UMO Alumni Association Makes Awards Presentation

UMO Alumni Association Makes Awards Presentation

MOUNT OLIVE- During the University of Mount Olive Alumni Weekend, several alumni were recognized for their outstanding personal and professional achievements, as well as their dedication to the UMO Alumni Association. Jean Fillingame Ackiss of Goldsboro received the Lifetime Achievement Award; Carolyn Fader Hill of Raleigh received the Dianne Brown Riley Distinguished Service Award; Charlotte Watson of Goldsboro received the Alumni Hall of Fame Award; and John and Deanna Ryan of Mount Olive received the Business Associate of the Year Award.

Ackiss is a 1960 graduate and received the award for her dedication and support of UMO.  The award was presented by fellow alumnus Gary Barefoot. In 1965, at the age of 23, Ackiss returned to her alma mater to work as secretary for then president Dr. W. Burkette Raper.  Her career with the institution spanned 50 years, much of which she served as Director of Church Support, a title she accepted in 1979.  Ackiss retired from UMO in November 2015.

One of Ackiss’ coworkers stated, “Jean has worked many long nights and on weekends.  She is an organizer like no other; a ‘meeter’ and a greeter; a ‘how is your mother?’ question poser; and the most caring individual you will ever know.  She understands our founding church and lives our mission.  When alumni and families come to campus, they always call her by name.  When speakers honor the institution and cite the difference this place has made on their lives, they always enter Jean’s name at the top of the ‘Thank You’ list.   Jean always set the bar very high.”

Another of Ackiss’ coworkers noted, “UMO has been more than a place of employment for Jean Ackiss. Her belief in the University mission and working to help fulfill that mission has been a way of life for her. The University has been a better place because of her service and influence.”

Hill is a 1964 graduate, and fellow alumnus Romey McCoy presented her award for her participation and leadership in activities that promote the advancement of UMO Alumni Association. According to McCoy, Hill epitomizes the ideals and character traits of a servant leader.

“For many years, Carolyn has been a leader in the work place as a healthcare administrator and a caring mother to her children and grandmother to her grandchildren,” McCoy said. “She is an active volunteer in many organizations in her community and has served in many roles of service to UMO.  Carolyn has worked tirelessly to improve the quality of education and experiences for all students entering UMO and has worked to continue those relationships with young alumni through the Alumni Board.”

Watson is a 1996 graduate, and. Dr. Paul Rutter, the director of the Evening College at the University, presented her with the award. “As a member of the healthcare community, Watson understands the importance of providing quality education to healthcare providers,” said Rutter. “She has therefore been a positive advocate and outstanding spokesperson for our healthcare programs.”

After graduating from UMO, Watson went on to receive her master’s degree in health administration in 2002 from Central Michigan University. She is employed as a picture archiving and communication system/radiology information system manager. Watson’s husband, Vince, is also a graduate of UMO.

John Ryan is a 2015 graduate, and Deanna Ryan is a 2011 graduate, and their award was presented by Annual Fund Director Melinda Holland. “Both John and Deanna are actively involved in the Mount Olive community in such activities as the Mount Olive Chamber of Commerce and Parks and Recreation,” Holland said. “John and Deanna have an extraordinary passion for life. While owning a well-known and well-visited restaurant, Pizza Village, in Mount Olive and raising a family, the two managed to fulfill their dreams of obtaining their four-year degrees from the University of Mount Olive.”

While at UMO John was involved with Supplemental Instruction, Future Leaders and Graduate Student Association, The PHI CHI Psychology Club, and the Sociology Society and Justice Association. He was recently accepted to Campbell Law School.

Through their generosity John and Deanna have worn many hats, which include bringing pizza to their classmates, attending UMO events, and financially supporting the University’s Annual Fund. The Ryans have three children, Ethan (13), Kaylee (7), and Charli (4).

The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Research Triangle Park, Washington, Jacksonville, and in Smithfield at Johnston Community College.  For more information, visit

Pictured L-R:  Jean Fillingame Ackiss, Charlotte Watson, Deanna Ryan, and Carolyn Fader Hill