Appalachian State University and its Alumni Association honored three individuals at the annual Alumni Awards Gala held June 11, 2011 on campus, at the George M. Holmes Convocation Center.
Receiving awards were Brad Sparks of El Segundo, Calif., Doug Johnson of Lenoir, and Martha Guy of Newland.
Appalachian honored Sparks with its Young Alumni Award, which recognizes an individual's exceptional service to the university and/or career accomplishments.
Johnson received the university's Outstanding Service Award in recognition of his years of exceptional service to the university.
Guy received the Honorary Alumni Award, which recognizes individuals who have given unselfishly of themselves to Appalachian but did not graduate or ever attend the university.
The Alumni Awards Gala served as the finale to the 2011 Alumni Reunion Weekend, held June 10-11. Activities included campus walking tours, a wine tasting and tour of the Solar Homestead project, class meetings and a tour of the university's newest athletic facilities.
The Appalachian Classes of 1961, 1966, 1971, 1976, 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001 and 2006 gathered for reunions. As part of a new recognition program for classes celebrating their 50th reunion, the university inducted members of the Class of 1961 and all prior classes as the inaugural members of the Black & Gold Society.
Brad Sparks is a director with the accounting firm KPMG LLP, working in KPMG Corporate Responsibility, a division of KPMG Forensic, in Los Angeles.
A 1997 graduate of Appalachian's Walker College of Business, Sparks earned a bachelor's degree in business administration. In 1998, earned a master's degree in accounting at Appalachian. He returned to graduate study at UNC Chapel Hill, where he completed his M.B.A. in 2004.
While an undergraduate at Appalachian, Sparks served as a student ambassador and was among the first group of student scholars to participate in the William R. Holland Fellows for Business Study in Asia program, helping establish Appalachian's long and close relationship with Fudan University.
At KPMG, one of the world's largest accounting firms, Sparks is responsible for the firm's internal climate changes strategy, which provides commitments to measure, report and reduce KPMG's carbon footprint. Sparks works with all KPMG member entities to establish greenhouse gas reporting protocols and to verify the data reported. In addition, he works with teams throughout the firm to implement emission reduction programs and reduce KPMG's environmental impact.
Sparks joined KPMG in 1998 as a staff accountant. He left the firm in 2000 to take a senior auditor position with Gateway Inc. While pursuing his master's degree in business administration, he worked as a consultant for the Kenan Institute Asia and completed an internship with KPMG in its Sustainability Services Group. He rejoined KMPG on a full-time basis in 2004.
Prior to his current position at KPMG, Sparks served as a member of the firm's forensic practice, assisting clients with corporate responsibility initiatives such as sustainability, reporting, supply chain integrity and codes of conduct.
"Brad Sparks has not only distinguished himself in the accounting and sustainability, he also has extensive international experience and embodies what we hope our alumni will become—global leaders," said Dr. Randy Edwards, dean of the Walker College of Business. "In addition, Brad is very willing to share his experience and inspire future business leaders by speaking to and engaging with ASU students and prospective students any time he has an opportunity. Despite his location on the West Coast, he has been more than willing to interact with our students and provide presentations that will have lifelong impact."
In 2009, Sparks established the Bullock/Sparks Explore Yosef Scholarship Endowment and has provided support to other scholarships in the Walker College of Business.
Doug Johnson is the chief executive officer of Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation, based in Lenoir. He is a 1977 graduate of the Walker College of Business, with a bachelor's degree in business administration.
Johnson joined Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation in 1979 as an energy management specialist. He advanced steadily working as director of energy management, manager of energy services, vice president of marketing, and interim general manager. He became the energy company's CEO in 1990.
His service to his alma mater includes being a member of the Yosef Club advisory board, Appalachian Summer Festival advisory board, Walker College of Business advisory board, and the Athletics Feasibility Study committee. His community service includes board of directors and chairman of Caldwell 20/20, board of directors of the Caldwell Community College Foundation, Bank of Granite board of directors, and member of the Caldwell County Industrial Revenue Bond Authority.
Johnson has provided significant support for Appalachian both personally and through his role as the leader of one of the region's most influential corporations. He and Blue Ridge Electric have supported the Hayes School of Music, Appalachian Fund, Department of History and Mountaineer Athletics. He has provided assistance to the Walker College of Business in forging new relationships with companies and individuals that share a common interest in education.
