Chowan University Announces 2018 Distinguished Alumni Awards
During Homecoming weekend, Chowan University recognized Richard Thomas Vann Jr. ’68 and Dwight A. Downie ’84 with the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award, Debra Maingi ’12 with the 2018 Young Alumnus Award, and Brinson Paul ’52 with the Community Service Award.
The honorees were escorted onto the football field during half-time of the Homecoming game on Saturday, October 13th, and recognized for their exceptional personal demeanor and their professional achievements representing the highest standards of the Chowan University alumni body. A dinner followed the game where each recipient, accompanied by family and friends, received their award from President Kirk E. Peterson and Chancellor M. Christopher White, and then gave an acceptance speech.
Vann graduated from Chowan in 1968 and Mars Hill University in 1969. He went on to earn four master’s degrees and two PhDs. He has extensive military service in the U.S. Air Force, Army, and National Guard – both active and reserve from which he ultimately retired a Colonel in the Army. Vann received licensure to the gospel ministry and was later ordained by Meherrin Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, NC. He served as a professor of ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Dallas Baptist University. Throughout his college, seminary, military, and university teaching career he worked as an interim pastor of Baptist churches. Additionally, he holds seats on multiple faith-related boards. As a Murfreesboro native, Vann remained connected with Chowan through his many return visits over the years.
Downie enrolled in the Associate in Printing Technology program at Chowan College in 1983. He flourished in the student-focused small environment with close-knit students and faculty. Downie completed his degree at Chowan and continued his education at Appalachian State University (ASU) in Boone, NC, and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 1987. He began his professional career in the printing industry which led him to Lenoir Community College in Kinston, NC, where he served as Program Chair of Commercial Graphics and Printing Department Head for 28 years. Downie maintained his relationship with Chowan over the years through his work with faculty to provide transfer pathways for Lenoir graduates.
Maingi earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Chowan in 2012. She served as the program director of the International Students Club for two years and the vice president her senior year under the leadership of advisor Jill Awuni. In her role, she helped lead several community service projects. Maingi was a Leadership Scholar recipient, served on multiple mission trip, and was a facilitator for women’s Bible study in both Belk and Simons Residence Halls. Following graduation, Maingi accepted a position as Branch Manager for Wells Fargo Bank in Winston-Salem, NC. She maintained a relationship with the University as a member of the Alumni Council and an avid supporter of the Annual Fund. In 2014, Maingi was added to the Gallery of Distinguished Alumni by the University.
Paul, a 1952 graduate of then Chowan Junior College, played varsity baseball and basketball, managed the bookstore and soda shop, and was editor of the yearbook. He enjoyed a 37-year career with the Insurance Division of General Motors and returned to Murfreesboro upon retirement, where he was enlisted to help with the “Community Service Program” and the Murfreesboro Historical Association. Paul spearheaded the project to acquire the "Jefcoat Collection," working to raise the money to purchase the Murfreesboro High School property, renovate the buildings to museum standards, bring the collection from Raleigh, and establish the collection as a museum. With a cadre of over 100 volunteers, Paul brought life to what is now the largest museum collection on display in North Carolina. The Jefcoat Museum has brought thousands of visitors to Murfreesboro including people from each inhabited continent on the globe. In retirement, Paul has served Chowan as a member of both the Board of Trustees and the Board of Visitors on which he currently serves. He is active in promoting sports and enrollment at Chowan.
Please join Chowan University in congratulating the 2018 Distinguished Alumni, Young Alumnus, and Community Service Award recipients.