Alumni Honored During Huntingdon Homecoming


News Release

October 18, 2021
For more information, contact:
Su Ofe, (334) 833-4515;

Alumni Honored During Huntingdon Homecoming 

Alumni Honored During Huntingdon Homecoming
Clockwise from top left: Coach D.J. Conville ’98 (holding plaque) and family; Ms. Peggy Sewell Parker ’63, right; Mr. Jhavonn Brown ’14, left; Dr. James Robinson ’04, center; Ms. Melba Bolten Richardson, second from left; Ms. Donna Marietta ’81, right; Ms. Ethel Heinecke Bauer ’60; Ms. Sara Dickert Bowden ’51; Dr. Bessie House-Soremekun ’78; Dr. Billy Gaither ’55.

Montgomery, Ala.—The Huntingdon College National Alumni Association conferred awards on ten alumni during Homecoming 2021, Friday and Saturday, October 15–16. Because concerns about COVID-19 health and safety forced the College to postpone Homecoming 2020 events until 2021, the list of award winners reflects two years of selections.

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

  • 2020: Sara Dickert Bowden, Class of 1951, Brundidge, Alabama
  • 2020: The Rev. Dr. Billy Gaither, Class of 1955, Ozark, Alabama
  • 2021: Coach D.J. Conville, Class of 1998, Montgomery, Alabama
  • 2021: Peggy Sewell Parker, Class of 1963, Montgomery, Alabama

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

  • 2020: Ethel Heinecke Bauer, Class of 1960, Aeronautical Engineer, U.S. Space Program, Las Vegas, Nevada (Retired; Awarded Posthumously)
  • 2020: Melba Bolten Richardson, Class of 1968, Distinguished Educator (Retired), Montgomery, Alabama
  • 2021: Dr. Bessie House-Soremekun, Class of 1978, Educator, Author, Entrepreneur; Beachwood, Ohio
  • 2021: Donna Marietta ’81, Class of 1981, CEO, Montgomery Area Council on Aging; Montgomery, Alabama

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

  • 2020: Dr. James Robinson, Class of 2004, Sports Medicine Physician, Hospital for Special Surgery, Brooklyn, New York
  • 2021: Jhavonn Brown, Class of 2014, Educator, Bear Exploration Center, Montgomery, Alabama

Alumni Loyalty Award Winners

Sara Dickert Bowden ’51, 2020 Alumni Loyalty Award

After stepping away from Huntingdon classes, Sara Dickert 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. Ms. 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, 2020 Alumni Loyalty Award

A Tallassee, Alabama, native, Dr.Billy 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. Dr. 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, Dr. 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, Dr. 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.

D.J. Conville ’98, 2021 Alumni Loyalty Award

The influence of D.J. Conville ’98 has been felt in the Huntingdon baseball program for 26 seasons. First as a player, then as an assistant coach and head coach, Coach Conville has played a role in the Hawks’ success since 1995. He became head coach in 2005. Entering his 18th season as head coach, D.J. Conville is the Hawks’ all-time winningest baseball coach and has guided Huntingdon to a record of 402-261; two Great South Athletic Conference (GSAC) tournament titles; three GSAC regular season titles; one USA South Conference Championship; and two NCAA Division III Regional appearances. The Hawks have won 20 or more games in 14 of his seasons at the helm. Coach Conville was named GSAC Coach of the Year in 2009 and 2012. Under his guidance Huntingdon has produced four All-Americans, one Regional Player of the Year, 24 All-Region performers, and one player taken in the Major League Baseball Draft (Joseph Odom in 2013). Since beginning competition in the USA South in 2014, Huntingdon has produced a Rookie of the Year, two Rookie Pitchers of the Year, 18 All-Conference selections, six All-Region performers, and 155 Academic All-Conference selections. A native of Sylacauga, Coach Conville is married to the former Nyree Putman. The couple resides in Pike Road, Alabama, and they have three children, Cade, Huntingdon Class of 2017; Sydney, Huntingdon Class of 2022; and Cooper.

Peggy Sewell Parker ’63, 2021 Alumni Loyalty Award

Peggy Sewell Parker ’63, a native and resident of Montgomery, Alabama, has remained nearly as active in the life of Huntingdon College since graduation as she was when she was a student. As an alumna, she has served on the National Alumni Board and has returned for numerous Homecoming appearances as a former May Queen. As a student, she was named to Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities and to Sigma Sigma Sigma, and Beta Beta Beta honor societies, serving as vice president of Tri-Beta. She received the Jane Williams Freshman Award for Activities. She served as treasurer of the Women’s Athletic Council, secretary of the Student  Government Association, May Day Festival publicity chairman, and the Development Fund campaign chairman. Ms. Parker served as cheerleader captain and earned recognition on the Dean’s List. After graduation, Ms. Parker taught biology at Lanier High School in Montgomery and later worked in the Alabama State Health Laboratory. In 1970 she served as the Mothers’ March co-chairman for the March of Dimes in Montgomery and also served on the local board of Child Evangelism Fellowship. She was a substitute teacher at the Montgomery Academy for fifteen years and taught after-school Good News Clubs for twenty years. She and her late husband, Jimmy, have two sons, Jim and John, and two grandsons.

Alumni Achievement Award Winners

Ethel Heinecke Bauer ’60, 2020 Alumni Achievement Award

Early in her career, Ethel Heinecke 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. Ms. 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, Ms. 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. Ms. 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.” Ms. Bauer passed away August 30, 2021. She is survived by her husband, Bruce Bauer, and her two children, Greg and Ann Ross.

Melba Bolten Richardson ’68, 2020 Alumni Achievement Award

Melba Bolten 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, Ms. 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. Bessie House-Soremekun ’78, 2021 Alumni Achievement Award

Dr. Bessie House-Soremekun, an internationally recognized scholar and professor and an award-winning author, is also an administrator, inventor, and entrepreneur. She is the president and founder of the International Black Business Museum (, the only museum in the world whose mission is to preserve the history and honor the contributions of Black entrepreneurs and inventors in the United States and the world. Originally from Lanett, Alabama, Dr. House-Soremekun earned her Ph.D. and M.A. degrees in international studies at the University of Denver after graduating from Huntingdon magna cum laude. She has been a full professor of political science and Africana studies for many years and has held faculty and/or administrative appointments at Kent State University, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), the University of Denver, and Jackson State University. She is the creator of the National Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc.; the Center for the Study and Development of Minority Businesses at Kent State University; the Entrepreneurial Academy of the Cleveland Empowerment Zone; the Entrepreneurial Academy of Youngstown, Ohio; and the Center for Global Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Development at IUPUI. Collectively, these centers have produced award-winning research and provided business training classes for more than 400 individuals using a training module Dr. House-Soremekun created. Through the work of these centers, numerous businesses have been established and/or expanded in Northeast Ohio. The author of eight books and a successful grant-writer, she is the recipient of more than 50 awards for teaching, research, service, and community and civic engagement. She holds three high Yoruba Chieftaincy titles; has been featured in numerous magazines, and has appeared on several television and radio programs. She hosted her own cable television show in Cleveland, “Let’s Talk Business,” and her own internet radio show, “The Dr. Bessie House Show.”

Donna Marietta ’81, 2021 Alumni Achievement Award

Wherever Donna Marietta has lived, she has been a volunteer in the community while working, caring for her family, and raising two children. She attended Huntingdon as an adult student through a special program known as SEARCH, which gave her academic credit for life experiences that related to college courses. Following her graduation she began working for the South Central Alabama Girl Scouts Council as the director of training, and then obtained a position in healthcare at Baptist Medical Center as the director of volunteer services. During her four years at Baptist Donna attended classes at Auburn University at Montgomery in the evenings, earning a master’s degree in public administration. With her advanced degree in hand, she moved into a career in marketing and public relations in the Atlanta area with Columbia Healthcare Corporation. When managed care changed the healthcare market in Atlanta, Ms. Marietta returned to Montgomery to serve as executive director of Child Protect, the Montgomery children’s advocacy center. Her knowledge of managing non-profit organizations to convey the mission and strategically develop innovative programs and services led to a move to Daytona Beach, where she became the executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Volusia and Flagler Counties and later the CEO of the North Coastal Division of the Children’s Home Society. Ms.Marietta’s experience in raising revenues through fund development has earned incredible results and financial stability for non-profit organizations where she has been employed. In 2012 she and her husband, Dr. Tom Gannaway, returned to Montgomery and she became the CEO of MACOA, the Montgomery Area Council on Aging. Her diverse experience in management, leadership, and operational expertise has resulted in successes and accomplishments for the MACOA leadership team and board of directors, which ultimately benefits the mission to serve seniors in Central Alabama. Ms. Marietta is active in the Montgomery Rotary Club, serving as president of the club in 2020–2021. She has been the recipient of the Florida Department of Children and Families’ Outstanding Community Service Award and the Gwinnett Rotary Club’s award for outstanding vocational, educational, and community achievement. She has also served as president of the Constituency for Children and Youth of Volusia and Flagler Counties; president of the American Cancer Society board in Gwinnett County, Georgia, and in Daytona Beach, Florida; and vice-president of the Museum of Arts and Sciences. She was selected to participate in Chamber of Commerce Leadership Programs in Montgomery, Atlanta, and Daytona Beach. In 2018 Ms. Marietta was profiled as the featured article in BOOM Magazine. Ms. Marietta and her husband together have five children, ten grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Outstanding Young Alumni Award Winners

Dr. James Robinson ’04, 2020 Outstanding Young Alumni Award

Dr. James 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, Dr. 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, Dr. 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.  Dr. 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.

Jhavonn Brown ’14, 2021 Outstanding Young Alumni Award

Jhavonn Brown grew up in Cedar Bluff, Alabama, with his mother, Martha, and sister, Giovannie Brown Allen, Huntingdon Class of 2007. While in school, Mr. Brown loved to help his classmates with their math homework and assignments. Noticing this, his 7th grade math teacher encouraged him to pursue a career in education. Growing up in a small school atmosphere, Mr. Brown wanted to attend a small college, so he followed in his big sister’s footsteps and attended Huntingdon College. While at Huntingdon he was active around campus, serving as president of the Campus Activities Board, co-director of Campus Ministries, a Resident Assistant, and a founding father of Sigma Nu Fraternity, among various positions. He also met his wife, Kristen Morrison Brown, Class of 2010, while at Huntingdon and they are the parents of two children, Oliver and Amelia Brown. Today, Mr. Brown is a 5th grade math and science teacher at Bear Exploration Center and has earned a master’s degree in instructional leadership. He describes his time at Huntingdon in one word: growth. Not only did he grow spiritually, he says he also grew as a man, learning from the personal, long-lasting relationships he saw Huntingdon administration, faculty, and staff build with each student. Relationship-building is central to his teaching philosophy and practice. He is working with Huntingdon through the Race and Justice Initiative to ensure current and future students of color are equally supported on campus.

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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