Catawba College Distinguished Alumni Award recipients to be recognized Oct. 14

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 21, 2017

Catawba College News Service

SALISBURY — Catawba College will present four Distinguished Alumni Awards on Oct. 14 during Homecoming Weekend activities.

Those to be honored are Gary Blabon, Class of 1991 of Salisbury; David Renke, Class of 1977, and Anne Cleveland Renkes, class of 1976, of Roswell, Ga. (a joint award); Katharine Phelps Walsh, Class of 2005, of Pittsburgh; and Alexander Whitley, Class of 2000, of Montgomery, Alabama.

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

The ceremony and alumni brunch are slated from 10 a.m. to noon Oct. 14 in Goodman Gymnasium. Tickets are $20 for ages 13 and older, $10 for young alumni from the class years 2007-2017; $10 for ages 6-13; and free for children under 6. Tickets may be purchased online or in Kirkland Lobby of the Goodman Gymnasium on the day of the ceremony.

Gary Blabon

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

Blabon, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, came to Catawba on a football scholarship, 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, Blabon 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.

Blabon has been instrumental in working with Catawba’s sports medicine department to place students in that program in internships with local health care providers. He also created a sports medicine program in 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 and secretary. He serves on the board of the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce, is a member of the Rotary Club of Salisbury and is an elder at Life Church. He is also a member of the 2014-15 Leadership Rowan Class.

Blabon met his wife, Deirdre Tigniere Blabon, Class of 1993, while both were students at Catawba. The two are parents of daughters Jacqueline Cates, 18, and Gabrielle Leigh, 15. The Blabon family has enjoyed hosting international student athletes in their home since 2010.

David and Anne Cleveland Renkes 

David Renkes has 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, Georgia.

David was the recipient of the Georgia Home Furnishings Association’s Rep of Merit Award in 1999 and also served as president of the Georgia Home Furnishings Association from 2009 to 2010. He has been a member of the International Home Furnishings Association throughout his 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.

“Anne had the lead, I had a bit part and it’s been that way ever since,” Dave joked.

Dave came to Catawba from Newton 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, Maryland, and majored in speech, theater 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, the Renkeses have 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 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 money 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 project that provided more than 10,000 relief meals to the people of Burkina Faso, West Africa.

David 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, Georgia, 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 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, 3, Hudson Amick, 7 months, and Lucas Harton, 4 months.

Katharine “Katie” Phelps Walsh

Katharine “Katie” Phelps Walsh is employed by Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh as a teaching consultant.

Walsh was recruited to Catawba to play softball from her Prince Frederick, Maryland, 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 Elizabeth Scranton History Award, given annually to the student who attains the highest academic average during ther 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 doctorate in history from the University of Pittsburgh. During her time at University of Pittsburgh, Walsh won the Graduate Student Teaching Award given 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 17th-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.”

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

Alexander Whitley

Alexander “Alex” Whitley is a physician and owner of Central Alabama Radiation Oncology in Montgomery, Alabama.

As a student at Catawba, Whitley majored in biology and minored in chemistry and graduated magna cum laude with his bachelor of science degree. He also played soccer.

After graduating from Catawba, Whhitley went on to earn his doctorate at the Medical University of South Carolina and 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 and 35 peer-reviewed abstracts and is often tapped to make local, national and international presentations.

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

He is married to Heather Whitley, a professor at Auburn University’s Harrison School of Pharmacy, and they are parents of daughter Reese and sons Colin and Lane. Whitley is the son of Cecil and Nan Whitley of Salisbury.