April 23, 2018
The Athens State University Foundation, in conjunction with the University Alumni Association, hosted a Scholarship Reception and Alumni Awards ceremony on April 7, 2018, in Carter Gymnasium. New scholarships and endowments were announced at the event by Dr. Keith Ferguson. Additionally, the Athens State University Alumni Association recognized outstanding members of the Athens State community who have made significant contributions to their companies, community, and society as a whole.
The Outstanding Recent Graduate Award was presented to Mrs. Amanda Elgin, who graduated summa cum laude from Athens State University in 2015. She is a third-year special education teacher at Athens Elementary School and teaches students with significant learning disabilities in grades K-3. In 2017, she was recognized as Athens Elementary’s Teacher of the Year. Mrs. Elgin has a strong philosophy that all children can learn and should have opportunities to find and develop their personal strengths. She is passionate about technology and has presented at The North Alabama Technology Conference and Alabama Educational Technology Conference. In addition, she serves on Athens Elementary’s Advisory Committee to assist in collaborating and developing the five-year plan for the school’s conversion to a computer science academy. Mrs. Elgin’s faith is extremely important to her. She and her family are very active in their church where she has been teaching the past seven years for the Awana program. She has been married to her husband, Jamie, for 17 years, and they have one daughter, Elisabeth.
The Dr. Angeline Nazaretian Distinguished Service Award was presented to Dr. Joe Brasher, retired faculty member in the College of Education. Dr. Brasher mirrors what public service, philanthropy, and volunteerism embody. He built an outstanding reputation as a faculty member for 27 years. In 2013, Dr. Brasher was inducted into the Eleanor Roosevelt Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education. This chapter honors men and women who have made significant and longtime contributions to Kappa Delta Pi; Dr. Brasher almost single-handedly instituted and grew the Athens State chapter of this organization. While an undergraduate at the University of Alabama, Dr. Brasher was a member of the Million Dollar Band. In the summer, prior to moving to Athens, Dr. Brasher taught graduate courses for The University in Bogota, Columbia, SA. His academic degrees, professional experience, faculty assignments, service activities, presentations, publications, and national service are proof of his time and talent in serving Athens State University and the community on the “local, state, national, and international level.” Since his retirement, Dr. Brasher has continued to cultivate his love for Athens State in his participation in several organized campus events. He exhibits his true talent as a master pianist in providing music for many events throughout his career. Dr. Brasher has always been willing to do anything he could for the good of the University: serving long weekends at The Fiddlers Convention, working on accreditation hospitality committees, recruiting students and outstanding faculty, and generally being there when needed.
The Outstanding Alumna Achievement in Arts and Sciences Award was presented to Dr. Sheila H. Byrd, who is a 1982 graduate of Athens College and has been a full-time English Professor at Calhoun Community College in Decatur, Alabama since 1990. In 2002, Dr. Byrd accepted the position of National Executive Director of Sigma Kappa Delta and was recently honored with a scholarship in her name as the longest-serving Executive Director for the National English Honor Society for two-year colleges. Dr. Byrd is married to Mitchell Byrd and spends her extra time as a singer/musician with her family band. She and her husband have performed or directed various plays, but their great passion is traveling to countries from Africa to Luxembourg to Greece and Rome. Thinking of Mitchell, Dr. Byrd paraphrases Mark Twain: “Where ever (he) is, there is paradise.” Dr. Byrd does many things to make our world a more colorful place, including acting, singing, teaching, and speaking. Dr. Byrd’s passion and commitment to Sigma Kappa Delta comes from her desire to give dedicated students a chance to go beyond the classroom into a community of teachers and peers who will encourage them to write. She gives much credit to outstanding professors such as Dr. Elva McLin and Dr. Penne Laubenthal, Athens State; Dr. H.E. Francis, University of Alabama in Huntsville; and Dr. Gentry, Middle Tennessee State University.
