90 Years of Alumni

Alumni stories through the decades

Written by Hannah Epperson '11 MLAS '18, Scottie Hill '18, Casey Hulme '05, Karrigan Monk '18, Colin Reeve

1920s

Graduate of Distinction

Roy Arthur Taylor '29

Roy Taylor with President Kennedy.Roy Arthur Taylor graduated as one of the first graduates of Buncombe County Junior College—one of the 29 graduates in 1929, and he went on to make himself a namesake across the state and with his alma mater.

Taylor served as commencement speaker for his class, showcasing the skills gained from his years on the debate team. During his time at the college, he argued ardently for a football team and a school paper. The result was a winning football team, in addition to the women’s basketball team at the time, and a quality literary magazine called Bluets.

After graduation, Taylor went to Maryville College in Tennessee, followed by Asheville University Law School, and a stint in the U.S. Navy. He was elected to the North Carolina General Assembly in 1947. During his time in the state legislature, Taylor helped drive the initiative leading to the 1957 Community College Act.

His alma mater, now Asheville-Biltmore College, subsequently became the first community college in North Carolina. He served on the Board of Trustees for his alma mater, during which he helped bring the campus to its current location. Taylor also encouraged the next generation of students to develop their communication and presentation skills, by sponsoring a public speaking contest at UNC Asheville. Taylor died on March 2, 1995, but his legacy lives on in the Roy A. Taylor Distinguished Alumni Award, UNC Asheville’s highest honor for alumni.


1930s

A Name in Print

Gordon Greenwood ’30

Greenwood receiving the Chancellor’s Medallion in 1986.According to the university archives and the scrapbooks preserved there, Gordon Greenwood ’30 was drawn to newsprint, particularly the sports pages. He played on the college’s football, basketball, and baseball teams.

His clippings of the newspapers, now preserved as part of institutional history, detail the early days of sporting success, including local rivalries. The football schedule he saved also serves as a source to date the university’s name change from Buncombe County Junior College to Biltmore Junior College, nomenclature that also appeared on his class ring at the time.

After junior college, Greenwood continued his education at the University of Illinois where he earned a degree in journalism at the University of London. He served as a psychologist in the U.S. Army during World War II and returned to his native Black Mountain, N.C. to own and operate the Black Mountain News for more than 20 years. His career crossed into higher education, and he served as a board member at both A-B Tech and UNC Asheville, joining 1929 graduate Roy Taylor in the legislature that introduced and passed a bill creating the state’s community college system, of which UNC Asheville was one of the first examples.

Greenwood’s name continues to live on in the university athletic arena, with Greenwood Fields hosting baseball and soccer games to this day.


1940s

A Vision for the Community

Joseph Schandler ’49

Joseph Schandler '49UNC Asheville alumnus Joseph Schandler, class of 1949, had a vision for the Asheville community, starting with his optometry practice, which he operated for 50 years, and his deep-rooted connection to UNC Asheville. He attended its predecessor Asheville-Biltmore College starting in 1947, and following a year in the army and graduation, he enrolled at the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, Tennessee.

Schandler helped found the Low Vision Clinic at Mission Hospital and the Marjorie McCume Home for the Blind, served as state Chairman for the Blind, and provided eye care and optical supplies free of charge to residents of the Eliada Children’s Home in Asheville. He also was one of the one of the founders of the Botanical Garden on the UNC Asheville campus, and served as president of the university’s Alumni Association. For 13 years, he was head of the Asheville Housing Authority and served on the Authority for over 40 years. A prominent member of Asheville’s Jewish community, he served as president of the Beth Israel Synagogue and as Honorary Governor of the Jewish Community Center. For over 25 years, he was chairman of the Lou Pollack Cemetery committee.

He died on May 8, 2005 at 75 years old, but as his long-time friend Dr. George Bilbery, chief of staff at Mission Hospital, said “He [Schandler] loved his wife and his family, and he cared about his friends. But he also cared about people he didn’t really know…. His secret was that he saw each person as an end to himself and not a means to something else.”


1950s

The First Degree

Dorothy June Meadows Carter ’52

Dorothy June Meadows Carter '52In 1952, Dorothy June Meadows Carter earned a Bachelor of Science in medical technology from Asheville-Biltmore College, nearly a decade before university history documented the first four-year programs. According to university archives and copies of the Campus Crier at the time, it was the first baccalaureate awarded by the college and the first conferred in the state by “an institution operating on the junior college level.”

The newspaper report adds, “Awarding the degree will emphasize the fact the college is not chartered as a junior college.” Sure enough, the original charter for the college, which was filed on August 15, 1936, makes no mention of a junior college, but gives the college the right to “confer degrees.”

In the case of medical technology, students completed three years on campus and spent their senior year in the laboratory at Mission Hospital. Carter was the first and only to be awarded the degree, as Asheville-Biltmore College was designated a community college in 1957, no longer able to award baccalaureate degrees until it gained the state supported senior college designation in 1963.