Since 1998, Blue Ridge Electric and Appalachian's Office of Arts and Cultural Programs have collaborated to present arts programming aimed at enriching the culture of western North Carolina and improving the quality of life for its residents. During that time, Blue Ridge Electric as the lead sponsor of the annual Appalachian Summer Festival has become synonymous with the month-long, regional cultural event.
The focal point of Blue Ridge Electric's festival sponsorship is the annual fireworks concert. The company's support has enabled the festival to bring many of the nation's finest performing artists to Appalachian, while maintaining affordable ticket prices. Johnson's leadership also has been instrumental in helping the festival secure additional sponsorships and financial support, making it the High Country's most anticipated summer event.
"Doug Johnson's service and commitment to Appalachian have been considerable. His leadership both on our campus and in the business community has been outstanding, and he is always available when Appalachian calls on him," said Chancellor Kenneth E. Peacock. "Not only has he personally made substantial financial gifts to the university, but as CEO of Blue Ridge Electric, he has provided decades of significant support across the campus."
"Doug's vision and leadership has served as a wonderful example of the great things that can happen when highly respected business leaders in our community commit themselves to advancing the quality of life for the region they serve," said Denise Ringler, Appalachian's director of arts and cultural programs.
Martha Guy is known throughout North Carolina and beyond as an icon and pioneer for women in the banking industry. A native of Newland, Guy served and led Avery County Bank for more than 60 years in every capacity from assistant cashier to president. She was inducted into the North Carolina Banking Hall of Fame in 2010 and has been honored by the North Carolina Bankers Association with its Legends in Banking Award.
Guy holds a bachelor's degree in chemistry from UNC Chapel Hill and an associate degree from Lees-McRae College. After firmly establishing her banking career, Guy emerged as a community leader and benefactor. She has served on the board of the Crossnore School since 1956 and received a governor's appointment to the Avery County Board of Education during the turbulent period of school integration.
Guy's leadership of and service to higher education has reached throughout the North Carolina Mountains. She served as a founding trustee of Mayland Community College in Spruce Pine. She also served on boards of directors and visitors at Appalachian State University, Lees-McRae College, Mars Hill College, Montreat College and Warren Wilson College. She has received honorary degrees from Appalachian and Montreat.
In addition to her time and wisdom, Guy also has given generously of her resources to higher education.
She is the founder of the Martha Guy Summer Institute for Future Business Leaders at Appalachian. Since 2004, the Martha Guy Summer Institute has brought some of North Carolina's top high school juniors to Appalachian for an unparalleled three-week opportunity to learn about business and develop leadership skills. She also has supported the university's Appalachian Summer Festival, Walker College of Business Dean's Club, Harlan E. Boyles Memorial Fund, North Carolina Bankers Association Professorship, Chair of Banking Endowment and others.
"The size of Martha Guy's collective gifts is indicative of her generosity," said Deanne Smith, director of the Martha Guy Summer Institute. "That is measureable; immeasurable is the way her institute has inspired students and future business leaders through learning experiences and travel. Regardless of their background, all of the Martha Guy Summer Institute participants, more than 160 of them, have said it was an opportunity of a lifetime, and Martha gave them that opportunity."
Some of her other notable contributions include the establishment of the Martha Guy Labs in the UNC Chapel Hill Physical Science Complex and several scholarship funds to support Avery County students pursuing higher education.
Brad Sparks '97 '98: When I was looking at different universities, I knew that I wanted to study accounting and Appalachian had a great accounting program that I already knew about, even being in Atlanta. My oldest sister, Jill, had gone to Appalachian and when I was looking for schools it was basically an easy choice to say that Appalachian was where I wanted to go.
BS: I guess one of the most meaningful experiences that I had at Appalachian was being involved with the Student Ambassador organization. I joined during my junior year and I got to meet a great group of friends that I still keep in touch with today and just had a great time being able to go out and represent the university to prospective students and alumni. I got a really good understanding of what the university offered, broadening even my understanding of the school outside of the business school, which I was a part of. So, definitely being part of Ambassadors was one of the most unique and great parts of my education at App.
BS: I guess one of the things that Appalachian offers its students that helped me and, I think helps a lot students and can help a lot of students today, is the number of international programs that are offered through the school. I majored in accounting and as part of that, through the Walker College of Business, really focused on international opportunities that were presented through the school. In fact, going to Appalachian allowed me to travel abroad for the first time, in which I went during my junior year to the University of Sunderland through an exchange program that the school offered with the university in the U.K. That was the first time that I had ever been on a plane, the first time out of the country, and that experience alone really opened up my eyes to what type of global community that we actually all live in.
BS: I was fortunate enough to go on two trips with the Holland Fellows program—an initial, kind of, scouting trip where we were setting up the program and the first trip of the program itself. Through those experiences we got to meet and work with a team of Chinese students that were studying there and worked together on a variety of business school case studies and present and learn about the local economy within China as well. Those international experiences really help prepare students to better understand the international business world that they'll all be entering upon graduation.
BS: Currently, my role is to work for KPMG International in our global citizenship department, reporting to our head of global citizenship and diversity.
BS: What Appalachian did for me was to help me really prepare for the job I'm doing today, specifically around understanding international business. At KPMG, what we're focused on is, one, making our own operations sustainable, and that's the role that I get to do today, is helping KPMG as an entity in 150 countries reduce its own environmental impacts. And, also, we're working with our clients to help them become more sustainable. So helping companies understand their own environmental and social impacts as well as their financial impacts is part of the key for our service line as well.
BS: One thing that we do is offer sustainability assurance. Much like we would do auditing or assurance of financial statements, we'll go in and actually look at the broader statements that a company will report and the information that they're disclosing around environmental or social impacts and audit that information as well. So, again, applying the key concepts of auditing but looking at non-financial information.
BS: Several years ago, two of my good friends and myself, Chris Wilkie and Kirk West, wanted to contribute something back to Appalachian and so we decided we wanted to set up a scholarship that would be specifically targeted to students interested in traveling abroad. When I was a student at Appalachian I was fortunate enought to receive a few scholarships to go travel and study abroad. Those experiences themselves made me want to give something back to the university and hopefully help some students today be able to participate in those same types of programs that were so valuable to me when I was a student at App.
BS: So we set up the Bullock/Sparks Explore Yosef Scholarship to really help students be able to afford those trips.
BS: One of the great things about living in Southern California is you get to do things like this. To get up early in the morning, go out surfing before work during the week and just enjoy the outdoors every day.
BS: My wife and I live in El Segundo, California, which is a small town just outside Los Angeles. One of the things I like most about it, is it's a small community much in the way Boone, North Carolina is. You have a very small, hometown feel where you get a real sense of community in a manner very similar to Appalachian State University in Boone. We have hometown fairs. We have annual Fourth of July picnics. It's actually a small town in a big city, letting you take advantage of all of the things that a small town offers while also being able to do things that a big city offers as well. All being at the beach at the same time.
BS: One of the things I liked about Appalachian was you had a great community with a good diverse group of people from a very diverse group of backgrounds. One of the things that I really enjoy about Los Angeles, and Southern California in particular, is that you have that sense of diversity but in a much more amplified manner.
BS: One of the things I liked about Appalachian was that there was a tremendous appreciation for the environment, even when I was there about 15 years ago. I think having that appreciation and awareness of environmental issues, even when I was a student, has helped translate into my own interest in working in environmental sustainability today. So starting to appreciate the environment as a student at Appalachian really lended itself to the career I'm following today.
BS: I guess, for me, going to Appalachian was just a fantastic experience. I got the opportunity to meet a lot of great people and choose a path of study that I actually wanted to focus on. Receiving the Young Alumni Award is a great honor and something that I really appreciate and value. It's great to have gone to Appalachian, to be a part of Appalachian, and getting this recognition for what I've been able to do since leaving Appalachian is just a true honor and I feel very honored to receive it.
Doug Johnson '77: Well, I'm a native of this area. I spent a good part of my growing-up years in Ashe County and then moved to Watauga County when I began high school. I've just always been an Appalachian State fan. The business school was really taking off when I started back in 1973, now, and I was very proud of what was happening there and just felt that it fit for me. I wanted to stay in this area, because I love this area.