The Outstanding Alumnus Achievement in Business Award was presented to Dr. George Lawrence Hubert, who graduated from Athens State College in 1970 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. He is recently retired from the United States Department of Homeland Security in Washington, DC. Dr. Hubert is a Vietnam Veteran who served his county after graduating from Athens State. Upon completion of his tour of duty, he attended the University of Baltimore and obtained a Doctor of Jurisprudence in 1976. He spent 39 years in Federal law enforcement including police officer, investigator, physical security specialist, senior management analyst, chief judge for contract guard appeals, and special assistant and legal counsel to the director DHS/ICE/FPS/NCR. After living in the Bethesda/Chevy Chase neighborhood outside of Washington, DC for 73 years, he moved to the mountains outside of Winchester, VA in 2017 where he continues his interests in the Civil War, 19th and 20th century firearms, restoration of American muscle cars, constitutional and criminal law, automobile racing, and anthropology/paleontology. Dr. Hubert served the people of this county for 30 years and loved the path his Athens State College education provided for him.
The Outstanding Alumnus Achievement in Education Award was presented to Dr. Travis Schrimsher, who earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education from Athens State University in 1997, specializing in Social Science. He currently serves as the Principal of Athens High School, one of “America’s Best High Schools 2017” by U.S. News and World Reports. Dr. Schrimsher was recently selected as The District Eight President of the Alabama Association of Secondary School Principals. He is a member of the Alabama High School Athletic Association, Alabama High School Athletic Director and Coaches Association, and has served as the area supervisor in multiple sports. Dr. Schrimsher taught high school Social Science and coached athletics for 11 years. In 2011, he was bestowed his Ed.D in Leadership and Professional Practice from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee. He became Assistant Principal and Summer School Principal at Bob Jones High School in 2012. In 2013, Travis was selected as Principal of Decatur High School where he increased AP enrollment by 22%, qualifying 1B diploma recipients from 56% to 82%, and graduation rate from 72% to 86%. In the summer of 2016, Dr. Schrimsher became the principal of Athens High School, a dream come true for him. He is the proud father of two “phenomenal” daughters, Sophia Nicole (7) and Hadley Grace (4), and is married to the former Nikki Hayden of Athens.
The Distinguished Alumna Award was presented to Mrs. Mary Hovater, who earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Physics and Mathematics in 1998 at Athens State University. In 1993, Mrs. Hovater was hired as a co-op at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), where she was recognized as the Co-op Student of the Year for the State of Alabama later that year. After she was hired full-time at NASA MSFC in 1994, she chose to come to Athens to continue her education. By 1996, she was already co-authoring technical papers in the area of Space Environmental Effects and winning awards for her work in Hypervelocity Impact Testing. In 2001, she took over the lead of the Impact Testing Facility at MSFC, and in 2004, led the Return to Flight Impact Testing Integration after the tragic Space Shuttle Columbia accident. Under her leadership, the MSFC ITF grew from two test systems to seven systems and was proclaimed a national asset. Mrs. Hovater completed a Master of Science Degree in Physics at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 2005, and in 2006, was promoted to NASA Deputy Lead of Operation for the Launch Abort System (LAS) where she spent much of her time at Kennedy Space Center and White Sands Missile Range preparing the LAS for testing. After this was completed, she became project manager for the Space Situational Awareness and Orbital Debris projects and proposal manager for several proposals that MSFC went on to win. Her success with project management led her to her current position of Technical Manager in the Office of Strategic Analysis and Communication where she works on helping shape the strategic direction of MSFC. She was recognized for 25 years of service in January 2018 and has had the honor of winning an average of one award each year during that time. Awards received include: Federal Women’s Outstanding Achievement Award (2007); Rotary National Award for Space Achievement-Stellar Award for superior efforts in expanding impact testing capabilities to provide NASA/MSFC with the most versatile impact test facility in the country (2008); and Outstanding Performance in support of the Orion Launch Abort System in the design, development, test and evaluation (2009). As a part of the MSFC Speaker’s Bureau, Mrs. Hovater speaks to schools on the exciting work going on at NASA. In 2014, she started the Cullman City and County “Keep Music Important.” She has served on the Board as President for Cullman Oktoberfest, Sacred Heart Church Parish Council, and Wallace State, Hanceville Alumni Association. Mrs. Hovater says her greatest accomplishment is raising her two sons: James, a junior at Mississippi State University in Aerospace Engineering and trumpet player in the famous Maroon Band, and Hayden, a senior at Cullman High School, who plays the tuba and plans to attend Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia.