Incredible ECU Women

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In 2007, the Women's Roundtable honored 100 alumnae recognized by their peers as outstanding leaders in their respective fields at an event called A Legacy of Leadership: 100 Incredible ECU Women. In 2010, six more women were added to this list of outstanding women. These amazing women are listed alphabetically below.

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z


Malene G. Irons, MD
Malene G. Irons, MD, opened her practice doors in Greenville in 1945 as the first pediatrician and female physician in eastern North Carolina. She never declined to serve any patient, regardless of race, social, or economic status. Dr. Irons raised three sons while in full-time practice and became widely known as an advocate for social justice. In 1949 she received the ECTC Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award and in 1965 was appointed as the first director of the Developmental Evaluation Clinic. The clinic building on the campus was dedicated in her name in 1974. Greenville presents annually the Best-Irons Humanitarian Award, named in honor of Dr. Irons.


Renu G. Jain, PhD
Renu G. Jain, PhD, lead clinical research scientist at GlaxoSmithKline, has also done postdoctoral research at the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center. At GSK, she wrote, set up, and oversaw two global pediatric HIV GSK protocols, which tested a new HIV medicine therapy for HIV-1 infected children as young as six months. The data from these clinical studies has been submitted to the FDA and European regulatory authorities for review, and when approved will provide a new HIV medicine for HIV-infected children.

Cynthia Johnson

Cynthia Johnson
Cynthia E. Johnson is the Founding Chair of the School of Human Ecology at Georgia Southern University. Dr. Johnson served as Chair of the Department of Child Development and Family Relations at ECU for sixteen years, leaving to head up the new school at GSU in 2012. While at ECU, she grew a small department to national prominence of its graduate programs, establishing the nation’s premier program in medical family therapy. She has held numerous positions in professional organizations and has served on many agency and community boards, including President of the North Carolina Family Life Council.


Margie Johnson
Margie Johnson is president of Shop Talk, a retail and research consulting firm concentrating on the retail, hospitality, health care, and financial industries. As a speaker, trainer, author, and consultant, she equips entrepreneurs with the knowledge and skills that lead them to higher profitability and performance. Johnson was a partner and general manager of the Galleon Esplanade and secretary and treasurer of Cabana East, a corporation owning several businesses on the North Carolina coast. Her accolades include the Fred Lazarus National Retail Federation Award; the NC Employer of the Year Award; the Inside Business 2006 Women in Business Achievement Award; and the 1998 Outstanding Women of Hampton Roads Award. She received coverage in The Washington Post, WHRO Public Television, and NBC's Today.


Elizabeth M. Jones
Elizabeth M. Jones is an author of children’s literature. Her first two books, The Night Flyers, which received an Edgar for Best Juvenile Mystery and an Independent Publisher’s Award for Best Mystery Suspense Thriller, and Secrets on 26th Street, were both published in 1999. The Edgar Award is the most prestigious award given to a mystery writer. Menace on Horse Creek Trail and The Secret Life were both nationally syndicated. Her eighth book, Traitor in Williamsburg, was released in 2008.


Lenora "Sam" Jones
Leora "Sam" Jones is a three-time Olympian and ECU and North Carolina Hall of Famer. Following two years of basketball at Louisburg Junior College, she played for the Lady Pirates, helping them to AIAW and NCAA national tournament berths. In 1982, Jones was introduced to team handball. She was named the US Team Handball Athlete of the Year three times. In the 1984 Summer Olympics, Jones was the fifth leading scorer as the US finished fourth in Olympic competition. In 1987, she led the US Women’s Team to a gold medal at the Pan Am Games, and in 1988, Jones was the second leading scorer in the Olympic Games.


Alice F. Keene
Alice F. Keene is a special projects coordinator for Pitt County Schools. Long active in the development of recreation for special populations, she helped establish the Greenville-Pitt County Special Olympics program. A founder of the North Carolina Senior Games program, she also served as the first president of its board of directors. Keene has served on the state’s Commission for Volunteerism and Community Service since 1991, chairing the commission three times. She received the Alice F. Keene Award for Excellence in Volunteer Management and the Outstanding Alumni Award from the ECU College of Health and Human Performance, and she was named Citizen of the Year by the Pitt County Chamber of Commerce.


Barbara A. Kelly
Barbara A. Kelly, assistant director of athletics for planning and special projects at the University of Virginia, is one of the driving forces behind the creation and development of a national class women’s athletics program at UVa. She oversees a number of special assignments, including the athletes’ lettering program, and the annual production of the student athlete handbook. One of her most enduring projects is a written and photographic history of women’s athletics at the university. Kelly was the pivotal force in leading the Atlantic Coast Conference to offer championships to female student athletes. She was honored by the ACC as the founder and inaugural tournament director during their 25th anniversary tournament.


Mary P. Kirk, EdD
Mary P. Kirk, EdD, is the president of Montgomery Community College where she has been a leader in the enrollment and endowment growth of the school. She is a Paul Harris Fellow of the Troy Rotary Club and a Leadership North Carolina board member and program chair. She currently serves on the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission, the Montgomery County Partnership for Children, and the Piedmont Triad Leadership Council..


Jenni Kolczynski
Jenni Kolczynski is renowned jewelry designer and president of JKL Inc. She owns and operates Jenni K Jewelry and has been featured on television’s QVC. In honor of her daughter, she has created an equestrian line of jewelry, “Silver and Gold Over Fences,” along with a line of infant jewelry, “Baby K.” While raising her daughter on her own, she has operated a horse farm and volunteered throughout her community.


