Three honored for giving back to Salisbury, Rowan County with Elizabeth Duncan Koontz awards

Published 12:10 am Sunday, May 14, 2023

SALISBURY — Salisbury native and activist Elizabeth Duncan Koontz committed her entire life to making sure those who were underrepresented received the same treatment as everyone else.

Though she passed away more than 30 years ago, Koontz’s influence is still felt today. She helped re-establish the Human Relations Commission in 1985, and every year the group honors her memory with the annual Elizabeth Duncan Koontz Humanitarian Awards. 

On Thursday night at the Salisbury Civic Center, Bishop Dr. Ronald Hash, Nicolas Means and Dr. Martha Starks were each given the award for their efforts to make the community a better place. Mayor Karen Alexander and Rowan County Board of Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds spoke with admiration for the recipients.

“The purpose of this award is to recognize a person from the Salisbury-Rowan community that exemplifies the ideals of ‘Libby’ Koontz and has made important contributions to improving human relations in the areas of education, employment, housing, industry, civic, church and other community endeavors,” Committee Chair Annie Boone-Carroll said.

Hash has been a member of many local and religious organizations in the county over the years. For him and the people in his life, it’s all about the simple joys of helping others. “We just like serving,” Hash said.

Means played football at Catawba College where he also graduated cum laude in 2003. He now works for F&M Bank and coaches at North Rowan High School. Even with all of his athletic success, giving back is what he considers his greatest achievement.

“P plus O equals S. This is an equation that I live by. It’s preparation plus opportunity equals success…I am much more humbled to be associated with this award. Who I was as an athlete is not what defines me, but being awarded something like this, shows who I am as a person,” Means said. 

Starks is also a graduate of Catawba College and has been a pastor for over 40 years. She has been doing a Bible study radio program in some capacity for nearly 30 years to help share her messages. Starks thanks her parents for instilling in her the values that have gotten her to where she is today, by actually taking part in changing how things are done.

“I stand here on the shoulders of parents that are deceased, but taught us that no one owed you anything. It is your responsibility to work for it. It is your responsibility not to complain, but if you see something that needs to be done, instead of complaining, do it,” Starks said.