Eats & Drinks
MAKING THEIR MARK
to the Hilltop
A Publication for Alumni and Friends Fall/Winter 2019 | Volume 44, Number 1
The Department of Art and Art History held its annual Iron Pour
event Oct. 4. The event features food, music, and the chance to
create a piece of art. The BSC Art Students League sells sand
blocks so those who attend can make their own designs; then
Sloss Metal Arts experts pour molten iron into the designs. Learn
more about sculpture workshops in casting, welding and forging
(no metalwork experience required) at slossmetalarts.com.
Letter from the President
After more than a decade in Connecticut, Brooke and I moved home to Birmingham 10 years ago.
We wanted our children to grow up in our hometown, and we were eager to become involved in ways
that could make a difference.
Brooke soon joined the boards of several nonprofits and, on a regular basis, she ran into graduates of
Birmingham-Southern College. She would argue that no other institution is as well represented as BSC
in nonprofit leadership positions in Birmingham.
I soon understood what she was talking about. As I invested in Birmingham businesses and real estate,
I encountered alumni at law firms, commercial real estate development firms, and start-up companies.
All of the alumni we met seemed to have one trait in common: They were purposefully engaged in
our community. There must be something about the BSC experience that is different because there is
something different about BSC graduates. They have an outsized impact on the world around them.
It is unlikely that everyone shares the same sense of community engagement when they arrive, but
there is something about learning, exploring, and growing on the Hilltop that inspires young people to
become involved in the surrounding community even before they graduate.
Even as campus traditions and culture have evolved for today’s world, they remain true to the mission
of the College established by the Methodist Church and built on the teachings of John Wesley:
“Do you not know that God entrusted you with that money (all above what buys necessities for your
families) to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to help the stranger, the widow, the fatherless; and,
indeed, as far as it will go, to relieve the wants of all mankind?”
That fundamental mission is as strong as ever – more than 85 percent of our students participate in
community service projects – and it will remain the lodestar of our educational process for the next
In this edition of ’Southern, you will read about graduates, from many professions and backgrounds,
who share a common sense of purpose: They all strive to make Birmingham better.
From what I see of our alumni and our students, the work they do and the efforts they make on
campus and off, I am optimistic for their future as well as the future of my hometown.
Daniel B. Coleman
BSC’s 16th President
Daniel B. Coleman was appointed Birmingham-
Southern College’s 16th president in November
2018. Coleman, who was CEO of the global financial
services firm KCG Holdings until its 2017 sale, has
been a member of the College’s Board of Trustees
and an adjunct professor of finance. Coleman earned
his B.A. in English at Yale University and an M.B.A. at
the University of Chicago. In his four years at KCG,
he raised more than $1 billion of debt, cut costs,
restructured businesses, and after four years sold the
company with an 80% return for investors. Coleman
and his wife, Brooke, a fellow Birmingham native, have
three children. They returned to Birmingham in 2009.
The BSC Black Student Union hosted two voter
registration events in September.
VOLUME 44, NUMBER 1
Daniel B. Coleman, President
Denson N. Franklin III, Chair,
Board of Trustees
’Southern magazine is published
by the Office of Communications
at Birmingham-Southern College,
Birmingham, Alabama 35254.
Non-profit postage paid at B’ham.,
AL Permit No. 2575.
Postmaster: Send address
changes to Alumni Engagement,
900 Arkadelphia Road, Box
549003, Birmingham, AL 35254;
telephone (800) 523-5793; or visit
10 Stockham Building
900 Arkadelphia Road
Birmingham, AL 35254
Phone: (205) 226-4922
Virginia Gilbert Loftin
Vice President for Advancement
Director of Communications
Assistant Director of
Assistant Director of
Photographer and Videographer
Dustin Massey ’12
Office of Alumni Engagement
Jennifer Waters ’86
2 / ’southern
The Next Chapter
Giving to BSC
Students in the City
New BSC students tour
Birmingham’s historic landmarks
Alumni work to better
Birmingham through service,
nonprofit work, and more.
Making Their Mark
A look at how BSC graduates
have practiced engaged
citizenship through the decades.
‘SOUTHERN MAGAZINE // VOLUME 44, NUMBER 1
Birmingham Eats & Drinks
Treat your taste buds at alumni-owned
eateries and bars across the city.
Farm to Table
Chef Chris DuPont ’85 created a
fine-dining destination in the heart
Coming Home to
Scenes from BSC’s 2019
Meet the 2019 Alumni Awards
BSC Across the Miles
Alumni tell us about the cities they
call home and how they connect with
BSC from miles away.
Examining Jim Crow
In March, Associate Professor of History Dr. William Hustwit
unveiled his new book, “Integration Now: Alexander v. Holmes and
the End of Jim Crow Education.” He explores the often-ignored
1969 landmark Supreme Court case and assesses its significance in
integrating the South’s public schools.
“Although Brown v. Board of Education has rightly received
the lion’s share of historical analysis, its ambiguous language
for implementation led to more than a decade of delays and
resistance by local and state governments,” Hustwit says. “Alexander
v. Holmes required ‘integration now,’ and less than a year later,
thousands of children were attending integrated schools.”
By combining a narrative of the larger legal
battle surrounding the case and the
story of the local activists
who pressed for change,
Hustwit offers an innovative
account of a legal decision
that reaches from the
cotton fields of Mississippi
to the chambers of the
In October, BSC announced its 2019-2020 class of Panther Partners,
a cohort of 68 students – selected through a competitive process
– and Birmingham-area professionals. The intensive, structured
program matches students with mentors in their field of interest to
help them achieve individualized educational and career goals.
The 2019-2020 class of mentors includes 15 alumni:
Carrie Beth Gantt Buchanan ’05, Instructional Specialist,
Jefferson County Schools
Brad Cherry ’01, attorney at Maynard, Cooper & Gale, P.C.
Hunter Craig ’00, Managing Director at Highland Associates
Onna Cunningham ’08, Vice President of Operations at Devote
Cristin Gavin, Ph.D. ’06, Assistant Professor of Neurobiology at UAB
Casey Lambert ’15, Financial Analyst at BBVA USA
Kathryn Cannon Lavender ’92, Chief Operating Officer at Porter
White and Company
Jonathan Prince ’02, Second Vice President and Actuary at
Matthew Penfield ’92, attorney at Bressler, Amery & Ross P.C.
Elizabeth Gniadek Peters, M.D. ’94, pediatrician at Children’s of
Alabama/Mayfair Medical Group
Margaret Ann Renneker Pyburn ’84, Executive Vice President for
Sales at Cobbs Allen
Ashley Rhea ’11, attorney at Rhea Law LLC
Erin Kendrick Stephenson ’01, Vice President, Client and
Community Relations Director at PNC Financial Services Group
Harrison Walker, M.D. ’97, Associate Professor of Neurology and
Medical Director for Brain Stimulation at UAB
Hanlon Walsh ’12, Public Relations Specialist at Peritus Public
To volunteer as a mentor, contact Katy Smith at (205) 226-3037
4 / ’southern
After an E-term class on the sociology of therapy and service
animals, a group of Birmingham-Southern students were inspired to
educate others on the different types of support animals, and now
their work is being seen nationwide.
The BSC students wrote, directed, and starred in a video, published
and filmed by the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and
Disability (NCHPAD). The final video, which explains the difference
between service dogs and emotional support animals (ESAs), was
released this September in honor of National Service Dog Month.
After extensive training, a service dog completes tasks that assist
and protect the handler, an individual with disabilities. This bond
forms the long-term “team” of a handler and his or her service dog, a
connection that can often be misunderstood and legally complex.
Dr. Meghan Mills, assistant professor of sociology, developed
her E-term class around the misunderstandings of support animals
and the legal intricacies behind each type of animal. Her research
focuses on these issues, and Mills herself is accompanied by her
own service dog, Arrow.
“I think it’s an important social issue as more people use service
dogs and as more laws change,” she says. “I’d definitely say that the
prevalence of service dogs is increasing. There’s more interest in how
they can help different disabilities.”
When Mills first came to BSC, she pitched the idea for the class.
She partners with Hand in Paw, a nonprofit organization that trains
therapy dogs, allowing students to work with dogs in the class.
Students take part in training exercises, observe therapy animal visits
at Children’s of Alabama and The Exceptional Foundation, and hear
more about Mills’ own research on the sociology of service dogs and
For junior religion and sociology major Olivia Seckinger, learning
the difference between the types of support animals was extremely
impactful. The animals that college students have for emotional
support in their dorm rooms do not have the training that therapy
dogs and service dogs must have. These differences are what she
focused on as the student director of the NCHPAD video.
“We wanted to create something that could benefit everyone
outside of our campus, but this is also a huge issue on our campus,”
Seckinger says. “Not many people know the difference between
these kinds of support animals. We wanted the video to help
students at BSC.
Seckinger wrote the script for the video, which features two
teams of handlers and service dogs: junior Austin Cooper with Fitz
and Hannah Collier ’19 with Arrow. Collier worked as Mills’ TA
and knew Arrow well enough to complete tasks with him. Amelia
Guarino ’19 and her emotional support cat, Colby, are also featured.
The video follows students and faculty who learn how to treat
service dogs and presents the proper etiquette surrounding teams.
Service dogs only complete tasks for their handler, and, unlike what
most people believe, there is no legal registration that has to be
shown for a service dog in a public place.
“I was interested in the difference between service dogs and
emotional support animals and how they help people, especially
since some people lie and use it as an excuse to have a pet on
campus,” Seckinger says.
Dr. Meghan Mills
In her course and her research, Mills explores how the increase in
handlers with support animals comes with an increase of people who
lie about their needs. The false representation, in turn, leads to a greater
amount of questioning towards service dog handlers and discrimination
of those who truly need them.
“I’m interested in visible versus invisible disabilities as a sociologist.
Some people get more questions of legitimacy,” Mills says. “Falsely
presenting pets as service animals because of convenience can be
detrimental to real teams.”
Seckinger says that she’s seen a noticeable increase in the amount of
support animals on campus, especially ESAs who stay in residence halls.
Depending on the disability, service dogs and ESAs can be helpful for an
individual’s wellness, and more professionals are recognizing that.
“When barriers exist in the campus environment that present
challenges for students accessing academics, programming, activities,
events, and living in the residence halls, then utilizing service animals
and assistance animals may be valuable for students,” says Angie Smith,
coordinator of academic
Outside of the classroom,
Mills continues to bring
awareness to these social
Watch “Service Dogs 101”
issues due to this growing frequency of support animals. She leads
professional development and legal education sessions through
Children’s of Alabama and St. Vincent’s Birmingham, since medical
professionals need to be aware of the facts but can sometimes be the
least aware. Mills leads Arrow in a demonstration and speaks about her
personal story, all as volunteer work to educate the community.
“It’s harder because they’re dogs, but service dogs are medical
equipment. You wouldn’t pet or greet a wheelchair,” she says. “You have
to see the person before the animal.”
To learn more about having a support animal on BSC’s campus, reach out
to Angie Smith at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
FALL/WINTER 2019 / 5
LITTLE FOOT PROVIDES ANSWERS
Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Jason Heaton served as the lead scientist in a study of
an early human skeleton, Little Foot, which sheds light on the evolution of humans.
In July, Heaton and an international team published their research on the nearly
complete Australopithecus skeleton from Sterkfontein, South Africa. With a focus on
movement, the research includes descriptions of the arm and leg bones that reflect patterns
Nicknamed “Little Foot,” the Australopithecus human group moved upright on two legs
like we do. This trait separates human lineage from modern apes and four-leg movement,
and Heaton’s research now provides more insight into this evolution.
“Because of its completeness, Little Foot will allow us to test hypotheses about the
behavior of these early groups in ways that have been difficult to do to date,” Heaton says.
The scientists considered the role of trees in the day-to-day movement of Little Foot and
their relatives. Primates that spend more time moving and climbing through trees reflect
that mode of locomotion through longer upper limbs.
Considering this question of movement, the scientists examined the skeleton’s upper
and lower limbs, including the arm, forearm, thigh, and leg, and the bones’ proportions in
relation to each other.
“Broadly, these proportions are indicative of an individual that spent less time in the
trees than modern chimpanzees and regularly moved around bipedally, or on two feet,”
Heaton explains. “The degree to which the limb anatomy of Little Foot deviates from that
of chimpanzees, our closest living relatives, may be a reflection of the latter’s evolution.”
