UMO Alumni Receive Awards

UMO Alumni Receive Awards

MOUNT OLIVE- The University of Mount Olive (UMO) recently honored five of its distinguished alumni with various awards for their dedication, passion, and outstanding service in the community and workforce. Marian Kennedy and Roy Harris received the Lorelle F. Martin and Michael R. Pelt Excellence in Teaching Award; JaNae Joyner received the W. Burkette Raper Leadership Award; Dean Rouse received the Tillman Business Award; and Kristi Nixon received the Alumni Hall of Fame Award.

Marian Kennedy of LaGrange earned her associate of science degree from Mount Olive College in 1982, followed by her master’s degree in music education from East Carolina. She works as a choral director and drama teacher at North Lenoir High School, where she has taught for more than 32 years. Kennedy is widely known for directing the school’s professional Broadway productions.

“She has an innate ability to motivate and involve high school students and community children in her productions,” said fellow alumna Genevieve Taylor, who nominated Kennedy for the award. “Her love of students is reflected in her teaching style and in her support of her students,” Taylor continued.

Beyond her teaching gifts, Kennedy also shares her musical talents with her church. At
LaGrange Original Free Will Baptist she serves as the choir director and directs their annual
Christmas dinner production.

This is Kennedy’s second recognition from Mount Olive, having first been honored by the
University in 2002 with the Alumni Hall of Fame Award.

Roy Harris of Erwin graduated from Mount Olive College in 2007 with a degree in music. On many occasions since graduating, he has shown support for the university by assisting with UMO musical productions and off-campus activities.

Harris found his true calling with the Harnett County Public Schools. He currently works as the
choral director at Triton High School (THS). Acknowledged for his good works, Harris has been
awarded the THS Teacher of the Year and been recognized as one of the top five regional
teachers of the year.

Harris serves as a member of the North Carolina Chapter of the Gospel Workshop of America
Choir and the North Carolina Music Educators Association. He also directs the Cape Fear
Southwestern Free Will Baptist Church Conference of America Youth Choir.

Fellow alumnus Derrick Williams, who nominated Harris for the award, said “Harris’ love of the arts and education shines brightly both in-school as well as in the community.”

JaNae Joyner of Winston Salem is a Mount Olive native, and is an experienced higher education administrator. She currently serves as the Director of Healthcare Education and Innovation at Wake Forest School of Medicine.

Joyner’s role encompasses directorship/leadership/business management over Academic Affairs for the MD program and Executive Director of the Center for Experiential and Applied Learning (CEAL). During her tenure in this position, the institution secured the first medical education related grants in the past 10-15 years in education totaling more than one million dollars. In the last year, Joyner has helped establish a Health Professions Institute which includes medical education grand rounds, faculty development and faculty retreats for inter-professional groups across the institution.

Joyner has a Ph.D. in Molecular Medicine (2007 – Wake Forest University), a Master’s in
Healthcare Administration (MHA; 2014 – Winston Salem State University), and an Executive
Certificate in Leadership and Business Acumen (2017 – University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill). She earned her bachelor’s degree from Mount Olive College in 2002. Joyner has participated in graduate level coursework at the Johns Hopkins, was selected and participated in the High Potential Leadership Program at Harvard Business School (2016) and was selected to attend the AAMC leadership and management course in March, 2018.
Striving to help others succeed, Joyner frequently returns to the UMO campus as a guest lecturer. She especially enjoys speaking to students in UMO’s Henderson Science Club, a club in which she served as president during her time of enrollment. Joyner has also been a guest speaker for the University’s Annual Lorelle F. Martin Science Lecture.
Dean Rouse of Pink Hill, a seventh generation tobacconist, graduated from Mount Olive College with a bachelor of science in political sciences in 1990. Living on the family farm in the Liddell Community of Lenoir County, Rouse is passionate about maintaining and preserving his family farms and heritage.

Throughout his career Rouse has been involved in every aspect of the tobacco industry including farming, warehousing, lobbying, wholesaling, and manufacturing. One of his tobacco companies, M & R Holdings in Pink Hill, manufactures Dean’s Cigars and Farmer’s Gold Pipe Tobacco. His business employs 45 full-time personnel in its 28,000 square-foot facility.

Outside of his business venture, Rouse is actively involved with his alma mater. He has served on the University of Mount Olive Foundation Board since 2016. A member of the University’s Trojan Club, Rouse is actively involved in an annual golf tournament that supports student scholarships

Rouse’s extraordinary service and support to the University of Mount Olive have earned him the distinguished honor of being the 2019 Tillman Business Award recipient.
Kristi Nixon of Edenton has been honored many times during her 30-year career as Regional Environmental Health Supervisor for the state. She received The State Service Award in the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd in 2000, the Trenton G. Davis Distinguished Service Award in N.C. Environmental Health in 2015, and the Commitment and Service Award 2008 Interstate Environmental Health. After her retirement she received the Order of The Long Leaf Pine and The Cardinal Award from Governor Pat McCrory in 2016.
Nixon served as Vice President of the Northeastern Environmental Health District in 2000 and as President in 2006 for the Environmental Health Section Eastern District for the North Carolina Public Health Association. It should be noted that Nixon’s love of science and collecting awards started before her time as a Dean’s list student at Mount Olive College (MOC). While attending Southern Wayne High School she was presented the Science Award for Excellence in 1982 as she became the first student at that school to take every science class offered.
Nixon’s love of science continued while at Mount Olive College under the tutelage legends of Mrs. Martin, Mr. Brown and Dr. Jeanes. While at MOC she received the 1984 CRC Chemistry Achievement Award. Nixon graduated from Mount Olive College in 1984. Having built lifelong relationships at the College, she views her time at the institution as a steppingstone for both her life and profession. She later obtained her bachelor’s degree from UNC Wilmington and her masters from UNC Pembroke.
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 education service centers in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Research Triangle Park, Washington, Jacksonville, and online. For more information, visit

University of Mount Olive President Dr. David Poole, Kristi Nixon, JaNae Joyner, Roy Harris, Dean Rouse, and Marian Kennedy.