By Kate Durham, Class of 2013
What do a young married couple, former math teacher, university president and an Army commanding officer all have in common?
They share the same defining foundation of an Appalachian State University education, which has influenced who they've become and what they've accomplished.
Because of their exceptional service to Appalachian and their notable career accomplishments, the university chose to recognize each of these alumni by awarding them with the highest honors presented by the university's Alumni Association at the annual Alumni Awards Gala held June 7-8, 2013.
The awardees were: Brandon and Erica Adcock of Charlotte, who received the Young Alumni Award; Hughlene B. Frank of Greensboro, who received the Outstanding Service Award; Maj. Gen. Edward M. Reeder Jr. of Fort Bragg, who received the Distinguished Alumni Award; and Dr. Harry L. Williams of Dover, Del., who received the Distinguished Alumni Award.
Brandon '06 and Erica Adcock '07 '08 of Charlotte met as students at an Appalachian Student Ambassadors' recruiting event on campus.
"I remember meeting her, and was attracted to her immediately," Brandon said. "I had to pursue her for a while," he added. "Here we are today, almost seven years later and I'm very fortunate to have met her at Appalachian."
The Adcocks were passionate and engaged students while at Appalachian. Both were Student Ambassadors and William R. Holland Fellows for Business Study in Asia.
They have provided time and considerable financial support to the Center for Entrepreneurship, the Walker College of Business, Appalachian Student Ambassadors, Appalachian Athletics, The Appalachian Fund and student scholarships.
Both said they are "products of," and impacted by, scholarships. Now they want to "pay it forward" to help give other students at Appalachian the same opportunities they had.
"I wouldn't have been able to go there at all if it weren't for scholarships," Erica said.
"My education at Appalachian definitely prepared me for what I'm doing now," Brandon said. He studied political science and marketing while at Appalachian and is the co-founder of Direct Digital LLC, a multi-million dollar global company. He served as a member of the university's Alumni Council, and he is currently on Appalachian's Foundation Board of Directors. He chairs the Walker College of Business Center for Entrepreneurship Advisory Board.
Erica studied accounting and went on to earn a master's degree at Appalachian. She recently left her position at PriceWaterhouseCoopers to pursue her passion for coaching field hockey, and she remains involved with the women's field hockey team at Appalachian as a summer camp volunteer and mentor. She also works at a non-profit, A Child's Place.
Just days after high school graduation, Hughlene B. Frank '68 of Greensboro came to Appalachian to be the best that she could be. "That's what I was raised to be," she said. She was young and eager to learn.
"As we came around that corner, coming into town, I told Mother and Daddy, 'I'm so excited. What will this bring? I can't wait,'" Frank said, about beginning her college experience. "I wanted to be somebody, and I feel like that's what Appalachian gave me the opportunity to be."
After a career as a junior high math teacher and nearly four decades of service to Appalachian, Frank's spirit hasn't aged and her eagerness hasn't faded.
Frank served for 21 years as a founding member of the College of Arts and Sciences Advancement Council. She served on Appalachian's Board of Trustees for eight years, and she is currently a member of the Appalachian State University Foundation Inc. and the College of Health Sciences Advisory Board.
In 2004, Frank and her husband, Bill Frank, established the lead endowment for the university's visiting writers series, which was named the Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series in her honor.
"I watched it make a difference in students' lives," Frank said, about the series. "I want Appalachian students to be able to go anywhere in life they dream of going."
Frank and her husband also established the College of Health Sciences' first endowed scholarship in nursing.
"The dreams I have are just the same dreams I had: make it bigger, better and best ... I want to shine. I don't have to be a leader, but I want to be a part of the team. I want to know I made a difference."
Dr. Harry L. Williams '86 '88 '95 of Dover, Del., a first generation college student, attended Appalachian on a track scholarship. Instead of leaving after graduation, he stayed to take his first job in the university's Admissions office.
"It was just a great opportunity to ... learn from the best faculty in the world, and that prepared me to go to that next place," Williams said.