Their conclusions are based on evidence of a shortened forearm and lengthened tibia
and femur bones, as well as the knee’s placement more directly under the pelvis for
improved bipedal balance. However, other evidence, like certain muscle attachments in the
arm, suggests some reliance on behavioral climbing.
Research will extend to other parts of the skeleton to address these conclusions and clarify
if certain traits developed from behavior or were only retained from Little Foot’s ancestors.
The study, titled “The long limb bones of the StW 573 Australopithecus skeleton from
Sterkfontein Member 2: Descriptions and proportions,” was published online in the
Journal of Human Evolution on July 4. The research is featured in the special issue devoted
to Little Foot.
6 / ’southern
T. Morris Hackney Professor of Physics Dr. Duane Pontius ’81 and
two recent Birmingham-Southern graduates have published research
that significantly advances our understanding of Saturn.
Though Saturn’s rotation period was measured in the 1980s as
10 hours and 40 minutes, the 2004 measurement during NASA’s
Cassini-Huygens mission was six minutes longer and varied for the
remaining 13 years of Cassini’s orbit. The planet’s northern and
southern hemispheres were also determined to rotate at different
speeds. Like most other researchers, Pontius long assumed that there
must be a problem with data interpretation.
“The idea that a planet could rotate at a completely different speed
over that short a period of time is too weird to actually happen,”
he says. However, a presentation at a research conference in 2015
convinced him that the phenomenon was real and worth exploring.
Pontius, ready to explain this oddity, brought the discussion
and research to his BSC students. During their summer research in
2016, physics majors Christopher Fernandez ’17 and Eli Brooks
’18 worked through the algebra and calculus to model the idea they
developed with Pontius.
“When you do research like this, you not only don’t know the
answer. Sometimes you don’t even know the question. You have to
fumble and generate ideas that have never been thought of before,”
The summer before, he worked with other students to eliminate
a lot of ideas without finding one that worked. However, Pontius,
Fernandez, and Brooks settled on an idea, Pontius gave them a
conceptual framework, and the students cranked through the
mathematics in the BSC physics lounge.
With guidance from Pontius, they developed a model to explain
Saturn’s inconsistency in two months, described in the paper’s plain
“As charged particles move through Saturn’s magnetic field (its
magnetosphere), they change rotational speed, just as ballet dancers
change speed by shifting their limbs. This puts electromagnetic stress
on the planet’s atmosphere and causes a high‐altitude layer to rotate
more slowly. The summer hemisphere is more directly exposed to
solar ultraviolet radiation, which makes it conduct electricity better.
Electrical currents go preferentially to that hemisphere which slows
the atmosphere more than in the winter hemisphere. The result
is a longer summer period compared to the winter. As the seasons
change, the rotation periods should swap between North and South,
as is observed.”
With the research and proposed explanation, the three co-authors
have opened the door for other questions and curiosities regarding
the gaseous planet. Pontius now plans to study Saturn’s magnetic
field, which has no tilt and is perfectly symmetric yet sends out
periodic signals. He will again open up the process to BSC student
“We solved one basic mystery, but there are other secondary
mysteries that we can now go on and investigate,” Pontius says.
“We now have a start to keep looking at Saturn.”
DISTINCTION IN BLACK STUDIES
Assistant Professor of Political Science Dr. Desireé Melonas has worked since 2017 to create
a focused study on the Black experience. BSC’s recently established Distinction in Black Studies
program introduces students to the political, social, economic, and historical dimensions animating
the lives of Black people in Africa and the African diaspora.
“Taking into account that BSC is situated in Birmingham, we need to have curriculum that reflects
a broad set of interests as we make active efforts to build a more diverse and inclusive environment,”
Faculty from departments of political science, history, and media and film studies came together
in spring 2018 to develop course ideas and determine a direction for the transdisciplinary distinction.
This fall, students quickly enrolled in and filled up the flagship introductory course.
“The program was already something students needed. We just responded,” Melonas says.
Turn to page 10 to learn more about Melonas.
FALL/WINTER 2019 / 7
Connor Hansen and Allen Packwood
When in Cambridge
For five days in June, Connor Hansen lived the life of a
true British scholar, studying historical documents by day and
discussing big ideas over dinner by night.
Hansen, a senior history major from Fort Collins, Colorado, is
BSC’s inaugural Hardin-Churchill Scholar. He received funding to
conduct research at the Churchill Archives Centre at the University
of Cambridge’s Churchill College through the Hardin-Churchill
Archives Centre Endowed Travel Award, established with gifts from
numerous friends in honor of Edward L. Hardin Jr. ’62. The archive
includes 2,500 boxes of papers produced between 1874 and 1965
relating to Winston Churchill’s personal life and political career.
Alongside the travel award, a gift from the late Robert B. Callahan
’50 and his wife, Ginger Callahan, underwrote access to the digitized
Churchill Archive and funded the Churchill Seminar Room in the
College’s library. BSC is now one of only 20 colleges and universities
in the United States with full access to the archive.
Before taking up his research on British policy in the Middle
East, Hansen toured London with his younger brother, visiting
museums that further inspired his research interests. By the second
week of his time abroad, he took on the life of a Churchill College
student, surrounded by fellow scholars in the archives, at dinner,
and in his residence hall.
“You never knew if the person sitting next to you would be a
Nobel Prize winner or not,” Hansen says, reflecting on the rich
conversation in the Churchill College dining hall. He also joined
Churchill Archives Director Allen Packwood at a High Table dinner, a
formal occasion for Cambridge post-doctoral fellows and faculty. The
traditional meal brings the same sophistication and magic that Harry
Potter readers find at Hogwarts’ opening feast.
Hansen has been interested in the Middle East since he began taking
history and Arabic courses at BSC. After recognizing this interest, his
faculty advisor and W. Michael Atchison Professor of History and
Law Dr. Mark Lester told him about the archives project and the
opportunity to study in Cambridge.
“I didn’t know much about Middle Eastern history before BSC,” Hansen
says. “The sheer amount of history in the old centers of civilization interests
me. And once you study a language, you bond with the people who speak
it, gain insight into their world, and learn the soul of who they are.”
The range of material in the archives allowed him to study Leo Amery,
a lifelong friend of Churchill and a fellow politician. Amery helped to
draft the Balfour Declaration, the British government’s 1917 statement
supporting a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine.
“Churchill has been written about by everyone, but Amery is more
obscure, especially in America,” Hansen says. “Because Amery had his
own vision of the British Empire, he undertook measures in the Middle
East that had very significant consequences. I had direct access to his
correspondence, speeches, and war cabinet briefings.”
The Hardin-Churchill endowment will continue to send one student to
Cambridge every summer, but thanks to the Callahans’ generosity, all BSC
students can access more than 800,000 pages of documents digitally. The
contents range from letters between political leaders and popular celebrities
to the report cards of a young Churchill and drafts of his most memorable
speeches, complete with handwritten notes scrawled in the margins.
The Churchill Seminar Room is located in the N.E. Miles
Library on the BSC campus. For more information,
visit library.bsc.edu or call (205) 226-4740.
8 / ’southern
EVENTS CALENDAR 2020
Biennial Southeastern High School Artists Competition
Durbin Gallery, Doris Wainwright Kennedy Art Center & Azar Studios
College Theatre/The Underground
BSC Faculty Exhibition
Durbin Gallery, Doris Wainwright Kennedy Art Center & Azar Studios
Faculty Recital: Margery MacDuffie Whatley, Piano
Hill Recital Hall
Winners of the Frances & Dorsey Whittington Competition
Hill Recital Hall
Provost’s Forum: Anticorruption Campaigns: Fight for What?
Faculty Recital Series: Lester Seigel, Organ
Hill Recital Hall
Provost’s Forum: Inclusion Is Not Only a Choice, But a Requirement
BSC Opera: “Little Red Riding Hood” and “A Game Of Chance”
Hill Recital Hall
Featured Speaker: Dr. Deborah Lipstadt, Professor of Modern Jewish
History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University
Bruno Great Hall
Durbin Gallery, Doris Wainwright Kennedy Art Center & Azar Studios
“35MM: A Musical Exhibition”
College Theatre/The Underground
Provost’s Forum: You’re Growing on Me: Interactions between
Western Mosquitofish and their Parasites
Forward Ever Day
An Online Day of Celebration and Giving
2020 Bachelor of Fine Arts Exhibition
Durbin Gallery, Doris Wainwright Kennedy Art Center
& Azar Studios
Provost’s Forum: Classroom Talk: When Culture, Teaching,
and Learning Collide
Steven Hesla Piano Recital
Hill Recital Hall
Provost’s Forum: Experiential Business Education in the Liberal Arts
Concert Choir Homecoming Performance
Hill Recital Hall
The Southern Chorale
Hill Recital Hall
Lizzy Borden, Rock Star!
BSC Symphonic & Jazz Bands Spring Performance
Hill Amphitheatre (Hill Recital Hall in case of inclement weather)
April 30-May 3
College Theatre Mainstage
Juried Student Exhibition
Durbin Gallery, Doris Wainwright Kennedy Art Center & Azar
Stravinsky’s Mass presented by the BSC Concert Choir
Hill Recital Hall
Hilltop Singers Season Finale
Hill Recital Hall
May 13 & 14
Student-Directed One Acts
College Theatre/The Underground
Visit www.bsc.edu for details and updates.
FALL/WINTER 2019 // 11 9
Dr. Desireé Melonas
Space and place – more than
a political theory
“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” - Plato
When you walk into Dr. Desireé Melonas’ office on the third
floor of the Harbert Building, you are greeted with this quote from
Plato, thoughtful reading list suggestions, and pictures of prominent
black figures, such as Frederick Douglass and Ida B. Wells, all placed
around the door frame.
As a political theorist of space and place, Melonas, assistant
professor of political science, often spends time contemplating what
she has chosen to surround herself with.
“I think about space a lot,” Melonas says. “I think about how
space shapes us, at the level of identity. I think about what goes into
constructing physical and social spaces.”
Adapting her office into a place where she felt inspired was an
important step when she arrived at Birmingham-Southern College
three years ago. A graduate of Saint Vincent College and Temple
University, Melonas came to BSC from Swarthmore College, where
she was a visiting assistant professor.
One of her first projects was to change the lighting and add
more comfortable seating, creating a softer, more humanized
environment for students and colleagues to come visit and have
discussions. Pictures of the people most important to her hang right
above her computer, as she wants to keep them in close proximity.
Beside these pictures, many cards filled with kindness are pinned to
“I see these as really, really beautiful reminders of how I have
been able to impact students,” Melonas says. “I appreciate their
willingness to share that with me, and I don’t think they truly
understand how meaningful their words are.”
Above her desk hangs the Bob Whetstone Faculty Development
Award that Melonas received in 2018 for excellence in teaching.
Melonas hopes to exemplify excellence in teaching through her
focus on a positive classroom dynamic. One way she does this
is by taking 10 minutes at the beginning of every class to have
conversations with students.
“I aim to cultivate an environment where students feel connected,
appreciated, and enabled,” says Melonas. “With this foundation, we
are then able to learn and teach other people.”
During her time at BSC, Melonas has focused on the development
of a black studies distinction and the addition of a political theory
focus in the political science department. Although both have since
been established, she wants to continue improving future course
offerings to students.
Beyond working to create new classroom opportunities, Melonas
is involved with the Black Women’s Union, the Mortar Board,
Students Demand Action, and the Diversity Committee. She also
helps with recruiting efforts for the BSC softball and football teams.
10 / ’southern
Pamela Grubbs-Lowery ’17
While we always appreciate Pamela Grubbs-Lowery’s hard work
welcoming transfer and nontraditional students to BSC, her afterwork
hobbies might be just as cool.
The BSC admission counselor dresses up as different movie,
literary, and comic book characters for cosplay conventions and
renaissance festivals throughout the year. Hela, the Marvel character
and recent “Thor: Ragnarok” villainess is her current favorite look.
“I love any reason to dress up,” she says, which she’s loved since she
was a kid. “Whenever my siblings and I finished classes, we dressed up
and played in the woods behind our house, usually as knights who’d
sword fight, or as pioneers who’d go hunting for acorns.”
In high school and especially as a student at BSC, Grubbs-
Lowery realized how widespread cosplay conventions were and got
more involved over time. She was immediately drawn to the tight
community and inclusivity she saw. The events allow her to express
her interest in comics, movies, and all things medieval.