DJ: Well, I received a bachelor of science in business administration degree, but my major focus was in banking and finance, and I thought at that time I would go into banking, was planning on going in that direction, and actually ended up changing careers and going into the utility business. But as you make that kind of a change, you know, the skills and the abilities that you gain through your education at Appalachian allow you to be flexible. The financial management skills that I learned in the banking program and finance programs were very applicable to running a utility.
DJ: I think it allows you to be flexible when you have those skill sets that can be used in a broad range of businesses, and I think that's one of the keys for Appalachian is we train young men and women today that they're going to have to be flexible as they move out into the work world. And so, when I began at Blue Ridge, I thought, 'this is a place where I really want to grow and hopefully aspire to be the chief executive of this company someday.' So I feel like it gave me that kind of confidence. It gave me the preparation and really helped me to focus on what it takes to be successful.
DJ: I understand how much Appalachian means to this region and how much it means to the business model for Blue Ridge Electric. It's beyond educating people when you look at what it means to this community to have a university located here, in terms of the economic power that it brings to our region. It's a tremendous advantage for us to have a university of this size and capability in our area.
DJ: So recognizing that, I wanted to be involved, and I began looking for ways for me to be involved personally, and to involve Blue Ridge more in making sure that Appalachian would be successful and that they would know that we're a partner and that Doug Johnson is a partner in the university, to be here and to provide support for and to be a cheerleader for Appalachian State University. I promote Appalachian State every chance I have to prospective students, to business people across the state and other states, just saying what a wonderful institution we have here, what a great university we have.
DJ: There are many different ways you can be involved at Appalachian State University, and certainly for me, personally, the college of business and athletics are going to be at the top of my personal list. So the first place I really got involved, as a lot of young alumni do, was the Yosef Club and being involved with supporting the student athletes and just being a part of the whole athletic process.
DJ: But I also had an opportunity, in talking with Chancellor Peacock a few years ago. He relayed a story about a young man he had met on campus. He was doing quite well and as he talked with him he came to understand that this young man had no parents supporting him. He did a little study and found out there were a lot of kids on campus that were really there and had very difficult financial circumstances, and he began a program called Appalachian Access. That particular program touched me personally, and Teresa and I both provide some money personally to that; and you just know you're putting some resources back to people who need them and who are going to appreciate that and do something with their lives in a very powerful way. So I'm very proud of that.
DJ: Another area I'm particularly proud of is the Appalachian summer program. Blue Ridge has been a corporate sponsor of that program for several summers now, and we're very proud to do that because of the overall access to the arts that it brings to our community. The excitement gives people in this region things to do and to be exposed to this kind of arts programming and to be able to have that right here on our campus in Boone. So I'm very proud of that and I think it's a great opportunity for Appalachian to bring in a group of people who appreciate the arts and who can learn more about Appalachian State University and become long-time supporters of our university.
DJ: Appalachian's selection to be a participant in the Solar Decathlon is a great honor for Appalachian State University, and it matches so well with the Chancellor and the university's overall strategic plan. It's a great tie with Blue Ridge Electric, because being the power provider to this area, we're in the business of helping to look at what are the innovative future resources and what are the kinds of energy sources that we should be looking to. So we were pleased and excited to sign on as a utility sponsor for that really outstanding group of young men and women.
DJ: I had a chance to go by and see the project—the house that they're building that they're going to take up to Washington, D.C., for this competition—and there's such enthusiasm for this project with these students, and for them to be able to go and participate in Washington, D.C. in an international competition and represent our university in an area that's one of our strategic growth areas certainly merited us being a partner and participating in that particular project.
DJ: When I first received notice that I was receiving the Outstanding Service Award from Appalachian, I was very touched by that. And the fact that so many people that I know have received this kind of recognition have done such wonderful things for Appalachian State University, and to be placed into that kind of category of service to ASU is humbling and honoring. Well, I hope that I've given enough and I want to give more to Appalachian State University because it's such a big part of me and had such an impact on my life, and I want it to have an impact on other people's lives.
DJ: So I'm excited about that. A lot of people in my family are Appalachian grads and they're excited about this as well. We talk about Appalachian all the time. It's just a big part of who we are, and to be recognized in this way—I'm very honored.