Deborah G. Lamm, EdD
Deborah G. Lamm, EdD, president of Edgecombe Community College, is the college’s first female president in its 40-year history. In 2004, when she began her tenure, she was one of nine female presidents in the North Carolina Community College System. She serves on the NCCCS President’s Executive Committee, and is also involved in the Area L AHEC Regional Advisory Committee; the AHEC-Nash, Edgecombe, Wilson and Halifax Council; and the policy council of the NEWH Consortium. Lamm is a participant in the World View Presidential Leadership Program in Global Education and in Leadership North Carolina.


Lynn L. Lawry, MD
Lynn L. Lawry, MD, is an international authority on women’s health and public health policy. She is a physician at The Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine, a director of the Initiative in Global Women’s Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical, and an associate at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. She meets regularly with the United States State Department, Pentagon, Homeland Security, Senate, Congress, the World Bank, and United Nations representatives to advocate for policy changes based on her work. Her studies to change US and international humanitarian response, policy, and funding with regard to the care of women have been widely published and featured on national and international media outlets.

Laun Lawson copy

Laun Lawson
Luan E. Lawson is the Assistant Dean of Curriculum, Assessment, and Clinical Affairs at ECU’s Brody School of Medicine. Once a Brody Scholar, she returned as faculty in Emergency Medicine. During Dr. Lawson’s tenure as Director of Undergraduate Medical Education, she developed and instituted a required Emergency Medicine rotation with a simulation-based curriculum for fourth-year medical students. She also developed PIRATE MD, a comprehensive, longitudinal course formulated to promote the academic, personal, and professional success of each Brody medical student. PIRATE MD was presented in June at the AAMC Careers in Medicine Professional Development Conference. Dr. Lawson serves on the National Board of Medical Examiners Emergency Medicine Advanced Clinical Exam Task Force.


Jessica R. L. Leif
Jessica R. L. Leif, senior medical physicist at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, is board certified in therapeutic radiologic physics. In 2004, she received the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Department of Radiation Physics Leadership Award. Leif has served on the professional and public relations committee for the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM), and she has also served on AAPM task groups concerning accelerator beam data commissioning equipment and procedures, and robotic radiosurgery.


Nell J. Lewis
Nell J. Lewis is an author, humanitarian, and retired educator. Her book, 1 Day and 3 Hours, chronicles her journey of faith in the workplace. She is the recipient of the Best-Irons Humanitarian Award from the Greenville Human Relations Council for her work with the Domestic Violence Center, Homeless Shelter, and Pitt County senior citizens. Lewis has led efforts to better connect Greenville’s African American community to ECU. She hosted and produced Diversity Moments with Nell, a campus TV show, and is a guest host of the local show Minority Voices. A motivational speaker, she has presented at many national conferences.


Jennifer S. Licko
Jennifer S. Licko is a Celtic singer, songwriter, guitarist, keyboard player, and a premier Highland dancer. She has toured throughout the world with her music alongside of award-winning performers Alasdair Fraser, Natalie Haas, Jimmy Carton, Rickey Godfrey, and Brendan Grace. She is now recording her fifth album while continuing to perform Celtic folk music and dance. Licko has found time to share her musical experiences with children in schools throughout North Carolina despite living abroad in Ireland, Holland, Scotland, and currently, Brazil. She received a 2004 Cammy nomination for Favorite New Artist of the Year.

Dasha Little

Dasha Little
Dasha E. Little is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Apogee Solutions, Inc., an economically- disadvantaged woman-owned small business that provides consulting and professional, technical and program management services to United States Government organizations. Founded in 2002, her firm employs over 150 people in fourteen states and the District of Columbia, serving Wounded Warrior communities within the Army and Marine Corps. In 1993, Little founded Aspen Counseling, a predecessor to her current firm, which provided healthcare services and counseling. Little was the recipient of the Minerva Award for Leading Women Business Owners in Hampton Roads and has received the Women in Business Achievement Award from INSIDE BUSINESS. Her firm has been recognized as one of the fastest-growing companies in Hampton Roads.


Debra K. London
Debra K. London is president and CEO of St. Mary’s Health System-Tennessee Region and Mercy Health Partners-Kentucky Region, two of Catholic Healthcare Partners network of more than 55 hospitals and long-term care facilities in five states. She is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, a member of the Healthcare Roundtable, and was appointed chair of the Nashville branch of the Federal Reserve Board. While serving on a number of volunteer boards, including the American Heart Association, the Boys and Girls Club, and the Safe Kids Coalition, she also adopted her daughter from Russia.


Valeria O. Lovelace, PhD
Valeria O. Lovelace, PhD, is president and founder of Media Transformations, an educational research and production company which helps develop projects that provide children with diverse role models. Her clients have included Nickelodeon, MTV Networks, MSNBC, Sesame Workshop, Disney, and the Kellogg Foundation. Dr. Lovelace is research development consultant and curriculum creator for the Nickelodeon series Dora, The Explorer; Go, Diego, Go; and also Disney’s Little Einsteins. She has worked to create strong role models who seek knowledge, persist in the face of difficulty, strive for excellence, and contribute to the well-being of their families, friends, and the world community.


Deitra L. Lowdermilk, PhD
Deitra L. Lowdermilk, PhD, served for 31 years as a clinical professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Nursing. She was selected as one of the Great 100 Registered Nurses for North Carolina and a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, and was named Educator of the Year by the North Carolina Nurses Association. In 2005, Lowdermilk was the first ECU School of Nursing Distinguished Alumni and also received the ECU Alumni Association Outstanding Alumni Award. She served as chair of the North Carolina Section of the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses. She has participated in mission trips to Haiti and Honduras and completed a marathon.