The creativity Grubbs-Lowery puts into each costume design also
emerges in her crochet work. She’s been crocheting for 18 years, first
teaching herself from library books and with help from her dad.
While she’s participated in craft shows, crochet is mostly a hobby
that keeps her hands busy and results in fun and meaningful gifts.
Like her costumes, her crocheted pieces require the same
attention to detail. Grubbs-Lowery makes shawls, blankets, hats,
or other projects, often with her nieces and nephews in mind. But
within the intricate detailing of her hobbies and the time poured
into each piece, they provide a relaxing, fun escape.
“It’s a way to wind down after school or work, the way some
people watch sporting events or go to the beach a few times a year,”
Grubbs-Lowery says. “Conventions and festivals are my beach.”
BSC admitted a record number of transfer students in fall
2019, and the College has signed 11 articulation agreements with
community colleges in the region. Articulation agreements outline
the course requirements for degrees and how credits will transfer,
making the process more transparent. Once a transfer and
homeschooled student herself, Pamela Grubbs-Lowery supports
transfer and nontraditional students as they navigate the process
of admission and transition to a four-year institution.
FALL/WINTER 2019 / 11
A Cinderella Season
After dropping its first two series of the 2019 season to ranked teams, Birmingham-
Southern baseball rebounded in epic fashion. In May 2019, the Panthers went on a
13-game win streak across three weeks to improve to 15-4 overall, and thus begin their
Cinderella season and wild ride to the national spotlight.
BSC won nine of its last 10 regular season games, earning the Southern Athletic
Association regular season title. Sweeping both Oglethorpe University and Rhodes
College to win the tournament title and automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament,
BSC hosted No. 14 LaGrange College in a grueling five-game regional May 17-19.
Advancing to the Super Regionals for the first time in program history, BSC took
advantage of the opportunity and, in the May 24-25 series, swept No. 17 Coe College to
earn a spot in the College World Series.
“The atmosphere at the regionals and super regionals was phenomenal,” says Head
Coach Jan Weisberg. “The sendoff from the campus community when we came out
to Iowa was completely unexpected and awesome. We had not only family — we had
faculty, we had ex-players, we had fans. That support has been tremendous and it did lift
us. It did carry us here.”
BSC baseball finished the season second in the country, with two Rawlings Golden
Glove Award winners, seven all-region selections, 11 all-conference nods, and a new
program win record.
“These guys took us on a heck of a journey,” Weisberg says. “It’s been fun. This team
peaked at the right time. I think this is the most fun team that we’ve had.”
BSC’s Finest Enter the Hall
The T. B. Pearson Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2019 was inducted
over Homecoming weekend, honoring three student-athletes and
Walter Arrington ’11 finished his football career with 2,495
rushing yards and 32 total touchdowns. In 2007, he ranked second
in all-purpose yards in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference
(SCAC), which earned him Freshman of the Year honors and a
spot on the all-conference second team. During his senior season,
Arrington added a team and conference high of 1,185 yards and 11
touchdowns. He was named first team all-conference and the SCAC
Offensive Player of the Year.
Ashley Bice Culliver ’12 is the most decorated softball player in
program history. With a .455 batting average her freshman season,
she helped BSC to a top 25 national ranking. Culliver earned first
team all-conference honors both in her junior and senior seasons
as the Panthers won their first SCAC and second Eastern Division
titles as well as the SCAC Championship in 2012. She tied for first in
conference player of the year voting.
Drew Leachman ’11 helped jump start the newly transitioned
baseball program to Division III in 2008. He earned first-team
all-conference honors (2008, 2010, and 2011), first-team all-region
honors (2011), and the SCAC Offensive Player of the Year award
(2011). Leachman also received spots on the All-South Region First
Team and the American Baseball Coaches Association All-America
Team. During his freshman and junior seasons, the Panthers won
the SCAC Eastern Division title. In his final season, with the third
highest batting average in school history at .451, he led the Panthers
with 73 hits and 105 total bases. When Leachman graduated, he
12 / ’southern
MORE SPORTS NEWS:
Women’s volleyball finished Southern Athletic
Association play with a 13-1 record to claim
its first-ever regular season championship. The
Panthers made their third consecutive trip to the
NCAA Tournament Nov. 15-17. Head Coach
Haven O’Quinn was named SAA Coach of the
Year, and six Panthers earned all-conference
honors, headlined by Newcomer of the Year
Alyssa Coats. Named National Player of the Week,
senior middle blocker Rebecca Erwin is second
in the country for blocks and blocks per set. The
senior biology major also excels in the classroom
with a 3.9 cumulative GPA, and she was named
The football team held on to the Wesley Cup
with a 45-13 win over Huntingdon College,
marking the first time since 2012 that the Cup
remained on the Hilltop for consecutive years. The
Panthers won five of their last six games, including
a 28-15 win over conference champion and
nationally ranked Berry College on Homecoming.
BSC (7-3, 6-2 SAA) finished the season one game
away from a conference title. Helping lead the
team was junior running back Robert Shufford,
who was named a First-Team All-American by the
American Football Coaches Association. He’s the
first Panther to earn All-American honors since
2011. Senior political science major Austin Lewter
holds a 3.875 GPA, was named Academic All-
District, and serves as SGA President.
Under new head coach Katelyn Geddings,
women’s soccer finished tied for third in the
league. Five Panthers earned all-conference honors,
led by Newcomer of the Year Gabby Bernal. Junior
accounting major Abby Kay Choate has a 3.98
GPA and was named Academic All-District.
Men’s soccer had four all-conference nods,
headlined by Newcomer of the Year Coleman
Cross Country made a splash at conference
championships. Senior Marjorie Head placed
seventh overall. She went on to place 22nd at
the NCAA Regionals and was named both allconference
Indoor track and field hosted the BSC
Panther Indoor Invitational Dec. 6.
The swimming and diving teams had six
Athlete of the Week honors before Nov. 1.
Freshman diver Mallory Wilson set new
program records in both the 1-meter and
3-meter events. The men’s team is ranked No.
Basketball season is underway. As of Nov.20,
the women are off to a 3-0 start, led by senior
Emilee Olsen and sophomore Derienne Black.
Juniors Ben Spence and Christian Stewart
earned the first two SAA Player of the Week
honors of the season on the men’s side.
It’s been a busy fall for the Panthers. BSC
earned over 20 SAA Athlete of the Week
awards, six national weekly awards, three
SAA Newcomer of the Year awards, and
three Academic All-District honors, all before
ranked second in program history with a .412 career batting
average and was drafted by the Minnesota Twins.
Ann Templeton Dielen is BSC’s winningest and longesttenured
coach and the first coach of a reestablished program.
Her 41-year coaching career brought 678 victories to the
Hilltop for both men’s and women’s tennis teams. Dielen
led BSC teams to 40 total NAIA national tournament
appearances, four Division I winning seasons, and 10
Division III winning seasons. She has been honored as the
2016 Southern Athletic Association Coach of the Year, a
seven-time NAIA District Coach of the Year, the 1992 ITA
Women’s Coach of the Year, and as a member of the Georgia
State Athletics and Alabama Tennis Halls of Fame. BSC’s
tennis facility bears Dielen’s name.
FALL/WINTER 2019 / 13
the next chapter
Anna Marie Dobbins ’13
When you curl up this winter to watch the
newest made-for-TV Christmas movie, you may find
yourself watching a BSC alumna. Actor, dancer, and
model Anna Marie Dobbins starred in “Christmas
Matchmakers” on ION, sharing the screen with Vivica
A. Fox. And if you’re in Birmingham this holiday
season, you could even spot her around town.
Dobbins flies in from Los Angeles regularly to teach
dance at her mother’s studio, Linda Dobbins Dance in
Mountain Brook, which opened when Dobbins was
four years old. She fell in love with dance early on and
followed her passion for performance. As she grew up,
Dobbins also began traveling to Atlanta and Los Angeles
for dancing and acting opportunities.
Through her role in the 2011 “Footloose” remake,
which was filmed near Atlanta, Dobbins made
connections in the industry, but she still chose to stay in
Alabama and attend BSC.
“Even though I knew I wanted to move to L.A. after
college, I loved the programs at BSC,” she says. “In a
way, BSC drove me to go for the entertainment industry
because I wanted to be unique and set the bar.”
In addition to acting, Dobbins works as a
choreographer and dance instructor in Los Angeles.
Last year, she worked with Eric Roberts in the Lifetime
film “Stalked by my Doctor: Patient’s Revenge,” and has
recently taken on other darker roles.
“I never went for the devious role when I was
younger. It’s cool to see where your age takes you,”
Dobbins says. “I’m starting to play more nitty-gritty
roles rather than the girl next door.”
Her upcoming projects include the action movie
“Cross: Rise of the Villains,” starring Tom Sizemore and
Brian Austin Green, and the feature film “Women,”
which will be released next year.
In her busy schedule, packed with brand deals,
modeling, filming, and taking classes herself, Dobbins’
passion for what she does is clear through her dedication
to coming back to Birmingham and devoting time to
aspiring dancers like her younger self.
“Being surrounded by people in the industry keeps
you creative. Getting into different classes molds you
and keeps you on your toes,” she says.
Are you a graduate of the last decade? Tell us what you’re
doing next! Email email@example.com.
14 / ’southern
In August, BSC welcomed more than 385 new students to
campus, from across town, across the country, and around the
world. As part of orientation, students participated in Uniquely
Birmingham, choosing one of 17 locations across the city to
explore. The tourist destinations included the Birmingham
Museum of Art, 16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham
Civil Rights Institute, McWane Science Center, Sidewalk Film
Festival, Sloss Furnaces, and Southern Museum of Flight.
FALL/WINTER 2019 / 15
A city on the rise, BIRMINGHAM boasts historic theaters, AWARD-WINNING
restaurants, URBAN parks and trails, CREATIVE start-ups, and world-class
health care. And every element of today’s Birmingham is powered in part by a
BIRMINGHAM-SOUTHERN graduate. Meet nine of the numerous ALUMNI
who are fueling growth and service across the MAGIC CITY.
16 / ’southern
FALL/WINTER 2019 / 17
If we have a strong
community and metroarea,
it is going to make
it better for everybody.
ASHLEY RHEA ’11
As a reserved teen, Ashley Rhea never expected to be the incoming freshman
volunteering to run for SGA. But, after being elected as a Freshman Representative and
joining Chi Omega sorority, nothing could stop Rhea from being as involved as possible at
Since graduating, Rhea has made strides professionally and in the community by
continuing to push herself into action.
With a law degree from Samford University and experience representing companies at
Maynard Cooper & Gale, Rhea wanted to pursue her dream of practicing disability-related law.
She quickly realized that if she wanted to live her dream, the only option was to open her own
firm – so once again, Rhea took a chance and pushed herself into making a difference.
In August 2018, Rhea opened Rhea Law LLC, with the motto “Your case shouldn’t be
bigger than your disability.”
“I just did it,” Rhea says. “I felt like there was no reason to keep delaying. If you’re not
doing what you love, then you aren’t going to have motivation to work every day.”
Before going out on her own, Rhea took the time to research and meet with solo
practitioners. What she learned supported what she was already aware of from experience
with her own disability: there was a serious need in the community.
“If you have been discriminated against, your case is disabling and then you have your
actual, physical limitations,” Rhea says. “I can’t take away your limitation, but I can help
this disabling situation become less threatening to you.”
Rhea sees her own disability as a way to
connect with people and show them their
“Often it gets to the point where the
individual can’t negotiate anymore, so
sometimes they just need someone as a
third party to come in with additional
resources,” she says.
Rhea believes that the connections
she has made through civic involvement
have contributed to her firm’s success.
The Rotaract Club and Junior League of
Birmingham are just two ways that Rhea
stays plugged into her community.
Partnering with Birmingham-area nonprofits
is another crucial element of Rhea’s
community involvement. In order to stay
up-to-date on the resources available to
people in the community, she works with
the Lakeshore Foundation, Disability
Rights and Resources, and Alabama
Disabilities Advocacy Program.
Through her law firm, Rhea hopes to add
one more service to the available resources
for people with disabilities.
From studies at BSC in history and
political science, internships during law
school, and partnerships with Alabama
Possible, Rhea saw that statistically,
people with disabilities are the most
underemployed sector in Alabama.
Children with disabilities are also
affected, as they are routinely left behind
and not pushed to the same level of success.
Rhea has a lot of hope for the state’s ability
to improve these issues, and continues to
focus beyond her career on advocacy.
“Whatever is happening now will affect
future generations,” she says. “I live in
Vestavia, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t
pay attention to what is happening in
West Birmingham. If we have a strong
community and metro-area, it is going to
make it better for everybody.”
18 / ’southern
When Terrence Ingram decided to major
in music at BSC, he didn’t know exactly where
that would take him. He just knew music was
his passion, and he was determined to fill his
education with a subject he enjoyed.
Music is now central to what Ingram does as
the founder and CEO of LegacyWorks, a program
that uses life coaching, engaging curriculum,
and music production to support Birmingham’s
urban youth and help them succeed.
“When people think of excellence, they
tend to point outside of urban areas. We
want the urban youth in our city to reverse
that,” Ingram says. “I believe that in 20
to 40 years, we can see unprecedented
growth and economic independence in
Birmingham’s urban communities.”
After graduating from BSC, Ingram became
a Teach For America corps member and took
a position in Nashville, teaching seventh and
eighth grade inner city students. There, he
also found his passion for education, another
essential component of LegacyWorks.
“I saw students’ gifts and talents but also a
lack of direction,” he says. “It was in my blood
Ingram returned to Birmingham and later
began working for Scantron Corporation,
which led him to Martha Gaskins Elementary
School in the Roebuck neighborhood in 2018.
While he was there to explain new end-of-year
tests, an instructional coach suggested he might
be there for a deeper purpose.
From there, Ingram and his team of
friends developed a plan to invest in the
community and Birmingham’s youth. They
launched a pilot program at Martha Gaskins
last August and began to build relationships
with six students. Most members of the team,
including Ingram, work full-time day jobs yet
spend their evenings focused on LegacyWorks
and its growth.
“It’s a people business, fueled by passion,”
Ingram says. “I’m always energized when
working to accomplish our objectives.”
LegacyWorks soon expanded from in-school
to after-school and weekend programs, held
at Homewood Church of Christ. Students
take classes on a variety of skills and trades,
including speech, agriculture, and auto
mechanics. The program also includes time for
youth, ages 10 to 16, to be with mentors who
they can “do life with.”
Inspiring them to create, LegacyWorks
includes a production course that allows every
student to play a role in making and recording
music and video. Mentorship and educational
materials collide with expression and creating
non-profit agencies are
led by BSC graduates
I feel strongly that
my purpose is tied
to this city.
TERRENCE INGRAM ’09
digital content, which can be found on the organization’s YouTube channel.
Only in its second year, LegacyWorks has already expanded, with growing interest from
parents and mentors like Ingram himself who are helping mold Birmingham’s community.
“I feel strongly that my purpose is tied to this city. Something in the soil makes me feel
at home when I’m here.”
FALL/WINTER 2019 / 19
CAMILLE SPRATLING ’98 (MPPM ’07)
Before Camille Spratling joined Railroad Park as the foundation’s executive
director, she was a Birmingham resident who shared the dream for an urban green
space – one that could bridge the north and south sides of the city.
Spratling saw the idea for a park move from this dream to a 19-acre landmark, and
she grew with the process. First serving as her neighborhood association’s president,
she soon became a Railroad Park Foundation board member before stepping in as
director a few months after the park opened in September 2010.
“There was a long history of people dreaming about the park, and so many different
people in the community made this dream a reality. The hope was that it would
be a place where all of Birmingham could come together — a tangible sign that
Birmingham was on the move,” Spratling says.
Her job involves a wide array of industries, from fundraising to event planning to
landscaping, and Spratling says her BSC education prepared her to juggle these roles.
“There’s no one track of study that could have prepared me for this role, but the
liberal arts education did. I was constantly pushed to see things in a new way or to
look at a problem from many different perspectives,” she says. “BSC also helped me
see how important service in the community is.”
As a student, Spratling was involved in service learning locally through Alpha
Omicron Pi and honor societies and abroad in Zimbabwe on an E-term trip. She
remembers experiencing what good service looks like as volunteers let go of themselves
and focused on the heart of the project. Now a director of a nonprofit, Spratling
frequently must do the same, and she encourages her volunteers to hold that mindset.
Prior to her current position, Spratling worked at Children’s of Alabama and in
the president’s office at BSC. She moved out of the city for a bit after graduation, but
she recognized Birmingham’s potential and saw the way the city was digging into
problems, working on issues, and growing rapidly.
Spratling herself had a part in Birmingham’s
revitalization through Railroad Park. Its
opening marked a surge of energy in the city’s
downtown. The green area, located between the
I knew we were going to
look back and see this shift
financial and health districts, introduced a new
vitality through a diverse range of activities and
events, from summer concerts to the holiday
magic of a winter ice skating rink.
“The park was a splash in the city. People
were stunned by how top-notch it was,” she
says, remembering the early days. “It caught
hold in a viral way. I knew we were going to
look back and see this shift in Birmingham.”
20 / ’southern
BHAKTI DESAI ’16
Bhakti Desai starts each day with the intention to
“lead a life of significance,” advice from President Emeritus
Gen. Charles C. Krulak that she will never forget.
With those words in mind, Desai is already working
toward improving life for people in Birmingham.
At the end of her first year at the University of Alabama
at Birmingham School of Dentistry, she applied for the
Albert Schweitzer Fellowship (ASF), a program intended
to prepare the next generation to serve others and create
healthier communities. She submitted an outline for
implementing an oral health education program at
Cahaba Valley Health Care.
After her project was chosen to be funded, she spent
one year teaching the community about preventative
“I thought I would have to wait to make a difference, but
realized that if I kept pushing it off it would never happen.
I decided to intentionally put time toward giving back to
others,” Desai says.
She credits her BSC experience with preparing her to
make a difference. Participating in the Harrison Honors
Program, Southern Ambassadors, the orientation team,
and Pi Beta Phi forced Desai out of her comfort zone.
She specifically remembers the presentation skills she
developed through the Harrison Honors Program.
Desai appreciated how the BSC environment gave her
room to grow, allowing her to voice her own opinion and
think outside of the box.
“It was the best four years of my life,” Desai says. “BSC
cultivates potential, and the one-on-one environment
helped me grow personally and academically.”
While she experienced a shift in her reserved personality,
one thing that did not change for Desai after high school
was her focus on pursing pediatric dentistry.
She was selected as a representative at the 2018 ASF
National Conference, where she was able to recharge
around other individuals fighting for something
Focused on serving her community while completing
her degree, Desai is able to see issues in healthcare
firsthand. This has piqued her interest in public policy,
as a way to mitigate the problems she finds on a day-today
“The more I see, the more prepared I am to fix issues in
FALL/WINTER 2019 / 21
“It is important that we first acknowledge that this is a
problem, and then that we deal with it,” Fry says.
He has established a lawyer wellness committee
for the Birmingham Bar charged with finding ways
to incorporate activities that help manage the stress
involved with being a lawyer.
Birmingham is a diamond in
the rough city. You can have
a great quality of life and a
sophisticated professional life.
CHARLES FRY ’95
As the fourth graduate of Birmingham-Southern College to serve as
president of the Birmingham Bar Association, Charles Fry is proud to have
strong roots in Birmingham.
“Birmingham is a diamond in the rough city,” Fry says. “You can have a great
quality of life and a sophisticated professional life. Not many markets offer these
things in the way we do, and we are still in the process of maturing and growing
from the past.”
BSC graduates Alan Rogers ’77, Bruce Rogers ’80, and Carol Ann Smith ’71
preceded Fry in leading the Birmingham Bar as president, and he has continued
their positive influence on the professional organization.
As the current General Counsel of the University of Alabama Health Services
Foundation, P.C., Fry often finds health at the top of his mind. He saw an
immediate need for improvement in lawyer wellness, as the profession correlates
with high levels of alcohol abuse and suicide rates.
Fry is the first in-house lawyer to be elected president –
something that he has not taken lightly. He has made
recruiting in-house lawyers to the Bar a priority.
Under Fry’s leadership, the UA Health Services
Foundation has added about 300 physicians and has
expanded throughout the state, opening locations in
Anniston, Montgomery, Florence, and Mobile.
One project that has been specifically meaningful to Fry
is building the first proton therapy facility in the state at the
University of Alabama at Birmingham, which can provide
cancer patients with state-of-the-art, non-invasive treatment.
Fry worked with the department of radiation oncology in
developing the project from the ground up.
Fry says that everything he has done in Birmingham was
set in motion during his time at Birmingham-Southern.
“I owe so much to attending Birmingham-Southern
College,” Fry says. “It was a critical education for me; it gave
me confidence in myself – which I sorely lacked. It was the
challenge of learning that presented itself everyday by my
professors that prepared the way for me to believe in myself.
This ultimately led to me taking on leadership roles. ”
After graduating from BSC in 1995 with a philosophy
degree, Fry worked as a paralegal at Bradley Arant Rose &
White LLP. He then attended the University of Alabama
School of Law and was a clerk for Judge Arthur J. Hanes,
Jr. Fry then worked at Johnston Barton Proctor & Rose LLP,
where he became a partner.
His work in Birmingham
goes beyond the professional
sphere. Fry has served on
the board of the Youth
Leadership Forum since
1999. The organization,
modeled after Leadership
opportunities for high school
students to learn about what is
happening in the community.
estimated percentage of
THE BIRMINGHAM BAR
who are BSC grads.
Fry’s mindset on service is out of a genuine love for his
community. “We as professionals owe it to the community
to give back, as we have been blessed with important tools
to provide the community with something that it didn’t
22 / ’southern
Since they first met at BSC, John Boone and Hunter Renfroe have traded ideas. Whether
they were planning Sigma Nu events – Boone was the fraternity’s president and Renfroe the
social chair – or investigating problems in the city around them, the two quickly figured out
how to work together.
“John sees what’s wrong in the world, and I analyze and flesh out how we can tackle the
problem,” Renfroe says. “We would put together the framework for changes we wanted to
make in the future as we philosophized.”
Through Orchestra Partners, their real estate development firm, Boone and Renfroe now
invest their shared ideas into Birmingham and its historic buildings. Their mission aims
to create sustainable neighborhoods by redeveloping existing properties within charming
Birmingham markets and communities like Five Points South, Avondale, Parkside, and
Orchestra Partners projects have become some of Birmingham’s most popular and
innovative destinations, including The Woolworth Recreation and Refreshment, a nostalgic
and neon social house in Five Points South, and Founders Station, Morris Avenue’s first true
mixed-use experience, featuring retail and Pilcrow Cocktail Cellar, a basement bar owned by
Joe Phelps ’07, their Sigma Nu brother.
“Hunter and I create neighborhoods where we want to live,” Boone says. “The bars and
restaurants we design are places where we want to eat, and the office spaces we work on are
places where we want to work.”
The mindset behind Orchestra Partners emerged, ironically, once they left Birmingham.
After a few post-grad years in the city, Boone moved to Washington, D.C., where he became
interested in education reform. Renfroe, with his wife Whitney Mayfield Renfroe ’09, moved
to Boston to get his MBA. Both ditched their cars in the walkable cities and gained a new
perspective on urban living.
“I decided that the only way to change my lifestyle was to get out of the car,” Renfroe says.
“Humans were designed to live in cities and to walk, but we hardly ever do it.”
A few hundred miles south, Boone was experiencing the same lifestyle change in D.C.,
where he walked 45 minutes to work every morning. He later moved to Florida to work for a
charter school development company, which merged his interests in education and real estate
development. However, he moved back to Alabama once Renfroe called him with an idea to
build a walkable lifestyle in Birmingham.
With parallel experiences in bigger cities, plus
a solid friendship and shared idealism, the two
launched Orchestra Partners in 2015 with a
mission to develop within urban communities.
Founders Station, one of their first projects,
combines a variety of experiences in one of
Birmingham’s most compelling locations.
“It blew our minds that nobody has ever
done what we did in Founders Station because
everybody who walks down Morris Avenue talks
about what a cool street it is,” Boone says. “It truly
speaks to what we’re trying to accomplish: making
downtown a neighborhood that has everything
you need for urban life.”
Boone and Renfroe believe building
connectivity – a core principle of Orchestra
Partners’ business model – is essential.
Alongside Tom Leader, the nationally renowned
landscape architect who designed Railroad Park,
Orchestra Partners recently unveiled a Parkside
District master plan that features pedestrian
pathways and mixed-use redevelopment concepts
on the west end of Railroad Park, positioning
Parkside as the central hub of connectivity and a
vibrant entertainment destination.
Particularly as the Parkside project further
bridges the Hilltop to downtown, Boone and
Renfroe hope to see BSC students connect with
the city’s core and participate in the revitalization
JOHN BOONE ’06 AND HUNTER RENFROE ’08
FALL/WINTER 2019 / 23
HAVE LED THE
the largest in the world.
(starting with Frank
Spain, Class of 1910)
have been president of
THE ROTARY CLUB
the largest in the world.
have been president of the
one of the largest
in the world with more than
BSC alumni have led the
since 1906, including three
the last nine years.
participated in every class of
since its inception in 1983,
AND DOZENS OF ALUMNI
have also participated in
OVER ITS 30 YEARS.
24 / ’southern
Every senior minister
of Canterbury United
10graduated from BSC.
Last year, Courtney French made an
unconventional purchase that is now putting
the voices of Birmingham on a global stage.
French, a senior partner at Fuston, Petway &
French LLP, purchased the radio station B 94.9
FM WATV, returning it to local ownership for the
first time since 2002.
The station originally opened in 1946 and
was known for iconic on-air legends such as
“Tall Paul” and Maurice “Thin Man” King.
During the mid-1970s, WATV was the leading
radio station in Birmingham.
While French wants to maintain the station
as an integral source of information for the
community, he has also made efforts to expand
its reach far beyond the city limits.
“There is a three-prong reason to what we do
with our station,” French says. “I look at having
the radio station as a way to continue what I
do as a lawyer, in service to the community,
as an educational means, and also a way of
entertaining the community.”
A societal change that French has observed
in millennials, Generation Z, and Generation
Y inspired him to reevaluate how the station is
disseminating their music and information. He
recognizes that, although these generations still
love music, the way they receive their music is
different than it ever has been before.
To address this, he has used technological
advances to take the station outside of vehicles
and onto phones and computers. The station
has an app called V94.9, offers live streaming on
its website, and is available through the virtual
assistant device Amazon Alexa. In the past year,
these additions have gained listeners from across
the country and all over the world, including
Europe, Africa, and India.
French has been passionate about
education in the community since his time at
Birmingham-Southern College. As a secondary
education major, the skills he learned in
school were beneficial as he continued
his education at Samford University’s
Cumberland School of Law, even taking the
time to teach while he was there.
As a founding partner of Fuston, Petway &
French, LLP, French currently spends his days
representing individuals and families who have
suffered personal injuries and wrongful death.
His devotion to the community is also seen
in his service as president of the Alabama
Association for Justice and as president of the
Alabama Civil Justice Foundation. French is
active with the nonprofit I See Me, Inc., which
aims to increase literacy rates in children of
color by engaging them in literature that reflects
their culture and mirrors their image. They have
multiple programs that intend to help students
of color read at or beyond their grade level.
What I am doing now is to help
others, to continue what BSC
instills in students about service.
COURTNEY FRENCH ’95
He has also served on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and
on the Board of Directors for the Shades Valley YMCA. French joined the BSC Board of
Trustees in 2018.
Business Alabama has recognized French as one of the Top Attorneys of Alabama. He was
named one of the “Top 40 Lawyers under 40” by National Trial Lawyers and “50 Future Leaders
of America” by Ebony Magazine.
“I truly believe in the saying that to whom much is given, much is required, and I have been
blessed – largely credited to BSC for giving me the tools and education to be able to be where
I am in my career and my profession,” French says. “What I am doing now is to help others, to
continue what BSC instills in students about service.”
FALL/WINTER 2019 / 25
Valerie Abbott MPPM ’99 –
As the current Birmingham
City Council President, Abbott
spends every day working to
improve Birmingham. Her
focus on neighborhood health
and revitalization implemented
two community gardens,
receiving national recognition
for the East Avondale project.
She is also spearheading
a rebirth of Birmingham’s
recycling program, as a
proponent for taking better
care of the community.
Susan Beard Brouillette ’86 – Named “One of Birmingham’s
Most Influential Executives for 2018” by the Birmingham Business
Journal, Brouillette has led Alacare Home Health & Hospice, one of
Birmingham’s largest private companies, since 2002. She has also been
recognized on Birmingham Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40” list in
2002, and one of the “Top Women in Business in Birmingham” in 2006.
Alacare was acquired by Encompass Health Corp. in 2019.
MAKING THEIR MARK
For more than a century, BSC graduates have
dedicated themselves to making their mark
and making a difference in the Birmingham
community through philanthropy, medicine, media,
government, business, and more. We’ve highlighted
25 of these alumni here, but we know there are
more. Please tell us about a BSC alumnus’s impact
on the community, in Birmingham and around the
world, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
26 / ’southern
Dr. Alan Dimick ’53 – A pioneer for burn
and trauma treatment, Dimick founded the
UAB Burn Unit, which has been nationally
recognized as a leader in treatment for
burn-related injuries. His professional life
has been committed to improving pre-hospital emergency care, as he
increased paramedic training throughout the state.
Joseph M. Farley ’48 – For
20 years, Farley served as the
president of Alabama Power,
guiding the company through
a time of political and financial
difficulty. He began as a legal
counsel to the company in the
1950’s, with a background in
private law. In 1989, he became
CEO of Southern Nuclear
Operating Company, that later
named the Joseph
M. Farley Nuclear
Plant in his honor. He
passed away in 2010
at the age of 82.
Cathy Rye Gilmore ’68 –
Gilmore’s first stage role as
a dancer was at the oldest
theatre in Birmingham for the
performing arts, the Virginia
Samford Theatre, where she is
now president. After beginning
her professional career in New
York, Gilmore cofounded a
Cabaret troupe called The Wits’
Other End, which was based
in Atlanta and Birmingham.
Today, she continues to create
programs and productions that
exemplify the transformative
power of the theatre.
W. Cooper Green ’25 – The Cooper Green Mercy Hospital was named
in 1975 to honor the legacy of Green’s service to the Birmingham
community. He served three terms in the Alabama Legislature, presided
over the Birmingham Post Office, and served as President of the
Birmingham City Commission, where he helped spark the development
of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra and the Birmingham Museum of
Art. Green died in 1980.
Herschell Hamilton MPPM
’96 – With a background in
investment banking, Hamilton
now is co-founder and chief
strategic officer for BLOC Global
Group. The leading southeastbased
U.S. commercial real
estate consulting services firm
has offices in Birmingham and
Washington D.C., contributing
to the economic development,
innovation, and revitalization of
American cities. Hamilton also
serves the community on
multiple boards, including
the Bank of Atlanta’s
Birmingham Branch Board,
the Birmingham Business
Alliance, and Leadership
James Hatcher ’43 – Hatcher made incredible strides in
the theatre community, bringing talent and opportunities
to Birmingham. As the Miss Alabama pageant director
for 36 years, two-time producer of the Miss America
pageant, and founding director of Town and Gown Theatre,
Hatcher encouraged young talent to stay in-state. He
received numerous awards, including BSC Distinguished
Alumnus, the first Award of Excellence from the Alabama
State Council of the Arts and Humanities, and the Marian
Galloway Award from Alabama Theatre League. Hatcher
passed away in 1993.
Kristi Tingle Higginbotham ’87 – Higginbotham spends
every day in Birmingham doing what she loves: singing
and acting. Her career has included roles from Velma in
“Hairspray” to The Witch in “Into the Woods” and regular
performances with symphonies such as the Winnipeg
Orchestra, the Alabama Symphony, and the Las Vegas
Philharmonic. She is also a vocal coach and a member of two
local cabaret acts, The Hot Tamales, and Four For Time.
Robert E. Luckie Jr. ’40 – Luckie founded one of the
top 50 ad agencies in the U.S., Luckie & Company.
With clients including Little Debbie and Alabama
Tourism, they have been able to make an impact locally
and globally. After graduating from BSC, Luckie
began working in advertisement for the Birmingham
News, and his career took off from there, with a short
intermission during World War II, where he served as
Assistant Pacific Fleet Press Officer.
Katherine McTyeire ’41 – McTyeire
was named “Birmingham Woman
of the Year” by the Business and
Professional Women of Birmingham
in 1966, and was inducted into the
Birmingham Business Hall of Fame in
2000. In 1949 she founded Iron Art,
a successful business she ran for 58
years. Her service to the community
included serving on the board for both
the Better Business Bureau of Alabama
and the Birmingham Area Chamber of
Commerce. She passed away in 2013.
Philip “Jack” Mann Sr. ’61 – A force in
Birmingham theatre, Mann founded The Little
Theatre Players, The Wits’ Other End, appeared
in dozens of theatre productions, and was involved
with Town and Gown Theatre. He was a founder of
the Alabama School of Fine Arts, where he helped
develop and oversee the Excellence Program for
Birmingham City Schools. He served on the boards
of ASFA, the Downtown YMCA, Birmingham
Boys Choir, and the Virginia
Samford Theatre. Mann
passed away in December
2018 at the age of 79.
’35 – Under his
vice president and then chief
executive officer, Vulcan Materials
Company grew to become a Forbes
500 company. Before this, the
Birmingham native served as
General Counsel of the Army and
became a partner at the firm that
would eventually become Bradley
Arant Boult Cummings LLP. As
he remained active in the U.S.
Marine Corps Reserve, he eventually
attained the rank of lieutenant colonel.
Monaghan passed away in 1987.
The Monaghan Lecture at BSC was
established in 1981 in his honor.
Margaret “Peggy” Spain
McDonald ’39 – It all started with
her work for the American Red
Cross in Asia during World War II.
Her dedication to service continued
as she introduced community
education programs to leaders in
the Birmingham-Jefferson County
Area, eventually establishing the
Center for Community Education
at the University of Alabama. She
was the first director of the Greater
Birmingham Foundation, which
later was named the Community
Foundation of Greater Birmingham.
She passed away in 1996.
James Donald Patrick Jr. ’57 – A man with multiple groundbreaking roles, Patrick was the first
person in Alabama to receive a Ph.D. in vocational rehabilitation. He then became the first
vocational rehab counselor at the newly created Spain Rehabilitation Center at the University
of Alabama at Birmingham. Later he helped found the Lakeshore Rehab Center and Foundation,
which is well-known in the community as a highly successful rehabilitation facility. He died at the
age of 83 in 2018.
Martha Jane Patton ’64 – Patton’s career began as
a coordinator for the Selma Inter-Religious Project.
After receiving her law degree, she opened her own
office in Birmingham. In 1998, Patton was named
executive director of the Legal Aid Society of
Birmingham. She served the community for 18
years as the heart and soul of the organization.
Sonja Smith ’03 – With
bachelor’s and master’s
degrees in music, Smith has
taken on many roles in Alabama. She has
worked as a teacher, a tennis coordinator for
USTA Southern, and a project coordinator
for Enroll Alabama. In 2017, she decided to
run for office and now serves as a Birmingham
City Schools school board member.
Frank Spain 1910
(Southern University) –
Although probably most
known for bringing Liberty
National Life Insurance to
Birmingham, Spain was a
major leader in the community and contributed to many other projects until his
death in 1986. These local efforts included the Spain Rehabilitation Center, the
Spain-Wallace Building, and the Alabama Heart Hospital. Spain was president
of the Jefferson County Community Chest, the Birmingham Rotary Club, and
served Rotary International as a district governor and as international president.
He was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor, the Birmingham
Gallery of Distinguished Citizens, the Alabama Business Hall of Fame, and the
Birmingham Business Hall of Fame.
Sharon Spencer ’79 – Recognized
as a Distinguished alumna by BSC
in 2012, Spencer has made notable
accomplishments in the medical
community. She currently is the chief
of medical services at the University
of Alabama at Birmingham the Ruby
Meredith Outstanding Clinician
Endowed Chair. Other awards she
has received include Fellow of the
American College of Radiation
Oncology and the American Cancer
Society Life Inspiration Award.
Elton B. Stephens ’32 – After founding
EBSCO Industries, one of the state’s
largest private companies with close to
6,000 employees, Stephens expanded
his resume to include philanthropist.
Stephens and his family have since
donated significant amounts of money
to charity, educational institutions,
the arts, and many other causes in
the community, often for little or no
recognition. His efforts have included
projects such as the Alys Robinson
Stephens Performing Arts Center at
UAB and the Elton B. Stephens Science
Center at BSC. He passed away in
2005. He was married to
Alys Robinson Stephens ’32.
Sandra Ross Storm ’68 – As a District Court
and Circuit Court Judge in Jefferson County,
Storm presided over child abuse and domestic
violence cases. Beyond implementing the
process that allows domestic violence victims
to obtain protection from abuse orders without
an attorney, she also developed 26 youth gun
and drug court programs. At the August 2002
opening assembly, Storm told students, “Give
of yourself with no expectation of reward…
learn to serve if you ever hope to lead.” Storm
passed away in 2018.
Vincent Townsend ’25 –Known to many as “Mr. Birmingham” for his
civic and business leadership, Townsend was a journalist who worked at
The Birmingham News for more than 50 years, eventually becoming the
executive editor. His role was instrumental in founding the Community
Affairs Committee of Operation New Birmingham, which aimed to change
community practices for the better. By initiating a “Design for Progress”, the
Regional Postal Facility, Civic Center Complex, Birmingham Zoo, and many
more locations important to the city were built. He passed away in 1978.
Marti Turnipseed ’65 – On April 24, 1963,
as a sophomore at BSC, Turnipseed became
the first white student to join in Birmingham’s
lunch counter sit-ins. This combined with her
participation in civil rights marches led to her
expulsion. By her senior year, BSC allowed her
to return to campus. Turnipseed continued
her activism by initiating a phone campaign
to get highly qualified African-American students
to apply to the College. She graduated
two months before the first African-American
student was enrolled. Turnipseed was killed in
an auto accident in 1972.
Historian, journalist, writer, professor – these are
just a few of the titles held by Virginia Van der Veer
Hamilton ’41, the second woman ever to earn a
doctorate in history at the University of Alabama
when she graduated in 1961. Her writings and
historical research set an example of success for
other women interested in the field of history. Upon
Hamilton’s death in 2016, historian Leah Rawls
Atkins said, “Hamilton changed the way history was
taught in Alabama. She advocated for the equality
of women in history...Young women in Alabama in
2016 may not realize who influenced the greater
professional equality they now enjoy. Virginia Van der
Veer Hamilton played a large role in that history.”
Kyle Whitmire ’02 – Whitmire has pursued
his passion for writing and is currently
a political columnist for the Alabama
Media Group, as one of Alabama’s most
listened-to voices. His career interests
surfaced while at BSC, where he was editor
of the student newspaper, but developed
through both writing and editing jobs
at The Birmingham
Weekly, The New twenty
York Times, and
BSC alumni in the
food and beverage
industry are taking
to the next level.
32 30 / ’southern
BISTRO TWO EIGHTEEN
218 20th Street North
BSC Connection: Chef/Owner
Tom Saab is the father of Ashley
Rhea ’11 (find out more about Rhea
in our cover story). The restaurant
offers a mix of French bistro and
American bistro traditions.
THE COLLINS BAR
2125 2nd Avenue North
BSC Connection: Manager Lauren
Delashaw ’14 (daughter of Leigh
Anchors Delashaw ’79) mixes
perfect flavor combinations at one
of the South’s best bars, as named
by Southern Living Magazine.
4500 5th Avenue South
BSC Connection: CFO and
Partner Andrew Pharo, married to
Elizabeth Featheringill Pharo ’00,
helped grow the microbrewery into
a major Avondale attraction,
earning the title of Alabama’s
2017 Silver Retailer of the Year
in the Annual Sales $1 Million to
$5 Million category.
From top left clockwise: LeNell
Camacho Santa Ana ’91, Edward L.
Hardin Jr. ’62 and Chef James Boyce,
and Laney DeJonge ’91
LENELL’S BEVERAGE BOUTIQUE
1208 32nd Street North
BSC Connection: LeNell Camacho Santa Ana ’91
Called “the first lady of liquor” by Garden & Gun
Magazine, Camacho Santa Ana opened LeNell’s
Beverage Boutique in June 2018 in historic
Norwood. Bringing the same flair as her previous
liquor store in Brooklyn, New York, Camacho Santa
Ana stocks sustainable and organic beverages
from a diverse range of producers. John T. Edge
wrote that Camacho Ana brings the future of the
American package store into focus: “In the hands of
LeNell, a proselytizer of wine, spirits, and the spirits
life, that future looks obsessive and playful and
tastes flat out delicious.”
GALLEY & GARDEN
2220 Highland Avenue
BSC Connection: Owner Edward L. Hardin Jr. ’62
Housed in what was once the historic Merritt House
on Highland Avenue, Galley & Garden serves
American-French inspired, southern cuisine. Hardin,
a local attorney who received an Honorary Doctor
of Laws in 2019, encouraged Chef James Boyce
and his wife Suzan, of Boyce Restaurant Concepts,
to bring their culinary expertise to the Birmingham
restaurant scene. Together, they have been sharing
a seasonal menu since 2014, driven by the quality
provided by utilizing local farmers and foragers.
2921 Highland Avenue
BSC Connection: Co-owner Laney DeJonge ’91
In 2009, music legend Bob Dylan recommended the
casual Highland Park bar and grill to his nationwide
radio show audience. “That was a song about 12
bars,” he said. “Here’s four more that I like. If you’re
in Birmingham, Alabama, stop by the Rojo.” Dylan
said what anyone who lives in Birmingham already
knows – Rojo, opened in 2002 by DeJonge and Clark
Lopez, is one of the city’s best spots (especially for
outdoor dining). Rojo is also a good neighbor, winning
the National Restaurant Association Educational
Foundation’s 2018 Restaurant Neighbor Award
for Alabama, given to restaurants dedicated to
community service and philanthropy.
GOOD PEOPLE BREWING
114 14th Street South
BSC Connection: Stefano Daneri
‘12, sales team manager, has been
taproom manager, assistant brewer
and brewery sales rep in his nearly
8 years at the popular
microbrewery in Birmingham’s
growing Parkside District, right
across from Regions Field.
HIGHLANDS BAR & GRILL
2011 11th Avenue South
BSC Connection: Pardis Stitt,
co-owner and operator, who
attended BSC, and Chef Frank
Stitt III, who received an honorary
Doctor of Laws from BSC in 2019,
run the award-winning Highlands,
2018 Outstanding Restaurant by
the James Beard Foundation, as
well as Bottega, and Chez FonFon.
PILCROW COCKTAIL CELLAR
2015 1st Avenue North
BSC Connection: Joe Phelps
’07 opened the underground
bar, serving craft cocktails and
specializing in agave spirits, in
Founders Station in 2018.
FALL/WINTER 2019 / 31
Chris Dupont ’85
a day in the life
When Chris Dupont relocated his restaurant from Springville,
Alabama, to Birmingham’s North End in 2003, the city was quiet. Yet,
Café Dupont made downtown a fine-dining destination in the heart
of a city that now takes serious pride in its award-winning restaurants.
A day in the life of Dupont relies on a few things — the special
events scheduled at the restaurant, the staff that’s coming in, and,
most importantly, what seasonal foods are growing.
Every Saturday morning begins with a trip to the Market at Pepper
Place so he can stock Café Dupont with fruits and vegetables from
Alabama farms. Dupont has always based his work around local
growers, and the menu changes daily with the season.
“Everything has a purpose, and the purposing behind it determines
our days,” Dupont says.
As the South gets a late start on colder weather, Café Dupont’s
menu slowly shifts towards heartier meats, like braised rabbit and
stuffed quail, as well as autumnal vegetables for squash pastas and
To Dupont, each dish, representative of local farms and seasonal
ingredients, tells a story, one further crafted by his diverse and
“It’s a technical business as well as an inspirational and creative
business,” he says.
32 / ’southern
From reunions to open houses to a football victory for the Panthers, the BSC community celebrated big this
Homecoming. On Oct. 18 and 19, we welcomed alumni, family, and friends to the Hilltop for the College
traditions we enjoy every year. Take a look to see who you spot in the crowd. Forward, Ever!
FALL/WINTER 2019 / 33
Distinguished Alumni Awards
Birmingham-Southern College honored the 2019 Alumni Award recipients during the festivities of homecoming weekend. The
Distinguished Alumni, Outstanding Young Alumni, and Rising Star awards recognize graduates who have achieved outstanding success
in their chosen professions. The awards were presented at the Alumni Awards Brunch on Saturday, Oct. 19, in Bruno Great Hall of the
Norton Campus Center.
FALL/WINTER 2019 / 37
Dr. Robert G. Bottoms ’66
As the longest-serving president of DePauw University and a graduate of
Birmingham-Southern, Dr. Robert Bottoms spent his life observing the importance
of a liberal arts education.
“It prepares people to think creatively, communicate, and to write well, which are all
traits so important in any job,” says Bottoms.
It all started with the relationship Bottoms developed with BSC’s 10 president,
Ralph Tanner. His encouragement and advice helped Bottoms as he began his journey
in the world of higher education.
After working as BSC chaplain from 1973 to 1976, in addition to serving as
assistant to the president from 1974 to 1976, Bottoms moved to Nashville, where he
was assistant dean and assistant professor of church and ministry at the Vanderbilt
Divinity School until 1978. He left Vanderbilt to accept the position of vice president
for university relations at DePauw University. Bottoms was named president of the
university in 1986. During his 22 years as president, Bottoms was able to make major
impacts on the forward progression of the school.
His efforts to improve diversity on campus stand out, as he strove to make
the community more reflective of the world around it. The number of minority
faculty members increased from just three percent to over 17 percent through his
leadership. He also saw a need for a change in student diversity, increasing
the number of students with culturally diverse backgrounds from 3.5
percent to 16 percent.
Bottoms was able to guide DePauw in raising more than
$500 million in funds, tripling annual giving from the time of
his arrival. The investments he made in campus infrastructure
led to the development of more than six major additions,
including the Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics and the
Pulliam Center for Contemporary Media.
The dedication Bottoms has to making his community a
better place did not stop when he retired from the presidency
in 2008. He later began serving as director of the Janet
Prindle Institute for Ethics, which allowed him to focus time
on his family and serve his community.
Serving on boards of Seabury-Western Theological
Seminary in Chicago, the Posse Foundation, the Center for
Leadership Development, and, most recently, Episcopal
Divinity School at Union Seminary in New York, Bottoms
has dedicated his time to causes close to his heart.
For the years of care that Bottoms put into DePauw, the
university has named the alumni building the Robert G.
Bottoms Alumni and Development Building, honoring
the positive changes he implemented across campus.
“Take a wide variety of courses.
Don’t decide too early what you want
to do and what you want to major
in, as exposure to new subjects can
change your direction.”
38 / ’southern
SPRING/SUMMER 2018 / 40
Sandy Barker Thurmond ’84
In all areas of her work — whether it’s a project at Children’s of Alabama, a BSC
alumni gathering, or an educational session for women in healthcare — Sandy
Thurmond is constantly building up her community.
She completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees before entering an
administrative residency at Children’s of Alabama. Now, with 32 years of
experience, Thurmond finds herself within the same compassionate organization
and around its dedicated team.
As the vice president of primary care services at Children’s, Thurmond oversees
the operations and development of Pediatric Practice Solutions, the hospital’s
primary care network, and builds relationships with pediatricians around Alabama.
“I bonded with the mission of Children’s from the start,” she says. “Our team
has a meaningful impact on the care, teaching, and advocacy of the hospital.”
Thurmond gained experience in operations, facilities, and strategic planning
at the hospital before joining the primary care team in 1995. She moved into
the VP position in 2004. With 13 Pediatric Practice Solutions offices in Alabama,
Children’s primary care division saw over 335,000 patients last year.
Thurmond has always been drawn towards the medical field. In fact, her premed
and biology studies were a big factor in why she decided to attend BSC. Those
courses, along with the small size BSC offered, made her choice easy.
“The friendships and people I met lasted. We chose to still spend time with each
other after graduating,” she says.
Many of her BSC friendships carried on long past graduation, sometimes in the
form of supper clubs, birthday clubs, or vacations. Thurmond has also served as a
dedicated member of BSC’s Alumni Board, including her term as president
in 2018-2019, and now serves on BSC’s Board of Trustees.
Among her many leadership roles and career successes,
something Thurmond is the most proud of is her support for
women, particularly women in healthcare. She mentors
women under her leadership and offers work-life balance
as an executive at Children’s, but her dedication also
extends much farther than her own workplace.
Thurmond was named by the UAB Commission
on the Status of Women as the 2019 Outstanding
Woman in the Community, honored for her
work in many areas including with BSC, the
Momentum Women’s Leadership Program, the
American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women
movement, the Ronald McDonald House
Charities of Alabama, and the UAB Women in
Healthcare Leadership Initiative.
“College is exciting and meaningful, so
be a part of all the activities and learning
opportunities you can.”
41 / ’southern
Outstanding Young Alumna
Kelley Brooks Simoneaux ’07
In 2018, after having dinner with an Alpha Chi Omega sorority sister in Washington D.C., Kelley Brooks Simoneaux
called an Uber to get home. When the driver arrived, he took one look at her and refused to give her a ride. Simoneaux
was in a wheelchair.
The incident gave her a mission: Draw attention to how the world is moving forward at such a rapid pace that the
disability community is being left on the curb.
She has used a wheelchair since she was 16, when an accident involving a negligent driver and a faulty seatbelt
left Simoneaux a paraplegic.
She went on to attend Birmingham-Southern, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in political science.
She then graduated from the University of Tennessee Law School in 2010, where she was president of the
Student Bar Association. Simoneaux is married to Bradlee J. Simoneaux ’08.
One of Simoneaux’s proudest professional accomplishments has been starting her own law firm. The
Spinal Cord Injury Law Firm, PLLC focuses specifically on spinal cord injuries and fosters professional
growth for people with disabilities. It is the only firm in the nation to be founded by a nationally
recognized attorney who is able to share in the experience of being in a catastrophic event.
In an effort to do more, she created an organization called Wheel2Ride. This advocacy campaign
focuses specifically on directing policy changes regarding the inclusion of individuals with mobility
disabilities in using ride sharing platforms.
A survey created by Wheel2Ride found that 83 percent of the disability community has faced
discrimination in transportation.
“It is a slow process, but is one that I am continuing to work on,” Simoneaux says. “I want to build
allies within every state to make changes in legislation.”
In addition to her work and advocacy, she also serves on multiple boards, including the
ENDependence Center of Northern Virginia.
She sees reminders of BSC reflected in her day-to-day life, as the culture on campus emphasized the
importance and satisfaction that can be found in helping others.
“Absolutely take advantage of all the opportunities to get yourself
off campus, engaged, and around people that are different than you.
We live in such a homogeneous society, but BSC does a great job of
allowing you to get outside of the classroom and engage with others.”
Outstanding Young Alumnus
Kindred Motes ’12
Kindred Motes’ interest in a career focused on human rights was formed
early on, but it began to take shape in a Hilltop classroom. In Dr. Ed
LaMonte’s civil rights and justice course, Motes felt a responsibility for the
communities he was part of and an urgency to advocate for social justice.
His commitment to the field grew with the opportunities and discussions
he had as a BSC student. Sometimes those took the form of debates in the
English department, other times as conversations in the Alabama State
House as BSC’s Collegiate Legislature team captain. He also participated in
multiple study abroad trips, and his time in Europe ultimately led him to
earn his master’s degree in international relations at the University of Essex
40 / ’southern
“Don’t limit yourself too early. Give yourself time to
learn, grow, and change your mind. What you do in
college doesn’t determine the rest of your life.”
Rising Star Award Honoree
Graham Spencer ’16
With grandparents, parents, an aunt, three uncles, and a sister all being BSC alumni, Graham Spencer was the definition of a
legacy student. After graduating from Homewood High School in 2012, Spencer made the transition to BSC, where he majored
in political science.
Political science professors such as Dr. Natalie Davis, Dr. Larry Brasher, Dr. Bob Slagter, and Professor Kim Lewis
make up a short list of the people that meant a great deal to Spencer during his time at BSC. His educational interests
were on the history of politics and the manifestation of policy in the day-to-day, as well as how data makes a
difference and can be a predictor to the outcome of races.
“BSC has a knack for selecting superb individuals, not only on the student side, but also the faculty and staff
who are working with students,” Spencer says.
While on campus, Spencer worked to connect with as many of these individuals as possible. Beyond
his extensive involvement with Sigma Chi, he also was a member of the BSC Honor Council, a Southern
Ambassador, a member of Quest II, BSC’s student programming board, and enjoyed his time working in the
president’s office. Spencer is engaged to Ashley Bice ’15.
Following graduation, Spencer began working at the Education Advisory Board (EAB), a Washington, D.C.-
based organization that provides best practice research and consulting for institutions across the country. Due
to his big ideas and impressive work-ethic, he was quickly promoted from associate to director.
This promotion allowed Spencer to co-found and launch EAB’s global research partnership, designed to
serve tuition-driven institutions and help drive progress on institutional challenges, such as enrollment,
student success, and operational efficiency.
In the future, he is hoping to explore leadership opportunities, while making the most of
“I have learned that given how finite of a resource time is, if you are dedicating time to
something, why not try to do it in the best way you can,” Spencer says. “Eventually, it
would be a dream to come back to BSC and serve in some way.”
advice “Choose what you want to succeed in, and then make
sure you are having a good time and enjoying yourself. It
should be a goal for each year to be better than the last.”
“BSC is where I first started to realize that my career options were
wider than I’d ever considered. The College pushed me to expand
the limits of what I thought was possible when it comes to advocacy,
policy, and human rights,” Motes says.
As the award-winning director of digital strategy at the Vera Institute
of Justice in New York City, Motes oversees digital media, impact
partnerships, and social media campaigns and manages growth and
engagement initiatives for the organization. He often travels across
the country, building relationships with advocates, organizers, and
public figures to highlight the work Vera does to fight pressing social
injustices. His work has grown Vera’s audiences by more than 1,000
percent in just three years.
Since graduating from BSC, Motes has worked with peace, justice,
and poverty initiatives and was recently nominated and confirmed
to the Board of Directors of the American Civil Liberties Union of
Alabama. While in graduate school at Essex, he worked at human
rights organization REDRESS and represented the organization at the
Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, chaired by UN
Ambassador Angelina Jolie and UK Foreign Secretary William Hague.
Among many of the specific social issues to which he’s
dedicated his career, Motes has a deep personal interest in smaller
communities that get left behind in the changing economy. He grew
up on a family farm, which gave him a firsthand view of the lack of
investment in small town America as well as the incredible people
there who are too often overlooked.
“Not everyone can move to New York or Chicago, or even to
Atlanta or Birmingham,” Motes says. “I want to know how we can
invest in a system that helps improve the lives of everyone. For me
to be where I am today, quite a few people invested in me – and that
allowed me to attend BSC.”
Vicki VanValkenburgh ’68
REALTOR with Van Valkenburgh and
Wilkinson Properties, Inc. Huntsville, AL
“Huntsville has a can-do spirit that I have grown
to appreciate more and more as I’ve grown older. To
paraphrase Bobby Kennedy, some cities see things as they
are, and ask why; Huntsville dreams of things that never
were, and asks why not? It embraces new ideas and new
people, and weaves them into the ongoing tapestry of
its history. I feel incredibly lucky to have grown
up here and to be living here now.”
Shannon Cason, M.D. ’87
“Opelika, Alabama is a special place. It is just
large enough to have everything a person really
needs, but it retains much of the feel of a small town.
We still have traditions in which most of the city
participates, especially during the Christmas season.
We gather in the summer for evening concerts in
our municipal park. We have a safe, inviting, and
successful downtown area that features
small businesses, restaurants, and
venues for the arts.”
Ronald Johnsey ’71
Founder/CEO ThinkWhy LLC
“BSC has been good about keeping alumni informed
about the school’s progression and new milestones with
publications and alumni events. More importantly, the personal
relationships I made at BSC are still strong, but in a different
way. As we have gotten older, we see each other less frequently,
but we are able to follow each other’s lives via social media,
alumni events, and trips to Birmingham. I know if I had to
call on them for support, they would be there for me,
and in turn I would be there for them!”
Janie Asseff ’10
Baton Rouge, LA
“Baton Rouge is the capital city of Louisiana which
makes it easy to stay abreast of state legislature. There
are often many opportunities to participate in advocacy
groups that help make our community a better place. Lastly
(but certainly not least), Baton Rouge has tremendous
south Louisiana culture including great food and
42 / ’southern
Kindred Motes ’12
Digital Strategy Director at the Vera Institute of Justice
New York City, NY
“Everyone knows that New York is a city with a ton of people and a never-ending
list of things to do, and I think many people think of the busyness and envision subway
cars, taxicabs, and Grand Central trains. But those are things that can really stress locals
out! Fewer people from out of town appreciate New York as a walking city, but it really is. For
me, some of my happiest moments in New York have involved really long, cross-borough
walks, either with a friend or with a favorite podcast. A particular favorite is crossing
the Williamsburg Bridge around sunset. It’s one of the few times I feel alone with
my thoughts (or others’ thoughts), and the amazing thing about that is
that you’re still in the middle of everything.”
Webb Lyons ’06
Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr
“People are often drawn to D.C. because they have a vision of how
the world should work, and feel a real desire to work to achieve
that vision. It’s a manifestation of many of the best values –
service, collective action, caring for others – that we
learn at BSC.”
Ginger Gannon Myers ’93
“Pensacola has a vibrant food scene for a
town our size, and the water is beautiful – but
my favorite thing about it is our Mayor and
First Lady Grover ’92 and Jill Robinson ’92,
fellow BSC grads.”
Dr. Megan Snider Bailey ’12
“Now that I am a college professor, I constantly draw on the teaching styles that my
professors used in our seminars. I try to be as gracious with my time as Dr. Cottrill and as willing
to mentor as Dr. Levey. I also borrow from Dr. Lester’s tradition of writing a letter to students who
get an A+ as their final grade. I wanted a letter from Dr. Lester so badly, but I never got one! It
was a great motivator for me and continues to be for my students!”
FALL/WINTER 2019 / 43
giving to BSC
Donated Pianos Continue Their Stories at BSC
The pianoforte has revolutionized music since its creation in the 1770s, largely because it
was one of the first easily accessible instruments with the ability to be expressive in volume.
Within the past year, two of these valuable instruments have been generously donated
to Birmingham-Southern College’s music department. While these pianos both hold the
important quality of expression, they also have unique stories to tell.
Jimmie Hess’s love for music ran in her family. Her father, Sidney Seidenman, was a
well-known violinist as well as an orchestra leader for presidential inaugural balls and
other major social events in Washington, D.C. Jimmie herself was an accomplished
pianist who moved to Birmingham after World War II with her husband, Emil Hess.
Together, they built the family’s Birmingham department store, Parisian, into a major
retail force with stores throughout the Southeast. They also became known as active
and generous supporters of many good causes in Birmingham, including BSC’s fine and
performing arts program.
“We always had a piano in the house,” says her son, former BSC trustee Donald Hess.
“I remember her playing all the time, usually Broadway show tunes or Frank Sinatra.”
On her 65th birthday, Emil Hess
gave her a Steinway Model L Grand
Piano, for which she created an
intricate needlepoint bench cushion
in shades of black, gold, and green.
After she passed away in 2013,
Donald Hess inherited the piano,
and in 2019 called family friend
Dr. Lester Seigel ’79 in hopes of
finding it a new home.
44 / ’southern
Seigel, the Joseph Hugh Thomas Professor of Music and Department
Chair, as well as the director of Birmingham-Southern’s Concert Choir,
was overjoyed for the College to receive such a valuable gift.
“What makes Steinways so valuable is their limited production,” says
Jon McClaran, director of education and institutional sales at Alabama
Piano Gallery. “It takes about 14 months to build a Steinway grand
piano, which means it is built to a standard.”
The walnut piano is currently housed in Seigel’s teaching studio, where
it is being used for coaching and personal lessons, as well as the personal
time Seigel spends playing. The needlepoint cushion crafted by Jimmie
Hess is proudly displayed beside the Steinway.
“Mrs. Hess had an unmatched enthusiasm for Birmingham-Southern,
and a great love for music,” says Seigel. He hopes that she would be
happy to see how the piano is currently being used and loved by the
“We have great satisfaction and great joy from giving it to somewhere
that it would be used,” says Donald Hess on the family’s decision to
donate the piano. “Birmingham-Southern’s focus on liberal-arts is an
important piece of the educational landscape in our state.”
The previous Steinway housed in Seigel’s studio, which is
speculated to be the piano Birmingham-Southern President
Daniel B. Coleman practiced on as a child, has been moved
to a different room in Hill Music Building, where students will
use it for ensemble work.