Martha Guy: I grew up in Avery County from the time I was born until now. I started in the banking business when I was about 9 years old. I used the add machine—I added checks and deposits—but I made $3 a week and that was a happy time.
Deanne Smith; MGSI Director: Martha is very special. I would say that our friendship has developed over the years. At first, I was a little shy myself and somewhat intimidated by this woman who became a banking icon—was a pioneer, essentially, in an industry where there were no women.
MG: There weren't many. When I'd go to the banking conference in Chapel Hill there wouldn't be more than six women there, and maybe 150 men. So if they did have women in banking, they were behind the scenes.
DS: While Ken Peacock was Dean of the College of Business, he long hoped to create an outreach and recruiting program for high school students from across North Carolina. Miss Guy was a long-time friend of the college through the Harlan Boyles Lecture Series, and she was willing to endorse this effort. The Martha Guy Summer Institute is a three-week business exploration program targeted to 24 North Carolina high school juniors from all over the state. We host them on campus for two weeks to introduce them to all the basic business principles and entrepreneurship.
DS: We also try to provide numerous leadership, personal and professional development opportunities. Their time on campus is followed by travel to New York and to D.C. to think about all the business concepts they've learned on a really large, real-world scale. Not only do the letters MGSI stand for Martha Guy Summer Institute, but throughout the course of the program they also stand for Mentor, Guide, Support and Inspire—all of those themes are key throughout the institute. But it's that last word, inspire, that I think all of the participants value the most—is that they leave with such great inspiration.
DS: Some arrive very shy, quiet and very unsure of themselves, and really what we try to do is help them understand what really makes them a strong leader, what gives them the greatest potential to be a future business leader. And they leave empowered and inspired and ready to conquer the world. They're ready to attack that last year of high school, they're ready to start college and they're ready to think about those career opportunities.
MG: Seeing the students—that's what I enjoy most about the institute. I think it's been excellent foe them and it's been worth-while for me, too, because I can see the changes in them.
Michael Allen '11; MGSI Participant and Leader: One of the biggest lessons I learned at the institute was just to be open to new experiences. And coming here and being on a college campus and being with people from all over the state who I'd never met before was a great opportunity to kind of push the boundaries of what I was comfortable with. And the idea of pushing myself to experience new things always has helped me to grow into the person that I feel like I am today, and has helped me to open myself up to new things that I otherwise wouldn't have.
Terra Davis; MGSI Participant: From my Martha Guy experience, I've learned that, you know, business is important to your major and what you're going to do for the rest of your life. But not only regardless of the career you choose, you're going to be working with different people with different personalities and backgrounds. We all got along and it became a big family, and the lesson that I really learned is that everyone has the capabilities of being a leader.
MA: My experience here at the Martha Guy Summer Institute absolutely influenced my decision to come to Appalachian. It's an amazing opportunity to really immerse yourself in Appalachian State. So, when I came and spent the two weeks here on campus and the three weeks with directors and leadership here at the university, I knew that this was going to be home for me.
DS: Martha is so deserving of the Honorary Alumni Award, because she feels like a part of the Appalachian family already.
MA: We joke a little bit that we're like her kids, because she really has a huge interest in our success and you can feel that when you meet her the first time.
TD: Mostly I'd just like to thank her, because without her help I wouldn't be able to be where I am now and to on the track that I am. A simple thank you isn't enough, and I really can't describe to her the opportunities that she's given to me. She's opened doors for me, not only in the college, but as far as the entire business world.
MA: As a graduate from Appalachian, it is a great honor for me to join the ranks of alumni with Martha Guy and to know that not only do we have the shared experiences within the institute, but also now we share the common experience of being an Appalachian Mountaineer.
DS: And so it is absolutely remarkable that, as a person who wasn't enrolled as a student, but has believed in us and supported the university in so many ways over so many years, that she's actually done that for us. And so we are grateful for that and I think it is only appropriate that we give her this recognition—this formal, official recognition—as Honorary Alumni.
MA: I feel like the things that I learned at the institute have stuck with me and will always stay with me. And the memories I have and the things that I have accomplished—a lot of that I attribute to the Martha Guy Summer Institute. I remember writing a thank you note after the institute was over to Miss Guy, and just saying "You changed my life."