The Distinguished Alumnus of the Year award was given to Ralph Freehauf, 1973 Business Administration graduate, entrepreneur, and owner and operator of Cinemagic Movie Theater. Freehauf moved to Athens, Alabama upon his discharge from the United States Air Force. He and his wife, Carlene, also an Athens alum and former employee of Athens State, have been a part of the Athens Business Community since their arrival and have successfully owned and operated many small businesses. In 1979 Freehauf became involved with the theater business and began to dream of his own theater in Athens. Between the couple, a success story developed over a period of many years and his dream became their dream. It wasn’t easy and the struggles were many but they had a vision of providing a movie theater in Athens and in 2006 that dream became a reality and Cinemagic Movie Theater opened its doors to the community. Freehauf firmly believes, “We are a product from not just our parents, but all generations before us and we must have the tenacity to continually pursue our dreams. Also, it really helps when you have a wife who knows, understands, shares and compliments your ideas as well as providing ideas of her own.“ The Freehaufs have two children, Craig and Sonya, and five grandchildren.
The Deweese and Jim Beasley Appreciation Award was given to Rick Mould for his commitment to Athens State University. He was instrumental in drafting the legislation that successfully made Athens State University an autonomous institution and he spearheaded the $2.5 million capital campaign that raised $3.5 million. For fourteen years Mould served as Chairman of the Steering Committee for the Old Time Fiddler’s Convention which provides scholarships and funding for University projects. He has always been dedicated to the betterment of Athens State University and has been instrumental in moving the institution to where it is today. In 2007, he was selected as “Citizen of the Year” by the Limestone County Chamber of Commerce for his contributions, leadership, dedication, and willingness to go the extra mile for the community. He and his wife, Mary, have two children, Laura and Luke.
The Outstanding Alumna Award in Arts and Sciences recipient was Ginger Stone, a 2004 graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Behavioral Science. She began her career as a court advocate for Safeplace, Inc., a shelter for abused women that operates in a six-county area in Northwest Alabama. Stone uses the tragedies and triumphs of her own life to help save and change the lives of thousands. Her story is a source of inspiration and encouragement and she shares it to raise awareness and help stop abuse. Stone has spent countless hours training professionals, improving the criminal justice system and other systems that interface with victims, and serving on the state level as a Board Member of the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence. She retired in December 2015 from Safeplace, but she will always continue to be “a voice for the voiceless.” She is married to Rocky Stone and has two boys, Casey and Cody McNeil.
Joyce Luker was recognized as the Outstanding Alumna in the College of Business. She is a 1993 graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Management of Technology/Business. She began her manufacturing career with General Motors (Saginaw Steering Gear) in 1978 as an hourly employee in the custodial department and worked her way up to a supervisory role while attending Athens State. She does not hesitate to tell you that she started on the low end of the spectrum, but with tenacity and determination, one can become whatever they want to be. In 2013 Luker retired as plant manager over a 200,000 square foot manufacturing plant with 252 employees and a yearly revenue of $375M, now known as Inteva Products. Joyce is currently serving, since 2012, with the Consortium for Alabama Regional Center for Automotive Manufacturing (CARCAM) National Visiting Committee. She has one son, Michael (Kesha) and one grandson, Whitten.
Mark Lambert, Outstanding Alumnus in the College of Education earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Science in 2012. Lambert is an eighth grade world history teacher at Monrovia Middle School in Madison, Alabama. He is also the head coach for the seventh grade girls’ basketball team, assistant coach for the eighth grade team, and the public address announcer for home football games. Mark is a member on the Leadership Team for Project Ripple Effect which uses the concept of how a pebble dropped in a lake will create ripples that extend far across the water, so shall your actions create ripples across the lives of people with whom you come in contact. He also participates in The Fellowship of Christian Athletes. In his spare time he drives minor children to visit their mothers in Tutwiler Prison through the Aid to Inmate Mothers Program. Lambert also has a degree in Business Administration and owned and operated his own company until he decided to give up the business world and become a part of the educational system. His goal in his educational endeavors is to mentor students to become better citizens and to prepare them for success in high school, college, and in life. By using academic rigor, challenging lessons, thought provoking questions, humor, and love, he has won the respect of his students. He and his wife, Sylvia, have two children, Daniel and Shelby.
Javier Morales, Outstanding Recent Graduate, is a 2008 graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Behavioral Science. He has worked for more than 20 years to enhance the lives of migrant farm workers and their children through various capacities including program director, grant writer, parent educator, farm worker advocate and as the first Hispanic radio DJ for educational development in Alabama. Morales established Project Aprende, which provided transitional services for at-risk Hispanic students to better prepare them for the transition from high school to college. He is the founder of Parents Ask: Understanding Special Education One Question at a Time. He established the Alabama Non-Profit Farmworker Housing Agency in Oneonta, Alabama through a $1.2 million grant and is now serving as Director of Development and Communication for the Unicorn Centers in San Antonio, Texas. Javier is the father of two boys, Javier Raul and Ahian Steven.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]