Alumni News Roundup 2021: Driving Business in Charlotte and Beyond

Alumni News Roundup 2021: Driving Business in Charlotte and Beyond
Wednesday, December 22, 2021
Business Niners made an impact amid the pandemic’s uncertainty.

In 2021, Belk College of Business alumni proved they are willing to pivot, grow, lead and share their wisdom with those who come behind them. 

Despite the continuing global pandemic, Business Niners across the world made a positive impact on business, their communities and in their careers in 2021. Alumni also gave back to the college and the University, as speakers at events and as volunteers. Here are just a few highlights. 

Alumni Accomplishments 

Four alumni were among the most influential leaders across North Carolina, according to Business North Carolina’s inaugural most influential leaders power list: Scott Carlton ‘97 MBA, president at Tokai Carbon GE; Chris Peek ‘93, president of CaroMont Health; Rebecca Whitemarsh ‘11 MBA, area director of operations for Northwood Hospitality; and John Cato ‘73, chairman and president of the Cato Corp. 

Kimberly Best ‘16 MBA was appointed by Governor Roy Cooper to serve as a Mecklenburg County Superior Court Judge

In November, four outstanding alumni and friends were honored at the 2021 Belk College Alumni Awards, which was presented as a livestream broadcast. Derrick Steele ‘97, a partner in EY’s Financial Services Office, received the Belk College’s highest honor. Also recognized were: Violeta Ramírez ‘17 MBA , former interim chief executive officer and chief development officer for WellMedic Health Centers in Latin America; Mark Collard ‘89, alumni council leader and fundraising champion; and Ross Fowler, vice president of underwriting for Builders Mutual Insurance Co., honorary alumnus. 

During the University’s inaugural Niner Nation Week, Scott Lieberman ‘12 and Ashleigh Sheehy ‘13 were recognized by the UNC Charlotte Young Alumni Chapter as two of the 10 under Ten Award recipients.  

Dontá Wilson ’98, chief digital and client experience officer for Truist Financial, was appointed and  Dennis Bunker ‘81 was reappointed to UNC Charlotte’s Board of Trustees.. 

Rose Brown ‘17 was awarded the UNC Charlotte Black Alumni Chapter Excellence in Leadership Award for Public Service.   

Alumni Driving Business 

Here are just a few of the ways Belk College alumni are driving business in Charlotte and beyond.

Three alumni were featured in a video series celebrating the College’s 50th anniversary by highlighting alumni, students and faculty, and their impact in Charlotte. Included in the “Green and Gold Drive Business” series were Kristin Cagney ‘19 MBA, founder of Summit Seltzer, Jane Wu ‘07 M.S. Mathematical Finance and Christopher Moxley ‘03, co-founder of 704 Shop.   

50 Business Niner alumni across three continents helped to celebrate the college’s 50th anniversary by answering the call to submit photos and video messages for a commemorative video, “Green and Gold Drive Business Around the Globe.” 

Keil Arrginton ‘08  and Chuck Kistler ‘06 opened Vaulted Oak Brewing in a former bank building in the east Charlotte neighborhood of Oakhurst. In December Vaulted Oak was named the QC Nerve’s 2021 Best in the Nest Best New Brewery.

Jabbar Jamison ‘08 MBA spoke about his experience in the MBA program and founding J&G Legacy Financial Group to focus on the gap between the African-American community and wealth management. 

Two recent Doctorate in Business Administration alumni leveraged their academic research to support business resilience in Charlotte. Marcy Brinkley ‘21 DBA explored information technology governance and corporate risk disclosure in relation to cybersecurity to help organizations better predict the risk of data breaches. Janice Wise ‘21 DBA focused her research on entrepreneurship among low-income households.  

Leigh Goller ‘93, chief audit and compliance officer for Duke University and Health System and a member of the Turner School Advisory Board; Alex Burris ‘91, the senior vice president of technology at Lennar Multifamily Communities (LMC), and Chris Summer ’03, ’04, managing director at Grant Thornton, LLP, shared how the pandemic has accelerated the use of technology in the field of accounting. 

Ray Curry ‘03 was elected president of UAW International, which represents more than 1 million active and retired members. 

Ryan Gellert ‘94, CEO of Patagonia, was highlighted in The New York Times on his mission “to save our home planet.”

Ryan McDaniels ‘01, executive director of Lake Norman Economic Development, was highlighted in The Charlotte Business Journal for his work increasing industrial development in Huntersville. 

Entrepreneurs Kristin Cagney ‘19 MBA with Summit Seltzer, Bryan Delaney ‘03 with EO Accelerator-Charlotte and Christopher Moxley ‘03 with 704 Shop represented the Belk College at a reception for the UNC System’s Board of Governors that focused on how their business education is driving innovation and pushing our economy forward in the Charlotte region.

Alumnae Shanyn Viars ‘15,‘16 and Sofia Nussbaum ‘18, ‘21 were highlighted in an article celebrating the 30th anniversary of the M.S. in Economics program. Viars is an economic and policy research associate at American Rivers, a conservation organization based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Nussbaum is the owner of Crunch Bistro, a restaurant in Uptown Charlotte. 

Manual Zapata ‘69, ‘72 and Verl Purdy ‘73 spoke about their experience in the first graduating class of the MBA program at UNC Charlotte for an article celebrating the program’s 50th anniversary. 

Eight Belk College alumni-owned businesses were included in UNC Charlotte’s “9 Niner-Owned Places to Eat, Drink and Be Merry” list, including: 

  • The Open Kitchen: Stephanos Skiouris ‘13 and Christina Skiouris ‘76  
  • Red Rocks Cafe, Bar and Bakery: Jim Love ‘84 MBA
  • El Puro Cuban Restaurant and Havana Carolina Restaurant and Bar: Manny Perez ‘21 and Ana Acela ‘22 
  • The Office Craft Bar and Kitchen and Blue Bar and Smokehouse: James Rivenbark ‘05, ‘20 MBA
  • Royal Bliss Brewing: Larry Griffin Jr. ‘84 
  • Vaulted Oak Brewing: Keil Arrington ‘08 and Chuck Kistler ‘06
  • Pharr Mill Brewing: Alston Richardson ‘07 

Alumni Giving Back

Business Niner alumni shared their insight, expertise and lessons learned through thought leadership programs for Belk College students, alumni and the business community in 2021. They also gave back to the University as volunteers.

Chris Peek ‘93, president and CEO of CaroMonth Health, and Kimberly Moore-Wright ‘95 were guests for the C-Suite Speaker Series in 2021. Moore-Wright also was one of five business leaders appointed to the Belk College Board of Advisors.

Belk College alumni, students and friends set a college 49-hour record raising over $96,000 during Niner Nation Gives, the sixth annual digital fundraising event. 

A $2.5 million gift from alumni Robert A. and Melanie Niblock ‘84 established the Niblock Scholarship program, a unique scholarship program that launched this fall to support Belk College undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need. The gift brings Niblock’s total support for the Belk College to $5 million.

In June, the Belk College Alumni Council co-hosted a virtual panel discussion, “Discussing Diversity: A Place to Begin” moderated by Kevin Bailey, UNC Charlotte’s vice chancellor for student affairs. 

Fourteen alumni leaders were elected to serve on the Belk College of Business Alumni Council beginning July 1.  

Kelley Earnhardt Miller ‘95, vice president and co-owner of JR Motorsports and daughter of NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt, headlined Belk Talks Business, discussinge her book, “Drive: 9 Lessons to Win in Business and in Life,” with alumna and moderator, Ghada Ternanni ‘16. 

Darin Stafford ‘94 and Jessica Medlin ‘05 served as panelists for the Dean’s Leadership Series, participating in the conversation on how risk management can help reduce the financial impact of COVID-19. Stafford is the Chief Financial Officer at AmWINS Group, Inc. and Medlin is the senior vice president for ECM Solutions. 

Belk College Alumni Council member David McKenzie ‘88 coordinated the second annual scouting food drive, collecting 2,630 pounds of food and $300 in cash and grocery store card donations for the Jamil Niner Student Pantry. Participants included Belk College alumni Nick Sulak ‘07, Rob Brendle ‘18, Christopher Moxley ‘03 and members of the Belk College of Business Alumni Council. 

Elliott Bryant ‘85, senior vice president at Allscripts Health, was named vice chair of the Belk College Board of Advisors 

Honorary Belk College alumnus Ross Fowler served as the director for the fourth annual Risk Management and Insurance golf tournament that raised over $60,000 for student scholarships  through alumni and industry partner support. 

Scott Lieberman ‘12, chair of the Belk College Alumni Council, was recognized on the field during the seventh annual Belk College Day alumni tailgate and football game.  

Robert Rowell ’81 made a gift of $100,000 to the UNC Charlotte Harper-Thomas Legacy Endowment for Study Abroad. 

Susan DeVore ‘81, who retired in May after more than a decade as CEO of Premier Inc., shared lessons she learned throughout her career as the keynote speaker at the Women in Business Signature Event in November. Honorary alumnus Jim Boylan and Veronica Calderon ‘12 MBA led students, alumni and employers through two learning sessions. 

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