Catawba College Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients to Be Recognized October 14

Catawba College will present four Distinguished Alumni Awards on Saturday, October 14th during Homecoming Weekend activities. Those to be honored include Gary Blabon '91 of Salisbury; David '77 and Anne Cleveland '76 Renkes of Roswell, Ga. (joint award); Dr. Katharine Phelps Walsh '05 of Pittsburgh,...

Catawba College will present four Distinguished Alumni Awardson Saturday, October 14th during Homecoming Weekend activities. Those to be honored include Gary Blabon '91 of Salisbury; David '77 and Anne Cleveland '76 Renkes of Roswell, Ga. (joint award); Dr. Katharine Phelps Walsh '05 of Pittsburgh, Pa.; and Dr. Alexander Whitley '00 of Montgomery, Ala.

These awards, given annually by Catawba's Alumni Association, recognize individuals who have served their community, distinguished themselves in their profession, and have served the Catawba College community.

The Distinguished Alumni Awards Ceremony and Alumni Brunch is slated from 10 a.m. until noon on Saturday, October 14th in Goodman Gymnasium.  Tickets are required and are $20 for adults over 13 years of age, $10 for young alumni from the class years 20007-2017; $10 for children ages 6-13; and free for children under 6 years of age.  Tickets may be purchased online or at Registration in Kirkland Lobby of the Goodman Gymnasium on October 14th.

Gary Blabon '91
Gary Blabon is senior director of professional and support services at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center.

Gary, a native of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., came to Catawba on a football scholarship and majored in sports medicine and worked with all of the college's athletic teams while a student here.  He was named Most Outstanding Athletic Trainer in 1991, his graduation year.  Twenty years later, in 2011, Gary was a member of the inaugural class of Catawba College's Athletic Training Hall of Fame.

After earning his undergraduate degree, he obtained his master's degree in health administration from Pfeiffer University.

Gary has been instrumental in working with Catawba's Sport Medicine Department to place students in that program in internships with local health care providers.  He also created a sports medicine program that is currently in place in all Rowan County High Schools.

He has contributed countless volunteer hours to Catawba's Athletic and Athletic Training Departments.  He also serves as a radio broadcaster and color commentator for Catawba football games broadcast on WSAT.

He serves on the Chiefs Club Board of Directors and is also a former president of that organization. He is a United Way of Rowan County board member and currently serves as treasurer/secretary of that board.  He serves on the board of the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce, is a member of the Rotary Club of Salisbury and a current elder at Life Church in Salisbury. He is also a member of the 2014-2015 Leadership Rowan Class.

Gary met his wife, Deirdre Tigniere Blabon '93, while both were students at Catawba.  The two are parents of daughters Jacqueline Cates, age 18, and Gabrielle Leigh, age 15.  The Blabon family has enjoyed hosting international student athletes in their home since 2010.

David '77 and Anne Cleveland '76 Renkes (joint award)
David Renkes worked as a territory manager in the furniture manufacturing industry since his graduation from Catawba.  For the past 23 years, Anne Renkes has been a Parish Catechetical Leader in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, serving as a Middle School Coordinator of Faith Formation and Youth Minister at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Alpharetta, Ga.

Dave was the recipient of the Georgia Home Furnishings Association's Rep of Merit Award in 1999 and also served as the president of the Georgia Home Furnishings Association from 2009-2010. He has been a member of the International Home Furnishings Association throughout his professional career.

Anne has been a member of the National Association of Catechetical Leaders.

The couple met while students at Catawba with both cast in a student-directed one-act play. Dave explains ""Anne had the lead, I had a bit part and it's been that way ever since!"

Dave came to Catawba from Newton, N.C., to major in speech and business. He was active in the Catawba band and was general manager of the first campus radio station, WNDN. Anne came to Catawba from Rockville, Md., and majored in speech, theatre and education. She was a member of the Blue Masque and served as president of that organization between 1974 and 1975.

Since the early 1980s, this couple has been involved in their children's school PTA and in ministry at St. Thomas Aquinas Church. Perhaps closest to Anne and Dave's heart is the work they do every other month at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite Hospital. In 2012, Dave initiated and formed "Patches the Dog," a silent dog character who entertains the children, while Anne does craft projects with them. They say it is a great privilege to bring a smile to a sick child and their stressed parents!

Anne has served and supported the St Francis Table Soup Kitchen in Atlanta, the Atlanta Night Shelter at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and Central Presbyterian Church, and regularly participated in the Atlanta Community Food Bank Hunger Walk.  By organizing a biennial Cardboard Campout for middle school youth, she has helped raise funds for organizations like Catholic Relief Services, North Fulton Community Charities, the Atlanta Community Food Bank, the St. Vincent de Paul Society and Heifer International. Working with Catholic Relief Services and Helping Hands, she organized a parish Meal Packing Event that provided over 10,000 relief meals to the people of Burkina Faso, West Africa.

Dave has served at the Atlanta Night Shelter at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and at Central Presbyterian Church. He has been an active member of the STA Drama Ministry, is a longtime volunteer in the Kairos International Prison Ministry at Hays State Prison in Trion, Ga., and served as Kairos Advisory Council chairman for Hays State Prison for several years.  Currently, he assists the North Fulton Community Charities Food Pantry and the Senior Services of Roswell Meals on Wheels.

The Renkeses are parents of daughters Katie Harton (husband Will) and Lauren Amick (husband Brian) and grandparents to Jackson Amick, age 3, Hudson Amick, age 7 months, and Lucas Harton, age 4 months.

Dr. Katharine "Katie" Phelps Walsh '05
Dr. Katharine "Katie" Phelps Walsh is employed by Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa., as a teaching consultant.

Katie was recruited to Catawba to play softball from her Prince Frederick, Md., hometown.  While an undergraduate, she was a College Honors student who pursued her baccalaureate degree in history.  Active on campus, she was a member of Alpha Chi Honor Society and the Sociology Club, and also served as an Alpha and a Catawba Ambassador.  Her accomplishments in her academic field of study earned her the Elisabeth Scranton History Award, given annually to the student who attains the highest academic average during his or her senior year and who represents the ideals of liberal scholarship in the area of history.

After graduating from Catawba, she earned her Master of Arts and her Ph.D. in history from the University of Pittsburgh.  During her time at University of Pittsburgh, Katie was honored with the Graduate Student Teaching Award by that University's History Department and also received the Elizabeth Baranger Excellence in Teaching Award.

She has several scholarly publications to her credit, including "Marketing Midwives in Seventeenth-Century London: A Re-examination of Jan Sharp's 'The Midwives Book'" in Gender & History 26 no. 2 (2014) and "A Humanist's Guide to Interpreting Empirical Educational Research" in National Teaching & Learning Forum (in press).

Married to husband Matt, the two are parents of son Miles, age 2.

Dr. Alexander Whitley '00
Dr. Alexander "Alex" Whitley is a physician/owner of Central Alabama Radiation Oncology in Montgomery, Ala.

As a student at Catawba, Alex majored in biology and minored in chemistry and graduated magna cum laude with his Bachelor of Science degree. He also played soccer while a student here.

After graduating from Catawba, Alex went on to earn his Ph.D. at the Medical University of South Carolina and then, his medical degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Today, he is a peer accreditation reviewer for the American College of Radiation Oncology, a delegate to the American Board of Radiology, chief resident at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Radiation Oncology, an ABR Holman Research Scholar, and a member of Alpha Omega Alpha.  He has published 12 peer-reviewed manuscripts, 35 peer-reviewed abstracts, and is often tapped to make local, national and international presentations.

Active in his local community, Alex is a board member on the Cancer Wellness Foundation of Central Alabama, the YMCA of Central Alabama and of the Southeastern Diabetes Education Services – Camp Seale Harris.

Married to his wife, Dr. Heather Whitley, a professor at Auburn University's Harrison School of Pharmacy, the two are parents of daughter Reese and sons Colin and Lane.  Alex is the son of Cecil and Nan Whitley of Salisbury.

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