Following graduation Carter spent a great deal of time as director of the lab at the Victoria Unit of Mission Hospital. She was responsible for ensuring all tests were completed while also overseeing peers in their lab work. She has stayed invested in the university with her active participation on the Alumni Board.

She also gifted a scale to the Chemistry Department in honor of her late husband. The couple met in a chemistry class they both attended when the university was still in Seely’s Castle.


1960s

The Legacy in Education

Francine Delany ’66

Francine Delany '661966 was a milestone year for UNC Asheville. It was the year the first graduates of the new four-year university graduated, known as “the 66 in ’66,” and among these graduates was the first African-American student to graduate from the university: Francine Delany.

Enrolling in 1961, Delany became one of the first three black students to enroll in the school, then known as Asheville-Biltmore College. Though she was only able to attend school for two years before taking time off to work as a secretary, Delany came back to finish the second half of her degree.

After graduation, Delaney became instrumental to Asheville public education. In 1973, she was named Asheville Jaycees Outstanding Young Educator for her work as a teacher at Vance Elementary. After being a principal in the area, she became the magnet school coordinator for Asheville City School before taking on state education roles with the Textbook Commission and Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Throughout her career, she advocated for public school reform, believing every child deserved the opportunity to learn.

Delany also remained connected to her alma mater. From 1981 to 1987 she served as a member of the UNC Asheville Foundation Board. As a Board of Trustees member, Delaney served from 1979 to 1981 and reprised her role 10 years later until her death in June 1992.

That year, the UNC Asheville Foundation established a fund in honor of Delany for minority students. The following year she was posthumously awarded the Chancellor’s Medallion. Today, the Francine M. Delany Alumni Award for Service to the Community is presented to a UNC Asheville alumni who embodies the spirit of community service that Delany strived for throughout her life.

In 1997, the Francine Delany New School for Children, a new charter school, opened in West Asheville. Part of Delany’s life-long work was advocating for charter schools that would give teachers more autonomy than they would have at a public school. When seven Asheville-area teachers decided to start a charter school, they chose to honor the pioneer by naming it after her. Delany’s legacy lives on in this school that has no administrators and boasts students working high above their grade level. Though she did not live to see it, the school embodies everything she dedicated her life to.


1970s

Works of Art

Mark Wilson ’75

Mark Wilson '75In 1971 Mark Wilson and his yearbook staff—recruited almost entirely from the Art Department—took the publication in a turn-of-the-century direction, bowler hats, bustles, and all. The following year, however, they turned the concept of a yearbook on its head. In what he calls “visual racket,” the unconventional-looking book was filled not with typical photos of clubs, events, teams or even class portraits, but with oddly cropped, manipulated and combined images and typography.

The result prompted a full investigation from the Student Government Association, but it also served as a launching point for Wilson’s career.

After graduating from UNC Asheville in 1975 with a degree in art, Wilson took what he had learned and applied it to graphic design for advertising. He started as an assistant art director at Price/McNabb Advertising before moving on to The Mother Earth News magazine, where he served as senior art director for more than a decade. After the magazine’s move to New York, he stayed in Asheville to work as a creative director at Western Reserve Advertising, then went on to found two successful Asheville advertising agencies, Berdahl Smith Wilson and WC&T. In 2008, he closed WC&T, moved to the country, and started a solo creative services and consulting business, which he still runs today.


1980s

Championing the Court & Classroom

Sheila Duncan ’84

Sheila Duncan '84A management major, with an emphasis in retail management, Sheila Duncan ’84 has a spot on the sports roster at UNC Asheville as a member of the Athletics Hall of Fame. She was center on the women’s basketball team, recording over 2,000 points during her time on the court.

Her senior year, Duncan led the Bulldogs to the NAIA Championship, where she earned MVP honors. When asked about the team Duncan noted, “We were a very well disciplined team, we always put first things first, our studies were first. We studied together, in the library together, or we’d drive on the parkway and study up there. We always put our classes first.”

During her college years, she also worked as an intern at Belk of Asheville to expand her knowledge of the retail world, a passion she continues to this day. At that time she paired it with many hours of practice, spending hours in the gym and the classroom. She is fondest of her memories of the Justice Center, saying “I thought we had the best gym in the world. Seriously, I know it’s nothing compared to Kimmel Arena, but when I was there the Justice Center was the elite gym of gyms!”

Upon graduating, Duncan continued her basketball career playing overseas for Celta de Vigo Baloncesto, a league in Vigo, Spain. She recalled declining an opportunity while at UNC Asheville to focus on her sport, knowing that the chance to play professionally could be once in a lifetime. Her talents prevailed though, and she played professional for several years. When her basketball career came to a close, Duncan pursued another burning passion: fashion.

In 1993 she earned a Master of Science degree in clothing and textiles from UNC Greensboro. Today, she works as a high school teacher sharing her passion with students daily. As a mother, wife, teacher, and recognized alumna-athlete, she shares the following advice to current UNC Asheville students: “Have an attitude of excellence on campus… be excellent at whatever you do.”


1990s

An Emerging Leader

Marvin Placino ’97

Marvin Placino '97Marvin Placino ’97 graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in management but draws as much inspiration from his broader experience on campus as his time in the classroom. He used his degree directly for years, working in the retail industry—until realizing his need for community, something that seemed to grow from his time on campus. As he says, “A degree didn’t change me as a person but more of the vibe UNCA holds.”

So he decided to leave corporate America and his suit and tie behind, dedicating himself to working in public service with emergency medical services, fire departments, and other domestic medical missions.

Did you know?
Every UNC Asheville alumna and alumnus is a lifelong member of the Alumni Association—free of cost! Visit alumni.unca.edu to learn more about benefits, upcoming events and ways to stay connected with your alma mater.
Now a paramedic in North Carolina, Placino provides ambulance medical care while transporting patients to hospitals across the East Coast.

Reminiscing on his time at the university as a student he recalls: “My first day in orientation I knew I would have an eccentric college education. The cultural event classes, the thought-provoking gatherings at the Quad or open mic night in the student center…many things made my UNCA education rewarding.”

He has some advice for current students and prospective students as well, particularly as they consider the paths their careers might take.

“Does your desire for higher education equate to more earnings? Or do you desire higher education for your own enlightenment? Be kind, be a leader, be fabulous.”


2000s

Community Change-maker

Tamiko Ambrose Murray ’06

Tamiko Ambrose Murray '06Tamiko Ambrose Murray ’06 has a challenge explaining where she works, but her degree from UNC Asheville helps her share how she is making an impact, right here in Asheville.

As a writer, cultural organizer, co-founder of Asheville Writers in the Schools and Community, and director of Word on the Street, a bilingual arts and culture magazine run by youth of color, Murray does have quite a few titles. But the common thread that ties her career together is her passion for community, storytelling, and racial equity.

In learning about education and the disparities that exist among students of color compared to their white counterparts, Murray was struck by the gaps in achievement, especially in literacy and math. “I started volunteering at Asheville Middle School. I was in the eighth grade classroom, and a good portion of the students had third grade reading levels,” Murray says. “Learning more about the world and why that is has propelled me on this journey.”

UNC Asheville’s English faculty supported Murray’s development as a writer, and now she’s passing that mentorship on to the next generation. “Word on the Street is a place where youth can totally be themselves. A place to feel safe, to feel seen, to feel believed in. We want them all to realize their full potential and to support them on that path, whatever it looks like. Not all youth identify themselves as writers or poets. Some are visual artists, some like web design. It’s really just about connecting them with their gifts and skills, and then nurturing them to be all that they can be. I believe every young person and adult should have that opportunity. The arts are a vehicle for community healing and transformation, and I think we need that.”


2000s

International Entrepreneur

Madeline Delp '17

Madeline Delp '17Madeline Delp ’17 loves a good adventure. A self-described adrenaline junky, she’s traveled across the country and around the world, been surfing and skydiving, and performed in front of large crowds. Now she’s on to a new adventure—founding her own nonprofit, Live Boundless, which serves to educate and assist those who, like her, use a wheelchair.

Live Boundless has already held its first fundraiser and launched the intro to a video series of the same name. The Live Boundless video series, which Delp began filming with Productions in a Box in Wilmington, N.C., kicks off with an episode on adaptive surfing. Other videos will include episodes on health, such as how to exercise in a wheelchair, episodes on traveling abroad and accessible cities, and inspirational talks.

As the Live Boundless organization grows, Delp hopes to take on some larger projects.

“Removing barriers for those with disabilities on a legislative scale is extremely important for our team,” Delp said, “and we will begin working within our national structure to help enforce the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), advocate to maintain and enhance social health resources, and implement new standards of full accessibility, from helping to create more accessible playgrounds, to greater integration of those who are differently-abled into the workforce.”

Delp, who has experienced accessibility issues in various countries during her travels, hopes to eventually make that effort international, as well. She’s also planning on using her double major in Spanish and German to begin translating the Live Boundless series, and she hopes to work on providing medical equipment and resources in third-world and developing countries.

Delp’s advocacy began with a run for Miss Wheelchair America in 2016, in which she was named runner-up, and has continued through her most recent run and crowning as Ms. Wheelchair USA 2017—a role that keeps her busy, traveling the country and speaking with legislators, at conferences, and other events aimed at improving the lives of those living with disabilities. For Delp, it’s a dream come true.

“Now after pushing through several very difficult situations over the past few years, I am finally getting to see my dreams become a reality,” Delp said.