Jay McKinney ’86 was attending an auction when something
that no one else seemed interested in caught his eye. With the
help of Terry Tindol, an Irondale piano restorer, McKinney was
able to return the antique – believed to have been built in a
small Austrian town in the 1840s – to its past glory.
Original ivory and ebony keys, an ornate music rack with
candle holders, and deer skin hammers are just a few of the
details that make the piano unique. The softer, muted sound it
creates is another indicator of its age.
During a move earlier this year, McKinney made the difficult
choice to part with the priceless piece, but knew exactly where
he wanted it to go.
“I was so incredibly happy when the College was interested,
because it is something that needs to be appreciated and loved,”
McKinney says. As a student, McKinney was impressed by the leadership
and guidance of the faculty and staff at BSC as they helped students with
figuring out their direction in life. Now, McKinney has been able to give
back to the College in a big way.
The piano sits in the lobby of Hill Music Building, directly in front
of a wall filled with neatly hung photographs of notable musicians
who have attended or graduated from BSC, including Seigel’s former
teachers Joseph Hugh Thomas and Lois Greene Seals ’28. This wall is
also home to photographs of composer Hugh Martin ’35, who wrote
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and Edna Gockel-Gussen,
owner of the Birmingham Conservatory of Music from 1920-1930, who
is remembered for putting to music Julia S. Tutwiler’s poem “Alabama,”
which is now the state song.
Seigel uses the antique piano in music history classes to illustrate the
evolution of the piano. Additionally, students use the piano to play period
music, as the authenticity of the instrument deepens their experience.
To make a gift to BSC
or call (205) 226-4909.
FALL/WINTER 2019 / 45
giving to BSC
DICKERSON AWARD DEVELOPS
GLOBAL CITIZENS AT BSC
Senior Devon Adams has been selected as the 10th Dickerson
Award winner for her devotion to making a difference on a global scale.
The Dickerson Award was established in 2013 to honor the memory
of Shanon Dickerson ’96, a member of the first class of Leadership
Studies graduates. His passion for international travel and hands-on
philanthropy inspired the creation of this competitive scholarship,
supporting BSC students who have a strong desire to study abroad.
Twice a year, some of Dickerson’s closest friends, including Andy
Armstrong ’97 and Laura Cammack Eanes ’96, meet back on the
Hilltop to select a student who shares his ideals of adventure, travel,
“Shanon was a global citizen, a wonderful ally and friend. We look for
people who remind us of him, of his intelligence and curiosity. We look
for glimpses of his servant heart and open spirit,” Eanes says.
In summer of 2018, Adams participated in a service-learning project
in Belize focused on the African Diaspora.
With the Dickerson Award, the Birmingham native will travel to
Brazil in spring 2020.
“It is close linguistically to a lot of other romantic languages that I find
interesting,” Adams says. “I really enjoy the culture and feel like it will be
a good fit for me.”
She also has future plans to make a difference in the Birmingham
community through her experiences.
Combining the skills she has learned in her Arabic classes, cybersecurity
internship, and computer science major will allow her to put
together a project uniting diverse Birmingham communities. Through
a two-week coding camp developed to expose minority communities
to future opportunities in STEM fields, she will introduce Python
programming to Arabic speaking youth.
Past recipients of the scholarship have studied in locations such as
Chile, Ireland, Argentina, the UK, and Morocco.
BSC RECEIVES SIGNIFICANT BEQUEST
TO SUPPORT MUSIC AND FINE ARTS
John Lovin Jr. ’52 had a successful career as the senior vice
president of Torchmark Corporation, yet his community knew
him for the constant service he gave to those around him.
Lovin continued his legacy of generosity through a significant
bequest to the Nina Rae and John W. Lovin Endowed Fund, a
fund he created in 1986 in honor of his parents.
This fund awards scholarships to Birmingham-Southern
College students majoring in Fine and Performing Arts, and
with Lovin’s newest donation, it has been expanded to include
funding in support of the Music Department of the College.
A true Birmingham native, Lovin grew up in the College Hills
neighborhood directly beside Birmingham-Southern, where he
was able to witness the growth of both the city and the College.
Anne Morris Smith ’51, a close lifelong friend of Lovin,
Well-known Birmingham photographer Bob Farley has been
interested in photography and the idea of journalism since
childhood. In high school, he bought his first camera and worked
for the yearbook and newspaper, which led to a photo journalism
internship with the local newspaper his senior year.
In an effort to provide photography experience to a new
generation, Farley donated a considerable amount of camera
equipment to the college.
While speaking to the Trussville Photography Club in April,
Farley brought in some old equipment to use as examples. One
member of the club was the parent of a current BSC student who
was interested in still-photography, and suggested that Farley
consider donating the equipment to the College.
Farley was familiar with BSC, from knowing multiple
professors and working on stories with the Birmingham
Post-Herald, so he decided that giving back to educate future
photographers was the right choice. Farley attended the Missouri
School of Journalism before moving to Birmingham in 1988 to
work for the Birmingham Post-Herald. He spent close to 20 years
working as both an editor and a photographer.
46 / ’southern
emembers playing on campus with Lovin as a child. “He was an
only child, but he made friends quickly,” Smith says. “John always
put others first, which was probably strongly influenced by his
parents’ love of entertaining and taking people in.”
She remembers Lovin’s parents looking out for Birmingham-
Southern students who did not have family living nearby, making
sure they felt at home.
His parents were also influential in his passion for music and fine
arts. Nina Lovin was an artist who encouraged her son to participate
in organizations like the Birmingham Boys Choir. Lovin faithfully
attended theatre performances and the Alabama Symphony
Orchestra throughout his life.
A math major at Birmingham-Southern, Lovin went on to obtain
his master’s degree from Vanderbilt University. He began his career
at Liberty National Life Insurance, where he eventually became
executive vice president.
Susan Anderson, whose husband Charles Anderson Jr., was a
close friend and work associate of Lovin, considered him family.
“He was always innovative,” Anderson says. “He brought in the first
Amdahl computer to Birmingham, which completely modernized
She also recalls Lovin’s work ethic, as he would work night and
day. Any free time he had was spent making a difference in the
community he loved.
“John had an incredible desire to make the world a better place,”
says Canterbury United Methodist Church Associate Pastor Sam
Williamson ’83. “He wanted to give back to the community that
had given him so much. He gave unconditionally to many people
and never did it for the recognition.”
Williamson came to know Lovin through Canterbury, where Lovin
was a member his entire life. He was able to witness the committed,
In 2005, he decided to become a full-time photographer. His
specialization is in people and events for corporate, advertising, and
“No one gets to where they are by themselves,” Farley says. “I was
given opportunities from people I didn’t have personal connections
with that allowed me to do things I otherwise wouldn’t have been
able to do. It is part of being included in a community.”
The media and film studies department received a Lowell light kit.
Department chair Teddy Champion says the light kit will be housed
in their new studio and used for interviews, student exercises, and
occasionally out in the field.
Farley also donated several 35mm film cameras, digital SLR
cameras, and lenses to the art department.
“The equipment will become part of the collection of cameras
and lenses that are available to students for use when enrolled
in photography courses,” says Pamela Venz, chair of the art
department. “The collection allows students to experience
professional-level photographic equipment if they do not have
access to that equipment themselves.”
Senior art major Mary Beth Yaeger has already benefitted from
using this collection of equipment. While taking Venz’s intro class
on basic camera mechanics, part of the course required possession
of a film camera, which costs about $500. Yaeger, who is paying
her own way through school, says purchasing even a used camera
was not a viable option.
“can-do” spirit possessed by Lovin during his time spent volunteering
with the Beeson Trust, established at Canterbury by the late Lucille
Stewart Beeson (whose husband, Dwight Beeson, was also a Liberty
National executive) to help senior citizens in the community.
Lovin used his intellect to assist low-income families with their
taxes, receiving multiple medals from AARP for his service. “People got
an extra service with John that I know other volunteers didn’t provide,”
Smith says. “If they were unable to leave their home, he would
personally go to their house, pick up the needed paperwork, and return
it to them finished.”
Williamson recounts multiple instances when an individual’s
need, for items such as a refrigerator or groceries, would be brought
to Lovin’s attention, and he would have it delivered to their house
Birmingham-Southern College remained important to Lovin
throughout his life. Many of the items that he chose to surround
himself with were representative of the College. His favorite chair was
black with the BSC emblem proudly displayed, a gift he received when
he was recognized with the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1996.
In addition to providing future students the opportunity to receive
the quality liberal arts education of which Lovin was so proud, the
Nina Rae and John W. Lovin Endowed Fund will also allow the music
department to make necessary updates in the Hill Music Building.
“John was a mentor, encourager, believer, hard worker, and giver,
who gave not only monetarily, but also of his time,” Anderson says.
Are you 70 1/2 or older?
An IRA charitable rollover gift, or Qualified Charitable
Distribution (QCD), is a smart and easy way to make a gift
to Birmingham-Southern. Individuals age 70 1/2 and older
with a traditional IRA can distribute funds annually from
their IRAs to their favorite nonprofit organizations.
Reduce your tax bill while supporting a meaningful cause –
providing educational opportunities to BSC students.
Visit freewill.com/QCD/Birmingham-Southern to
explore our online tool that makes it fast and simple.
“Donations like this are so necessary for students like me,” Yaeger
says. “It really means a lot more than just a dollar amount.”
Being able to use a film camera from the collection allowed Yaeger
to learn about the basics of motion and light and how to manipulate
a camera, helping her develop a new skill.
Sara Jones, a senior political science major, became infatuated with
photography after taking her first intro class. She is now in Venz’s
more advanced photography lab course.
“I’ve tried other art mediums before, but the thing with
photography is that it is hard to get started because you need a
quality camera,” Jones says. “If this collection had not existed,
I would never have been able to try out something so new, just
because of a lack of equipment.”
FALL/WINTER 2019 / 47
classical, romantic, and contemporary
styles, and always feels like there’s more
for her to explore and master.
Her late husband Dr. Andy Rowell ’61
encouraged her to take up lessons again,
having always loved music himself.
When he served as the Midfield Board
of Education superintendent, he hired a
church choir director to teach the high
school music class when the program
For their 50th wedding anniversary,
Rowell’s husband bought her a baby
grand piano. She often practices on it,
though she sometimes goes back to the
1947 Baldwin Acrosonic spinet piano
I didn’t have the
confidence to play as
much prior to taking
Marilyn Rowell ’60
In 1991, more than 30 years after completing her last class at BSC, Marilyn Rowell
took her first class at BSC’s Conservatory of Fine and Performing Arts.
“I just had that yearning inside to come back. It had been that way for a couple of
years,” Rowell says. “I knew the reputation of the Conservatory was excellent, and I felt
that I would get excellent training and begin to learn again. I wanted to truly learn the
notes, the composers, and the dynamics.”
Even after taking lessons each fall and spring semester since she began at the
Conservatory in 1991, Rowell is driven to learn more. She took piano for eight years
as a child, but the lessons didn’t challenge her. At BSC, she works through baroque,
that sits in her “room of antiques.” The
spinet, a gift from her parents, was the
one she played as a child.
Rowell used to play often at Westwood
Baptist Church, and still does every now
and then. If she had not taken lessons
at the Conservatory, she says she never
would have sought out the opportunity
to play piano at her church.
The BSC Conservatory, which has been
a part of the music department for more
than 120 years, makes college-level music
lessons available to students of all ages.
No matter the experience level or musical
interest, Conservatory Director Lucy
Victory can pair students with the right
teachers and performance opportunities.
“I didn’t have the confidence to play
as much prior to taking lessons again,”
Rowell says. “It didn’t satisfy. I wanted to
get back into it, but I needed the nudge,
inspiration, and patience from a teacher.”
For more information about BSC’s
Conservatory of Fine and Performing Arts,
call (205) 226-4960.
48 / ’southern
It’s easier than ever to keep up with news
from the Hilltop!
THE BSC BLOG
At blog.bsc.edu, you’ll find stories about
alumni, athletics, student life, faculty
achievements, and upcoming events.
Monthly updates about BSC alumni and
friends of the College are now online at
Submit your own news and updates at
FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA!
900 Arkadelphia Road
Birmingham, Alabama 35254
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BSC’s Driven to Succeed, a scholarship for Alabama residents, is funded by proceeds from sales and renewals of BSC car tags.
When you purchase the BSC specialty license plate, the College receives $48.75 as a charitable contribution, you share your
pride in BSC, and you contribute to the education of deserving students. LEARN MORE AT bsc.edu/cartag.