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.
Since 1992, the School has honored 57 alumni with this award.
This year, the School presented seven distinguished alumni awards to the following honorees: Sydney Batch, MSW ’06; Tanya Smith Brice, Ph.D. ’03; Bobby Cagle, MSW ’98; Ebon Freeman-James, MSW ’02; Jill Gammon, MSW ’72; Charrise Hart, MSW ’13; and Rick Miller-Harraway, MSW ’89.
Sydney Batch is a North Carolina senator and a family law attorney, child welfare advocate and social worker in Raleigh. She fights every day for families across Wake County who are facing difficult choices and increasing uncertainty about their future. Batch was elected to the state House in 2018 and sponsored and co-sponsored a number of bills ranging from legislation to expand affordable healthcare to a bill ensuring safe drinking water. In January 2021, the state Democratic Party nominated her to fill a vacancy in Senate District 17, an appointment approved by Gov. Roy Cooper.
Tanya Smith Brice is the vice president of education for the Council on Social Work Education in Alexandria, Va. and leads the organization’s pursuit of promoting quality education and supporting the career development of students, faculty members, and administrators. Prior to this role, Smith Brice served as dean and professor of social work in the College of Professional Studies at Bowie State University in Bowie, MD. She has also held leadership positions at several other colleges and universities. As stated in her letter of nomination, “Tanya is an impassioned leader and social justice advocate whose professional commitment clearly reflects the mission of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work.”
Bobby Cagle is the director of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, the largest child welfare agency in the country. Prior to joining Los Angeles County, Cagle was appointed by former Gov. Nathan Deal as commissioner of the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning and later as director of the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services. Cagle, who is recognized nationally for his work in child welfare, has received numerous awards, including the prestigious Children and Family Fellowship from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Ebon Freeman-James is a licensed clinical social worker and a tireless advocate for military members and their families. She is a member of the board of directors of Camp Corral, a nonprofit that provides free summer camp experiences for the children of wounded, injured and fallen military members. In September 2020, Gov. Roy Cooper appointed Freeman-James to the Social Work Certification and Licensure Board.
Jill Gammon has used her social work degree to lead a nonprofit in Raleigh and to build a successful nonprofit consulting firm. For 50 years, Gammon has been a leader and active participant on numerous local nonprofit boards of directors in the areas of human services, arts and education. Gammon is a charter member and served as vice chair of the School’s Board of Advisors. In 2006, she was awarded the Tate-Turner-Kuralt Champions Award for outstanding commitment and service to the School. Currently, she is the elected chair of the UNC General Alumni Association Board of Directors. Gammon has remained an active member of the School of Social Work’s Board of Advisors.
Charrise Hart is the CEO of Ready for School, Ready for Life, a collaborative effort to build a connected, innovative system of care for Guilford County’s youngest children and their families. Hart has been awarded the N.C. Governor’s Award for Outstanding Volunteerism and the Greensboro Communities in Schools’ Volunteer of the Year award. She also has received the Wilmington Business Journal’s Women to Watch award.
Rick Miller-Haraway is semi-retired after holding several important leadership and practice-related positions in social work agencies in the Raleigh area, most recently as director of Raleigh Regional Office of Catholic Charities. Miller-Haraway is currently employed by the UNC School of Social Work as a part-time field instructor.
This year, the School also presented the Tate-Turner-Kuralt Champion Award to multiple honorees. These honorees have long supported our academic programs, student scholarships, and faculty research and are deserving of this award, which recognizes extraordinary service to the School and to the social work profession. The award is named in recognition of the three leaders who helped guide the School’s growth and development and ensure its success as a top School of Social Work in the country: Charlotte businessman and philanthropist John A.”Jack” Tate, Jr.; visionary School Dean John B. Turner and UNC alumnus, social work supporter, and beloved journalist Charles Kuralt.
The 2021 recipients of the Tate-Turner-Kuralt Champion Award are:
- Jessica and Todd Barr, Raleigh, N.C.
- Carl and Susan Baumann, Hillsborough, N.C.
- Meghan and Robert Cioffi, New Canaan, Conn.
- Sandra and the late Henry Hobbs, Port Chester, N.Y.
- Daniel and Anita McClernon, Cary, N.C.
- L. Richardson Preyer, Jr., and Marilyn Jacobs Preyer, Hillsborough, N.C.
- John A. Tate III and Claire Tate, Charlotte, N.C.
This year’s distinguished alumni and Tate-Turner-Kuralt Champion Award winners were recognized during the School’s commencement ceremony on May 13.