbert Ryle.



Richard B. Wynne (Class of 1950)

The 2003 Distinguished Alumnus Award was presented to Richard B. Wynne at the Founders Weekend 2003 Dinner of Distinction on Friday, Sept. 19, 2003. The dinner was held at The Reuter Center on the campus of UNC Asheville. Mr. Wynne is the former publisher of the

Asheville Citizen -Times and vice president of its then parent company Multimedia Inc..

Richard B. Wynne began his career as a copy boy and reporter before joining the U. S. Air Force. After his military service, Mr. Wynne, a member of the class of 1950, attended Asheville-Biltmore College during the day while working as a reporter at night. He was named managing editor at 28, then assistant to the publisher, and president and publisher of the Asheville Citizen-Times before retiring in 1987.

He was a member of the Asheville-Biltmore College Board of Trustees in the 1960’s when it was seeking university status, and was active in community affairs, working to establish the WNC Farmers Market, N.C. Arboretum, Community Foundation of Western North Carolina and Better Business Bureau. He was a member of numerous civic boards as well, including the Chamber of Commerce, Red Cross and United Way. He currently serves on the Janirve Foundation Board.



Eugene L. Presley (Classes of 1981 & 1996)

The 2002 Distinguished Alumnus Award was presented to Eugene L. Presley. Presley is the president of Hayes & Lunsford Co. He earned two degrees from UNC Asheville, a bachelors degree in management in 1981 and a Master of Liberal Arts in 1996.

Presley has served UNC Asheville in many capacities. A former member of the UNCA Board of Trustees and the UNCA Foundation Board of Directors, he also served on the 1999 Chancellor’s Search Committee, which selected Dr. James H. Mullen Jr. He is a strong supporter of the university, specifically the Undergraduate Research Fellows scholarship program. He is a member of the UNC Asheville Alumni Advisory Council.

He and his wife, JoJo, are the parents of two grown children, Lynn and Michael.



Zollie Stevenson Jr. (Class of 1975)

The 2001 Distinguished Alumnus Award was presented to Dr. Zollie Stevenson, Jr. Stevenson is the group leader for Standards, Assessment and Accountability in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, DC. He demonstrates a strong commitment to education and community service. He is the National Chairman of Programs and Special Projects for Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the first Greek letter organization for college educated Black men established in 1906 at Cornell University. He also serves as the Board Chairman for the National Capital Area Chapter of the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, Inc. which serves Washington, DC and the Northern Virginia counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudon and Prince William and the City of Alexandria. Dr. Stevenson’s work includes serving as a national faculty member for the March of Dimes/Alpha Phi Alpha pregnancy prevention initiative which focuses on the male role and responsibility in prevention called Project Alpha.

In 2003, Zollie was presented the Alumni Achievement Award by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education. A 1975 graduate of UNC Asheville, Stevenson holds a M.S. degree from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While at UNCA he was Student Government Association President in 1974-75. He is a member of the UNC Asheville National Alumni Advisory Council.



Wilma Dykeman (Class of 1938)

The 2000 UNCA Distinguished Alumna Award was presented to noted author, historian, lecturer and social activist Wilma Dykeman at the annual Founders Day dinner Oct. 6.

A native of Asheville and a descendant of some of the earliest European inhabitants of the region, Dykeman is a 1938 graduate of Asheville-Biltmore College and a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Northwestern University.

She is best known for her numerous literary contributions that eloquently explore her love for the Southern Appalachian Mountains and people. She has published 18 books, several in collaboration with her late husband James Stokely. She is the author of numerous volumes related to Tennessee history, including Tennessee: A Bicentennial History (1975), and she serves as the Tennessee State Historian.

Wilma passed away in December 2006.


Robert B. Peterson (Class of 1957)

The 1999 Distinguished Alumnus Award was presented to Robert B. Peterson for his extraordinary service to the University of North Carolina at Asheville. Peterson has been a member of the UNCA Alumni Association Board of Directors and chairman of the UNCA Foundation Board, and is currently co-chair of UNCA’s capital campaign. He is a 1957 graduate of Asheville-Biltmore College, and later he received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Tennessee. A native of Asheville, Peterson retired as chief executive officer of Sky City Stores, a family-owned business. He is an ardent supporter of the university and his community, having served on many civic boards including the Arts Alliance, Optimist Club, Asheville-Buncombe Community Christian Ministry, Meals on Wheels and the Asheville Merchants Association. Peterson is a member of Emmanuel Lutheran Church and the High Street Banking Company board of directors. He is a past board member of the Country Club of Asheville and NationsBank. He and his wife, Barbara, have two adult children, Buzz and Cindy, and several grandchildren.