He eventually went on to work as a national consultant in enrollment management for higher education. One of his assignments was to revamp the enrollment management operation at Delaware State University.
"In that process, a position in the provost office opened up," Williams said. He said his goal was always to be a college president.
Williams achieved his goal and more. He is the 10th president of Delaware State University (DSU) and a fierce advocate for higher education and anyone hoping to pursue a college education.
Under his guidance, DSU's national ranking rose from 17th to 13th in the 2013 Historically Black Colleges and Universities rankings by U.S. News & World Report. The university's research portfolio increased considerably, attracting more than $25 million in grants and project funding, and a scholarship program was implemented to provide financial assistance to first generation college students.
"The reason why I love this work is because I see the lives that we are impacting and that we are changing," Williams said. "We're in the business of changing lives."
"To get a Distinguished Alumni Award—man, it's a big deal because we have over 100,000 alumni," he said. "I'm humbled by it."
North Carolina native Maj. Gen. Edward M. Reeder Jr. '81 wanted to be just like his father—a hard worker with a moral compass "like none other," he said. His father was a command sergeant major in the Army.
"I've never ever wanted to do anything but be a soldier," Reeder said. "I had four goals when I got out of high school, and one was I wanted a quality education. Two: I wanted to play Division I football. Three: I wanted to go to a quality ROTC program. And four: I didn't want it to cost my parents any money."
Appalachian offered Reeder the opportunity to achieve those goals. He studied psychology, was offered a four-year football scholarship and was commissioned as an Army officer through Appalachian's ROTC program.
Reeder said he learned to be a critical thinker and an adaptive leader while at Appalachian. In his 31 years of service with the Army, he has commanded numerous Special Forces groups and battalions. Early in his career, Reeder distinguished himself by earning the U.S. Army Special Forces Tab and Green Beret, an accomplishment only one in 100 soldiers achieves. He is now the commanding general of the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (SWCS), the Army's Special Operations Center of Excellence at Fort Bragg.
Reeder said when he was notified via phone that he was selected for the award he thought his Army friends were pranking him—but it was no prank.
"I was prouder of being the Distinguished Alumni of Appalachian State than I was being selected to be a general in the Army," Reeder said.
(individually interviewed at first)
Brandon Adcock '06, 2013 Young Alumni Award recipient: I grew up in Cary, when Cary was actually a small town, and both my parents attended Appalachian. Originally, I thought I wanted to break the tradition and not go to Appalachian. I had my heart set on Duke. And then, my senior year, I took a tour of the campus at Appalachian because my parents urged me to, and really fell in love. And that's kind of what brought me from Cary to Appalachian.
Erica Adcock '07 '08, 2013 Young Alumni Award recipient: I grew up in Warrington, Va., and I never would've found out about Appalachian until I decided I wanted to play field hockey in college and wanted to try to get recruited. And I got a letter in the mail from the coach and I was like, 'Oh, what's this App-a-lay-shun State?' You know, that was back when I called it that. But then I looked at some research online and started to realize that, you know, it looks beautiful. It's a bigger school than I realized, not that far away from my family, but also far enough.
BA: Being a student at Appalachian was definitely one of the most enjoyable times of my life so far. I met a lot of great people. I was lucky to be involved in a lot of organizations on campus. Student Ambassador being one of them that have really shaped my life. You know, I would say it was a lot of fun. I learned a lot. Got to do some traveling.
EA: I liked being involved in different things on campus—being a field hockey player, being a student ambassador. And those two things right there were huge because they basically ended up defining my experience. I just loved it.
BA: Erica and I met on campus. We were having kind-of recruiting sessions for student ambassadors, and I remember meeting her and was attracted to her immediately.
EA: I do not remember meeting him for the first time at all. (music stops) He was already in the organization and I was, you know, coming out to tryout to be an ambassador, which is just an incredibly intimidating thing. It was just a room of people and you just go talk to them, like—go! So that was terrifying for me.
BA: I had to pursue her for a while—a little pestering on my part. I'm a little persistent, in a good way. (smiles)
EA: Our friendship—getting to know each other—mostly started on instant messenger, (laughs) I think. But that was kind-of how I realized how funny he is and started to be like, 'OK this guy's pretty cool.' So he wore me down, (laughs) and I'm—and I'm glad.
BA: There are reasons to like be—I didn't have to completely wear her down. But, here we are today, you know, almost seven years later, and I'm very fortunate to have met her at Appalachian.
(Transition to music, panning scenes of the exterior and interior of the couple's company. The couple sit together for this part of the interview.)
BA: So our company that's located here is called Direct Digital. Contrary to what our name sounds like, we are a dietary supplement company, and we're in approximately 14 countries, with the U.S. and Canada being predominant areas for us. And, we have about 10 products right now that we sell.
BA: I think my education at Appalachian definitely prepared me for what I'm doing now. I'm not necessarily doing everything that I studied. I majored in marketing and political science, and I think one of the big things is, not so much your degree or the specifics that you learn sometimes, but you're prepared to learn and you become a sponge while you're in college, and it gets your mind ready to learn new things as you get into the world. And I think that's probably the biggest thing for me.
EA: Yeah, and I got a degree in accounting, so master's and all of that. I went to work for PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and that was just a great experience. I was there for almost four years, but for me I think the biggest thing that Appalachian prepared me for is relationships. And I knew all my professors cared about me and I built relationships with them and with my fellow students. And I thought the type of programs at Appalachian tried to build that and reinforce that, so it's important to me and us to support student scholarships at Appalachian since we were given so much. You know, I wouldn't have been able to go there at all if it weren't for scholarships. There are just so many opportunities and we just want to continue to pay it forward.
BA: Both of us are products of scholarships—her with an athletic scholarship for field hockey and then I was a Seby Jones scholarship recipient—
EA: I got academic ones, too. (background music stops)
BA: OK, sorry. And, so... (laughs)
EA: Sorry... I just had to make sure that was in there.
BA: OK, we can start that over then. (laughs) It's important to give credit where credit's due, and she worked very hard in college and in high school, so ... you're smarter than me and you certainly deserve credit. (Erica laughs)
EA: Thank you. (laughs)
BA: You're welcome. Sorry. (Brandon leans over to Erica and kisses her)
BA: So anyway ... (a "beep" and clapper sounds, indicating a new take. Background music resumes.) and it's very important for us to support various scholarship programs across the university to make sure that students have the opportunity to go to college, and we try our best to pay it forward, like Erica was saying, for all students when they can't afford it—to make sure they can attend and get a quality education, and Appalachian is certainly a place that we'd like people to experience the same results as us.
EA: I love going back to Appalachian, you know, as Brandon's wife, with Brandon.
BA: Oh, it's great. It's great for us to go back as a couple. I think one of the biggest things for us is we share so many common memories, and you know, it's not a question of being torn between two schools when it's time for Homecoming. We go back, we have the same feelings. Giving back to the university—there's no question.
EA: I mean, I think anyone who knew us while we were there—all of our friends—you know, know how much we both individually love that place, how much it shaped who we are today. And to be able to have that history, you know, with someone at a place that's so special to you and to be—you know, just walking back in those doors—we both know how happy we are to be there, and you know, just how much like home it feels. So all that stuff, you don't have to explain to each other why anything is important. You just know. So it's really special to me that we share that.
BA: It's just great to have shared the same thing in your life together, and you kind-of have that interwoven identity that's between both of you. Not everyone gets to experience that. I'm lucky that we do. It definitely makes us closer.
Major General Edward M. Reeder Jr. '81, 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient: I grew up and was born at Fort Bragg, N.C., right here. I was raised in Fayetteville, N.C., right here. I am the son of a command sergeant major—hardest working man I ever met; had a moral compass like none other. Just a great guy. I've never, ever wanted to do anything but be a soldier. I will tell you that when I look at why I'm in the Army today it has nothing about being—serving this great nation, but everything about wanting to be just like my dad. My mom, she was the disciplinarian in the house. My mother expected excellence in the classroom everyday. And I have one older sister, a very bright, brilliant young lady—gave me great advice growing up and continues to give me great advice today, and is truly one of my best friends. But three great role models for me. I just had a great childhood. I had great friends here in town, so it's nice being here, assigned back to Fort Bragg, because I spend time with my Army friends, and then I also have my childhood friends here as well.
