Each year at graduation, the UNC School of Social Work presents the Distinguished Alumni Award to recognize alumni who have achieved distinction in the social work field, who embody social work values and who carry our mission of service into the world. Alumni can be nominated by peers, faculty members, fellow alumni or students and are chosen by a committee. This year, the School presented five distinguished alumni awards to the following honorees: Veronica Creech, MSW ‘98; Constance Fraser Gray, MSW ‘91; Mark A. Oliver, MSW ‘98; Anna Marie Scheyett, MSW ‘89; and Jovetta L. Whitfield, MSW ’95.
This year, the School also honored Kathy Boyd, retired executive director of the North Carolina chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. Boyd received the Tate-Turner-Kuralt Champion award, which recognizes extraordinary service to the School and to the social work profession.
Veronica Creech serves as chief programs officer for EveryoneOn, a technology company that works to provide digital access to underserved families and communities. Recently, she was named the economic development manager for the City of Raleigh and selected as the first entrepreneur-in-residence for the Jordan Institute for Families, Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab at UNC’s School of Social Work. In addition, she has served as senior director of global outreach and engagement with First Book, a network of more than 375,000 educators that has distributed more than 175 million books and educational resources to programs and schools in nearly three dozen countries.
Constance Fraser Gray is a former planner-coordinator for the Center for Human Services Research at Bowman Gray School of Medicine. She has served as a consultant for the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro and as a trustee for Wake Forest University and the Duke Endowment. She remains an active member of Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Winston Salem and has worked closely with several North Carolina Episcopal bishops to help develop greater racial diversity within North Carolina’s rural churches. In addition, Gray has served as a director of the Compass Rose Society, the social development organization for the Anglican Communion.
Mark A. Oliver is a major in the U.S. Air Force, where he serves as chief of policy and program evaluation, Mental Health Division of the Air Force Medical Operations Agency in San Antonio, Texas. Throughout his career, Oliver has served as an Air Force social worker, providing leadership for clinics and services addressing mental health, substance abuse, suicide prevention, crisis response and family advocacy. He has also served as an assistant professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy and as an instructor at the College of Social Work at the University of Tennessee.
Anna Marie Scheyett is dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Georgia and the former dean of the College of Social Work at the University of South Carolina. For 15 years, Scheyett served as a faculty member and administrator at the UNC School of Social Work, including as associate dean for academic affairs. Scheyett is a prolific scholar with numerous published works and a dedicated social worker, who was named Social Worker of the Year by the North Carolina Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.
Jovetta L. Whitfield has worked for the Durham County Department of Social Services for more than 20 years, including as child protective services worker and supervisor and as a child placement manager. She currently serves as assistant director of child and family services. In this role, she manages hundreds of staff members and a $1.5 million budget. She also represents her agency on local and state committees, where she is a constant advocate for individuals who are disenfranchised and neglected.
Kathy Boyd retired as executive director for the state chapter of the National Association of Social Workers in March. She has led the state’s social workers in this role for 32 years. Under her leadership, the state chapter’s membership grew from 1,300 to more than 5,000. Throughout her years of service, Boyd has been a tireless advocate for the social work profession and a champion for the individuals and families social workers serve.