Wayne McDevitt (Class of 1975)

A native of Madison County, Wayne McDevitt was Chief of Staff to North Carolina’s Governor Hunt. Prior to that he was the Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources. A senior advisor to Gov. Jim Hunt since 1993, McDevitt previously was general manager and associate director of the North Carolina Arboretum. During Hunt’s first administration, he was regional manager of the N.C. Department of Natural Resources and Community Development, and later he held a key position with the Western Office of the Governor.

Chairman and chief executive officer of the North Carolina Democratic party in 1995-96, McDevitt has been active in government and politics since his college days at UNC Asheville. A 1975 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in political science, McDevitt has been a longtime proponent of higher education, championing many causes to benefit Western North Carolina and UNCA. Specifically, he has served on the UNCA Board of Trustees, UNCA Alumni Association Board of Directors, and as a special assistant to Chancellor David G. Brown during 1984-85. His many civic and governmental activities include work for Pack Place Education, Arts and Science Advisory Council, Appalachian Regional Commission, Economic Development Association of Western North Carolina, Asheville Revitalization Commission, Bele Chere Committee, United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County and Rural Economic Development Center and the UNC Asheville National Alumni Advisory Council Board of Directors. He and his wife Walda, have two children.



Michael Cogdill (Class of 1984)

Michael Cogdill, award-winning reporter for WYFF-TV in Greenville, South Carolina, was honored as UNCA’s 1997 Distinguished Alumnus during Founders Day celebrations on campus on October 5, 1997.

A cum laude member of the class of 1984, Cogdill worked as a reporter and anchor for WECT-TV in Wilmington, NC and WRDW-TV in Augusta, GA before coming to Greenville eight years ago. He is currently anchor of WYFF-TV’s 5:00 pm news and a general assignment reporter with a special emphasis on religious news.

During his career as a broadcaster, Cogdill has received more than twenty awards from the Radio and Television News Directors of the Carolinas and the Associated Press. He has also received eleven Emmy Awards–one in 1994 for his feature “Man of the Mountain” and two additional awards for his 1995 coverage of the Susan Smith murder case in Union, SC.



Thomas D. Reynolds (Class of 1937)

Dr. Thomas D. Reynolds, retired professor of mathematics at Duke University, was presented the Distinguished Alumni Award at the annual Leadership and Academic Awards Banquet, held at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville May 2, 1996.

Reynolds was a 1937 graduate of Biltmore College, a forerunner of UNCA. He earned his Ph.D. in mathematics from Duke University. Dr. Reynolds served as an associate professor of mathematics at Duke from 1953 until 1971, also serving on the North Carolina State Advisory Council on Teacher Education and Professional Standards, and serving as chair of the Mathematics Committee on Guidelines and Standards for Programs in Teacher Education. In 1972, Dr. Reynolds began a career as a land surveyor, becoming owner of the Black Mountain, NC-based Reynolds Co. in 1983.

Through his active involvement with the Alumni Association, Dr. Reynolds perpetuated his family’s close relationship with UNCA until his passing in 1997. His wife, Lillian Osbourne Reynolds, also graduated from Biltmore College in 1937. His father, A.C. Reynolds, helped found Buncombe County Junior College, which grew to become UNCA. The Reynolds Award, presented annually to the UNCA senior who is most outstanding in citizenship, was founded by Mary and Martin Nesbitt.



Roy A. Taylor (Class of 1929) – posthumously

The late Roy A. Taylor, former U.S. representative and first President of UNCA’s Alumni Association, was honored posthumously with the first Distinguished Alumni Award at the Annual Leadership and Academic Awards Banquet, held at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville May 4, 1995.

Taylor graduated from Buncombe County Junior College (one of UNCA’s predecessors) as valedictorian of the Class of 1929. He served for 30 years as an official at local, state, and federal levels, introducing legislation that led to state funding of junior colleges. His work was instrumental in UNCA’s evolution into a four-year educational institution.

Taylor served as a member of the university’s Board of Trustees and established the Roy A. Taylor Public Speaking Scholarship Prize, awarded to a UNCA student each spring. In 1986, he was awarded UNCA’s first honorary Doctor of Law degree. He was presented the UNCA Chancellor’s Medallion–the university’s highest award for volunteer service–in 1991.