Alumni Honored by Huntingdon College


News Release

October 12, 2020
For more information, contact:
Su Ofe, (334) 833-4515;


Alumni Honored by Huntingdon College

Montgomery, Ala.—The Huntingdon College National Alumni Association has announced the awards that would have been conferred during the 2020 Homecoming ceremonies, originally scheduled to take place October 10. Huntingdon’s 2020 Homecoming events have been postponed until Homecoming 2021 because of COVID-19. The 2020 award winners, who will be honored next year, are:

Alumni Loyalty Awards, recognizing alumni who have demonstrated continuing affection for and commitment to Huntingdon College:

  • Sara Dickert Bowden, Class of 1951, Brundidge, Alabama
  • The Rev. Dr. Billy Gaither, Class of 1955, Ozark, Alabama

Alumni Achievement Awards, recognizing the accomplishments of alumni who have earned distinction in civic, political, and educational activities:

  • Ethel Heinecke Bauer, Class of 1960, Aeronautical Engineer, U.S. Space Program, Las Vegas, Nevada (Retired)
  • Melba Bolten Richardson, Class of 1968, Distinguished Educator (Retired), Montgomery, Alabama

Outstanding Young Alumni Award, recognizing achievement, loyalty, and service:

  • Dr. James Robinson, Class of 2004, Sports Medicine Physician, Hospital for Special Surgery, Brooklyn, New York

Sara Dickert Bowden ’51, Alumni Loyalty Award

After stepping away from Huntingdon classes, Bowden stepped in front of classes in her first teaching role. She continued to teach and counsel students for 30 years until her retirement, recommending and encouraging many students to become Huntingdon students. Her career included 22 years at Pike County High School in Brundidge, during which she became the school’s first guidance counselor. Bowden continues to be involved in community and church activities, including involvement as a member of United Methodist Women, a teacher, a board member, and a provider of children’s moments for worship services and riddles for the monthly newsletter for Brundidge United Methodist Church. She has been married to Lawrence Bowden for 65 years and they have five children, eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Two of their children are Huntingdon alumni: Dr. Laura Bowden Carpenter, Class of 1977; and the Reverend Larry Bowden, Class of 1980.

Dr. Billy Gaither ’55, Alumni Loyalty Award

A Tallassee, Alabama, native, Gaither entered Huntingdon in 1951. In 1953, he married his Huntingdon sweetheart, Carolyn Loftin, Class of 1954, and they remained together for 66 years until her death in 2019. Gaither began 58 years of pastoral service at the end of his freshman year at Huntingdon, when he accepted an appointment to pastor a three-point circuit of Methodist churches in the Alabama-West Florida Conference. After graduating, he earned a Master of Divinity degree from Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He worked in full-time ministry in the AWFC until his retirement in 2003, but continued as pastor of Bethel UMC for seven more years. Throughout his ministry, Gaither supported Huntingdon College faithfully, serving on the College’s board of trustees for nine years. During the mid-1970s while pastoring First United Methodist Church-Fort Walton Beach, he announced proudly that 17 students from his congregation were members of the Huntingdon student body at the same time. In 2019, Gaither established the Carolyn Gaither Endowed Scholarship at Huntingdon in memory of his wife and in honor of her devotion to Huntingdon. Their family includes two children, Kimberly and Hope (Gaither Stockton, Huntingdon Class of 1987), three grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

Ethel Heinecke Bauer ’60, Alumni Achievement Award

Early in her career, Bauer worked at Eglin Air Force Base as a mathematician developing flight paths and dispersion analyses for military rockets, including a classified flight test, FIREFLY ETHEL, named in her honor. She later worked as an aerospace engineer in the applied guidance and flight mechanics branch of the aero-astrodynamics laboratory, where she was principally engaged with planning lunar trajectories for the Apollo program, including the free return trajectory that allowed for a safe return in the event of a systems failure—used on Apollo 13 and on the first three Apollo flights to the moon. Bauer also spent time in the mission analysis section developing targeting conditions which would cause the on-board computer to cut off thrust in the Saturn V S-IVB stage. In 1974, Bauer transferred from Marshall to NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, where she spent the next 19 years working in the Airborne Missions and Applications Division of the astronautics office. Her work focused on the development of ground communications in the earth resources observation programs. In 1987, she worked on the Comet Nucleus Penetrator Project (CRAF), then became deputy chief of the system development branch of the Space Exploration Projects office. In 1992, she became chief engineer for the Space Station Biological Research Facility Project. She continued to make significant contributions to the space program, mentoring many of those who are now leaders in the field. Bauer retired in 1993 after 32 years of federal service. During her long career, she made instrumental contributions to NASA programs that included humanity’s first steps on the lunar surface; using satellite data to increase crop yields in agriculture; technology transfers in climate; and communications. On the occasion of her retirement from Ames, then center director Dale Compton remarked that during her career she had served as a “role model for young women engineers as one of NASA’s first women in both engineering and management positions.” She and her husband, Bruce, live in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Melba Bolten Richardson ’68, Alumni Achievement Award

Richardson, a distinguished and long-serving educator, began her teaching career at Tuscaloosa Junior High School. When she and her husband, Dr. Bill Richardson, Huntingdon Class of 1965, moved to East Tennessee, she taught at Maryville Junior High School, where she was named Teacher of the Year. In 1983 she began a long tenure of service as a teacher, department chair, and administrator at the Saint James School in Montgomery. She moved to the position of middle school principal in 1989, where she transformed the school into a nationally acclaimed model. In 1998 she began a decade in the role of academic dean for the school, and then was selected as head of school in 2008. The recipient of numerous awards and honors, Richardson retired in 2015. Her professional involvement beyond her immediate school duties further influenced education in Alabama and in America. She represented Alabama at the National Middle School Association Network, making presentations throughout the country on educational topics. She was the only independent school representative on the state superintendent’s advisory board. She also served as president of the Alabama Association of Middle Level Administrators. Upon her retirement, the Alabama Senate and the City of Montgomery passed resolutions honoring her contributions to education; the Alabama Association of Independent Schools recognized her with a Lifetime Leadership Award; the Saint James board of directors created the Melba Richardson Leadership Award, given at graduation each year; and the St. James middle school was renamed the Melba Richardson Middle School. In 2017, she was inducted into the AISA Hall of Fame, and in 2019 she was inducted into the University of Alabama College of Education Hall of Fame. The Richardsons have two children, William and Mary Catherine, and three grandchildren.

Dr. James Robinson ’04, Outstanding Young Alumni Award

Robinson serves as a primary sports medicine physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Brooklyn, New York.  He earned his medical degree from the University of Alabama-Birmingham and completed a family medicine residency at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in South Bend, Indiana. During medical school and residency, Robinson was introduced to sports medicine, which was a natural fit with his lifelong involvement in sports. He completed his fellowship at ASMI/Andrews Sports Medicine in Birmingham and then practiced both family medicine and sports medicine in rural Alabama, serving as the team physician for the University of West Alabama. Prior to joining HSS, Robinson worked at Campbell Clinic Orthopedics in Memphis, where his patients included athletes from the University of Memphis, Christian Brothers University, Memphis Grizzlies and Hustle, Memphis 901 FC USL Soccer, and Memphis Redbirds AAA baseball.  Robinson’s family includes four other Huntingdon alumni: sister Jacqueline Robinson Turner, Class of 2001; brother-in-law Rian Turner, Class of 2000; brother Joshua Robinson, Class of 2006; and sister-in-law Rachelle Robinson, Class of 2007.

Huntingdon College is a coeducational residential liberal arts college of the United Methodist Church.


Suellen (Su) Ofe

Suellen (Su) Ofe

Vice President
for Marketing and Communications
(334) 833-4515 |

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