Appalachian State University presented alumni awards to four exceptional alumni at a luncheon held during the 2016 Homecoming celebrations on Oct. 21.
Susan M. Branch ’99 of Charlotte was awarded the university’s Young Alumni Award; the Outstanding Service Award was presented to D. Kenan Smith ’84 and E. Hayes Smith ’82 of Salisbury; and James M. Deal Jr. ’71 of Boone was granted the Distinguished Alumni Award.
Chancellor Sheri N. Everts acknowledged the contributions made by the recipients, saying, “The considerable contributions made to the university by these honorees have impacted our students, the Appalachian Community and the State of North Carolina in countless ways. We are very proud to bestow these honors on such loyal and deserving alumni.”
Susan M. Branch ’99 of Charlotte
Branch earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in marketing from Appalachian in 1999 and a Juris Doctorate from Howard University School of Law in 2002. Branch is vice president at Ciena Capital, LLC in Charlotte, where she manages a distressed commercial loan portfolio and lender litigation matters. Branch is a member of the Junior League of Charlotte Board of Directors, Alpha Lambda Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and the Charlotte Chapter of The Links Incorporated.
On campus for a Board of Trustees meeting this fall, Branch revisited the Multicultural Center. In her time as a student, she said, the center was a “safe and welcoming place where I could connect with other students of color, have forums about things that affected us on campus or talk about issues that were occurring nationally. I’m glad to see it is still as welcoming and as safe a place.”
Appalachian, she said, “prepared me for the move to the big city of D.C.,” where she enrolled in law school. “It helped me grow and increased my self-confidence. It is a place to get a superior education, form lifelong friendships and grow into a well-rounded, global citizen.”
Recently named to the university’s Board of Trustees, she is a past member of the Appalachian State University Foundation Board of Directors and Alumni Council.
“I am honored to serve,” she said, “because Appalachian has given so much to me. I was taught to give back to the community … that gives so much to you. Whether it’s my time, talent or treasure, I want current and future Mountaineers to have even better opportunities than I had.”
- Kenan Smith ’84 and E. Hayes Smith ’82 of Salisbury
Hayes and Kenan Smith are brothers and business partners in Second Creek Development Co.
Hayes Smith has served on the Alumni Leadership Committee, the Parents Association Board of Directors, The Yosef Club Advisory Board and is a current member of the Walker College of Business Advisory Council. Kenan Smith is equally active – he also has served on the Alumni Leadership Committee, was a member of the Appalachian State University Foundation Board of Directors and has recently been named to the Board of Trustees.
Longtime supporters of Appalachian, they have provided backing for scholarships, career placement for graduating students, and Appalachian athletics. Perhaps the brothers’ most visible – and fiscally impactful – commitment has been to the Appalachian Energy Summit, an initiative they were instrumental in the conception of and have championed for the past six years. The initiative has realized more than $500 million in avoided energy costs for The University of North Carolina system. ”That’s real North Carolina tax dollars saved,” Kenan Smith pointed out, “that can be put to good use in other areas of education.”
In an interview in the athletic offices above Kidd Brewer Stadium, they shared their commitment to helping students. “Giving back, that’s what it’s about,” Kenan Smith said. “Pay it forward. We are lucky enough to be able to give. If you can give, give. It’s a privilege.”
“We especially like to give to folks who really want to work hard,” Hayes Smith added. “The ones who are working two jobs and trying to make it. From an employer’s perspective … they tell us they’re looking for a strong work ethic.”
James M. Deal Jr. ’71 of Boone
Deal is an attorney with Deal, Moseley and Smith, LLP who has served the local community as well as Appalachian.
As one of Appalachian’s native sons, there’s not much about the university or the Boone community Deal doesn’t know, and if it comes to furthering education and opportunity, he’s likely been a major player.
In front of Chapell Wilson Hall where he took Spanish almost 50 years ago, he recounted watching Edwin Duncan Hall being built on the old football field, learning to swim in the old girls’ gym and attending church in what is now the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts. His grandfather played cards with Dr. B.B. Dougherty, one of Appalachian’s founding brothers, and most of his childhood neighbors were professors. Afternoons, he’d stop in at his grandmother’s home, which today is the Daniel Boone Inn.
Deal’s mother, a teacher, and her five siblings attended Appalachian; so did Deal’s sister, his wife, and two of his children. Deal left Boone briefly to complete a law degree at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill and has practiced law in Boone since. He has been an advocate for teachers and the advancement of education.
Over the last two decades, he has served on the Appalachian State University Foundation Board of Directors, Board of Trustees and Board of Governors. Additionally, he served multiple terms on the Watauga Board of Education and as a county commissioner. He was instrumental in the planning and construction of the new Watauga High School which is a LEED® certified building and “built for the future,” Deal said.
“One of the best programs we have going [at Appalachian] is sustainability,” Deal remarked, the thought triggered as he ticked off “green” aspects of the high school. “So many students come here because they are environmentally concerned. They want to leave the world a better place than when they came. App gives you that opportunity. It is in the best part of the world. We are blessed to have this university in this incredible setting.”
About Alumni Affairs and Annual Giving at Appalachian
The Office of Alumni Affairs and Annual Giving provides networking opportunities, affinity program discounts, alumni chapter gatherings and special events, merchandise and travel tour options to Appalachian alumni.
The Appalachian State University Alumni Association consists of over 119,400 living Appalachian alumni. Membership is free and open to all graduates of Appalachian. The association’s mission is to help alumni remember their Appalachian Experience and stay connected with current Mountaineers, and to work to ensure that those experiences are available for future Appalachian alumni by raising support for The Appalachian Fund.
Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system, Appalachian enrolls about 18,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.