Meet the 2021 Belk College Alumni Award Honorees

Wednesday, November 3, 2021
Virtual ceremony honored alumni and friends in four cities and two countries.

UNC Charlotte’s Belk College of Business honored four alumni and friends for their accomplishments, service and dedication to the college during the virtual 2021 Belk College Alumni Awards, which premiered on Wednesday, Nov. 3, as part of the inaugural Niner Nation Week

The seventh annual Belk College Alumni Awards ceremony, presented by the Belk College Alumni Council, premiered through UNC Charlotte’s livestream. With honorees living in four cities and two countries, the awards video included interviews filmed in Monterrey, Mexico, New York and Charlotte. 

The ceremony, which included a video of each honoree, was hosted by Belk College Dean Jennifer Troyer.

“This year’s Belk College Alumni Awards honorees represent the growing diversity of our 34,000+ alumni,”  Troyer said. “Please join me in congratulating these distinguished Business Niners on their achievements. We are proud to call them alumni, friends and advocates.”


Distinguished Alumni Award 

Derrick Steele '97 Derrick Steele ‘97, a partner in EY’s Financial Services Office, received the Belk College’s highest honor, the Distinguished Alumni Award. 

Through hardwork and determination, Steele rose to become a partner at EY, one of the Big Four accounting firms. Steele, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Accounting, has had a distinguished career as a business leader and executive with over 25years of experience in providing advisory services to large financial services firms, insurance companies and asset management clients. He serves as the Americas Process & Controls Leader for EY’s Financial Services Office. Prior to joining EY in 2002, he began his career as an auditor at NationsBank.

Steele has served on the board of advisors for the Turner School of Accountancy and also serves on the board of Youth About Business, a non-profit that focuses on introducing underserved youth to the world of business.

“From my first time on campus, I knew that was the place I wanted to attend,” Steele said. “I don’t think words could put into perspective what UNC Charlotte has armed me with. The ability to give back to my alma mater is something that I cherish.”

The award celebrates alumni who have had a transforming influence on the college and the community over a lifetime.


Distinguished Alumni Service Award

Mark Collard '89 Mark Collard ‘89 received the Distinguished Service Award. 

Collard, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, served on the Belk College Alumni Council as the chair of the development committee and spearheaded alumni fundraising efforts to endow the Belk College Alumni Scholarship Fund. He has also served on the UNC Charlotte Alumni Association Board of Directors and has spent countless hours on the Charlotte 49ers football sideline and in the sports information booth as a statistician. 

He was also a strong supporter of Niner Nation Gives and member of the 1946 Society that recognizes consecutive years of giving back to the University. The award recognizes outstanding service to the Belk College.

“Service to me is contagious,” Collard said. “The Belk College gave me the tools to be successful, and now I’m using the tools to be successful back. Be connected, stay involved. We all have that talent inside of us. Find out what you can do to make that difference.”  


Outstanding Young Alumni Award

Violeta Ramirez '17 MBA Violeta Ramírez ‘17 MBA received the Outstanding Young Alumni Award. Ramirez is actively engaged as a human resources strategy consultant, business advisor, board member, executive talent lead, and homeschool mom for her 9- and 7-year olds.  

Ramírez runs a family-owned consulting firm and previously served as the interim chief executive officer and chief development officer for WellMedic Health Centers in Monterrey, Mexico. WellMedic, one of the most innovative medical centers in Latin America, connects doctors and patients with cutting-edge technology to create consultations anywhere in the world.

Ramírez earned a Dual Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree in Global Business Strategy from UNC Charlotte and EGADE Business School at Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico, one of the Belk College’s global partners.

“My MBA degrees have helped me grow in my career.  They have given me a broader perspective, a greater insight and the possibility to discover my own areas of potential that I hadn’t discovered yet,” Ramírez said. “I feel deeply honored and grateful to be the recipient of this award. It brings me great joy and a huge sense of responsibility to keep my commitment to do better and to continue growing.” 

The award recognizes an alumnus/a who is under 40, has demonstrated achievement and shows a promising future in business.

Honorary Alumni Award 

Ross Fowler Ross Fowler, vice president of underwriting for Builders Mutual Insurance Co., received the Honorary Alumni Award. 

Fowler is a member of the Belk College Risk Management and Insurance Advisory Board and founded the annual Risk Management and Insurance Golf Tournament. The tournament, in its fourth year, has raised $190,000 to create financial support from industry partners for student scholarships.

The tournament has exceeded its fundraising goal each year, helping students complete their degrees or navigate unexpected emergency expenses.

“One thing I feel strongly about is service leadership. The higher you get in an organization, the more you need to serve,” Fowler said. “What the risk management and insurance program does well is the instruction and the content. The instructors, the college’s location in Charlotte, and how students are able to take advantage of the business community around them are what make the RMI program so strong.”  

The award recognizes individuals who, while not graduates of the Belk College, have made significant contributions to its leadership, vision and educational mission.

The awards also included an introduction by Scott Lieberman ‘12, chair of the Belk College Alumni Council, and student and alumni presenters: Fernando Mayoral '17 MBA; Ekua Brew '22 Accounting; Raechel Hardeman '21 Finance; and Amy Kidder '22 Accounting.

The Belk College of Business Alumni Awards program, which is usually held during Homecoming, is one of several programs and events offered to engage the business community and the college’s more than 34,000 alumni.

Green and Gold Drive Business
Established in 1970, the Belk College of Business offers business education programs at the undergraduate, master’s, doctoral and executive levels. The Belk College is one of the Carolinas’ largest business schools, with more than 5,000 students, more than 100 full-time faculty, and more than 34,000 alumni. Accredited by AACSB International, the college is committed to building strong partnerships in the greater Charlotte region and beyond as North Carolina's urban research business school. Learn more about how the Belk College is driving business at, and on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.