ER: I had four goals when I got out of high school and one was I wanted a quality education. Two: I wanted to play Division I football. Three: I wanted to go to a quality ROTC program, and four: I didn't want it to cost my parents any money. And Appalachian State offered me a four-year football scholarship so I absolutely took that. I fell in love with the school during the visit anyways, but it was just great to be able to go to App State. I think when I look back on my experience at Appalachian State, the real value was with the people. And, though, when I went up to visit the school, when I made a decision to go to App State, it really wasn't until you get there that you get the experience of dealing with the coaches, the faculty, as well as your—the students, where you really get the true value of Appalachian State.
(transition to music and military training scenes at the Special Warfare Center)
ER: I have been in the Operational Force, which means the combat rotation piece, my entire time in Special Forces. This is the first training job I've ever had. It is so complex, and it's so different from any other job that I have. The mission that I have here—that we have here—is to train, educate, develop and manage soldiers from not only Army Special Forces, but from the Civil Affairs in the psychological operations. But what we also do here is we develop the leaders. You know, that adaptive leader—all the analysis that goes into that, how you become a critical thinker, happens at the Special Warfare Center, the school. It is, 'how do we mold this guy to be a different kind of thinker?' It's amazing when you put him in a combat role, the things that he looks at. And that's the kind of guy that we want. We want a guy to solve problems, be an out-of-the-box thinker and be able to solve those complex problems because chances are, he's going to be out there all by himself.
(transition to music and panning scenes of military awards and status at the Special Warfare Center)
ER: But it really isn't until you become part of the regiment that you understand that it really is about people. This is a people business. We do a lot of humanitarian work and people don't realize that. We dig a lot of wells, we build a lot of schools, we build a lot of soccer fields, we run a lot of women's clinics. It's all under the radar; you never hear any of it. Do we have to do that? We don't have to do that, but it's just the right thing to do. But one of the things we did when I was on my last rotation as the commander of the Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command was we sponsored an orphanage in Kabul, and it was a girls orphanage. And in Afghanistan, if you've ever been there and experienced the culture, you'll quickly realize that it is a very much male dominated society. It's hard enough being a female; it is incredibly hard being a female without any parents. So we sponsored this girls orphanage—a great, great facility—in the middle of Kabul, and the U.S. Embassy is now involved in it and they did some great work after I left. There were some nonprofit organizations that are helping the girls become educated, and that's what we're trying to do because all we want to do is give them an opportunity, because without education they wouldn't have an opportunity.
ER: When I—when I think back on Appalachian, you know, I'll tell you—just a great place to grow up. My daughter went there for graduate school, and my other daughter wants to go there. So it's a part of our family for sure.
ER: I was a U.S. SOCOM, United States Special Operations Command, at a conference in Tampa, Fla., and I was talking to my wife at a break and she said, 'Hey we received—you received a voicemail from Chancellor Peacock and he said he had some really good news and that you were distinguished alumni for this year,' and I just chuckled to myself. And I told my wife, 'OK thank you.' And I am absolutely convinced that it's my childhood friends here in Fayetteville and it's a prank, so I called the number back and a lady answers and she says, 'Chancellor Peacock's office,' and I really thought to myself, man these guys have really put a lot into this. This is a really good prank. And so when the Chancellor got on the phone, you know, he told me that I had been selected. I just couldn't believe it because I think when you—you know, I look at all the alumni from Appalachian State and I can't tell you ... I'm just so, I'm so humbled by it. I told my family, I said you know, being selected for this, honestly, was—I was prouder of being the Distinguished Alumni of Appalachian State more so than I was being selected to be a general in the Army. I mean it was just ... it was just a real thrill.