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Alumni & Friends

College of Sciences Honors Outstanding Alumni and Student Achievements With 2022 Awards

The College of Sciences has recognized three alumni and two students with its annual awards for outstanding achievements and contributions.

2022 Awards Dinner Winners
From left, Dean Bunce, Zenith Medal for Service recipient; Nora Gardner, Distinguished Alumnus Award recipient; Dean Chris McGahan; Ashley Tharp, Student Excellence Award (graduate) recipient; and Albert Hopping, Outstanding Young Alumnus Award recipient.

The College of Sciences has recognized three alumni and two students with its annual awards for outstanding achievements and contributions. The awards were given out October 5 at a small dinner and ceremony in Cary, N.C.

Meet this year’s recipients.

Distinguished Alumnus Award 

This award honors alumni whose exceptional achievements in business, education, research or public service have brought honor and distinction to the college. Distinguished Alumnus recipients are also recognized at a university-wide awards dinner, the Evening of Stars, that is held each year during Red & White Week.

This year’s recipient, Nora Gardner, received a B.S. in biochemistry and biological sciences from NC State in 1994 and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Duke University in 1999. She has served on the College of Sciences Foundation Board of Directors since 2019. Leveraging the amplification around Day of Giving, she endowed two NC State scholarships, bolstering awareness for student support. Gardner exemplifies what it means to be a role model in her philanthropy, her service to the university and as a leader in her field.

Dean Chris McGahan (left) and Nora Gardner

Gardner serves as the managing partner of the Washington, D.C., office for McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm. Prior to joining McKinsey, she held post-doctoral fellowships from the American Cancer Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2015, she was named “Working Mother of the Year” by Working Mother magazine. She was also named among Consulting Magazine‘s top 25 consultants for 2021 in the “Excellence in Public Sector” category.

Zenith Medal for Service 

The Zenith Medal for Service recognizes those who demonstrate distinguished contributions or advocacy that significantly advance the college’s ability to make powerful impacts on science.

This year’s winner, Dean Bunce, received his B.S. in zoology from NC State in 1986. His advocacy throughout the Think and Do the Extraordinary Campaign and his service on the College of Sciences Foundation Board of Directors played a vital role in the college’s campaign success. Bunce was also the recipient of the college’s 2018 Distinguished Alumnus Award. 

Dean Chris McGahan (left) and Dean Bunce

Bunce’s investment in the college’s students, faculty, research and programs makes a profound impact on the college’s work to improve human health, address environmental crises, harness the power of big data and accelerate equitable access to science. Bunce and his wife, Gail, are the university’s only supporters to donate Day of Giving challenge funds in all four years of the event’s existence.

Outstanding Young Alumnus 

The Outstanding Young Alumnus Award recognizes accomplished early-career graduates who have excelled in their chosen professions or through public service.

This year’s winner, Albert Hopping, received his B.S. in physics and mathematics from NC State in 2002, and earned his master’s of financial mathematics from the university in 2007.

He has spent the past 10 years at SAS, where he has risen through the ranks and is currently a lead product manager for risk engines. 

Dean McGahan (left) and Albert Hopping

Hopping is generous with his time as a dedicated volunteer. He is an active member of two advisory boards: the college’s Alumni Advisory Board and the Financial Mathematics Advisory Board. He has also participated in multiple student mentoring programs. Hopping’s drive and advocacy during NC State’s Day of Giving has led to thousands of dollars in bonus funding for the college. He is a true role model for students in demonstrating the power that alumni have when giving back. 

Student Excellence Award

The College of Sciences Student Excellence Awards honor one senior and one graduate student who actively pursue leadership roles within the college and across NC State through community service, philanthropy, campus involvement, research or in the classroom.

Before 2022, this award solely recognized seniors but has now been expanded to also recognize the leadership of our graduate students. The winners for this year are Gaven Bell for the undergraduate senior award and Ashley Tharp for the graduate award. 

As a College of Sciences Ambassador, Bell assists with College of Sciences events that aid current students and welcome new and prospective students to the Wolfpack. She also pays it forward within the greater Raleigh community as a STEM Coach with the Goodnight Scholars Program. Her other campus activities include the University Honors and Scholars Program and the Biology Club, for which she has served as social chair and co-president.

Bell is also an accomplished undergraduate researcher. During her junior year alone, she logged over 550 hours in Beth Lucas’ behavioral neuroscience lab. She also served as a chemistry teaching assistant for two semesters. Bell is studying abroad in Australia and will be formally recognized at the Spring senior awards ceremony. 

Tharp is earning her Ph.D. in mathematics and her leadership has benefited her department greatly. Early in her graduate career, she became involved with the student-run Graduate Instructor Support and Tools group, the department’s chapter of the American Mathematical Society, and a student-run math seminar series. 

Dean McGahan and Ashley Tharp

Her influence reaches beyond the graduate student population, through her service as a volunteer mentor for undergraduate and K-12 students. She has also established herself as a passionate and dedicated teacher, and one of her biggest impacts on her department has been through her work developing and teaching an expanded first-year course for graduate students. 

Student Excellence Award: Undergraduate Honorable Mentions

Jamie Loring, Statistics
Billy Fryer, Statistics
Ava Besecker, Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Student Excellence Award: Graduate Honorable Mentions

Xiaoxia Champon, Statistics
Stephanie Sabatini, Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences