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Recognizing Six Alumni for Distinguished Service Across the Country

Honored Alumni trophies.

May 23, 2024

In April, UNC honored six alumni who have distinguished themselves as leaders in their careers and communities and whose service and dedication to the university inspires Bears everywhere.

Since 1947, the university has honored outstanding alumni and friends whose service and achievements embody the University’s tradition of excellence. The Alumni Association presents the UNC Honored Alumni Award — the highest honor a graduate can receive — annually to graduates in recognition of career success and a commitment of service to the university. 

Delia Haefeli, M.A. ’90

Headshot of Dealia Haefeli.

Major: Moderate Needs

College of Education and Behavioral Sciences

Delia Haefeli, M.A. ’90, is a well-known volunteer and philanthropist in the Greeley community. She plays an active role in uplifting and empowering tomorrow’s leaders by sponsoring the Junior Board for the Success Foundation, volunteering as a court-appointed special advocate for children in foster care, serving as a member of a women’s group that supports women in education and hopes to become a mentor for young people at the Boys and Girls Club.

Delia and her husband, John W. Haefeli, ’86, are also heavily involved in the UNC community. 

Being avid Bear fans, they attend all the UNC sporting events they can. As a previous educator, watching former students play sports at UNC makes it even more fun for the Haefelis to come out and show their support. Attending productions hosted by the College of Performing and Visual Arts program holds a similar personal connection for Delia as some of her previous students are enrolled in UNC Art concentrations.

Staying well-connected to her alma mater by supporting the university and her former students comes naturally to Delia. 

Growing up, both Delia and John were helped by people in their community. Now, she feels a strong responsibility to do the same for those who may not have the opportunities she did. By creating an endowed scholarship, Haefeli’s generosity and commitment will be felt by many for years to come. 

Paul McClay Heidger, Jr., Ph.D., ’63, and Barbara Hyslop Heidger, ’63 

Headshot of Paul Heidger.

Majors: Biological Sciences, and Social Science

College of Natural and Health Sciences, College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Paul McClay Heidger, Jr., Ph.D., ’63, and Barbara Hyslop Heidger, ’63, met the first day of class while participating in (then Colorado State College’s) first Honors program cohort. While at UNC, both Paul and Barbara were active members of the Honors program and remained close with their professors and classmates from the program. Paul has fond memories of engaging with peers from different departments and stepping outside his comfort zone. They were also both involved in the United Campus Christian Fellowship, attending weekly meetings and participating in local and intrastate service projects.

Barbara was very focused on and skilled at supporting people who were disadvantaged at UNC and in her professional life. While pursuing her graduate degree at Columbia University, Barbara participated in a program called Teachers for East Africa that enabled her to travel to Kenya to teach at the Kericho Secondary School for Boys and study the development of political parties in an emerging independent state.

Paul pursued a successful career in teaching and research in reproductive and cancer cell biology. He was nominated for and received many awards during his tenure at the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine. Paul’s expertise in medical education proved invaluable while advising and collaborating with the founding dean of UNC’s proposed College of Osteopathic Medicine, Dr. Beth Longenecker.

Paul has a legacy of giving back to the university through a scholarship endowment supporting Honors students studying science and another scholarship honoring Barbara’s memory which supports students studying international relations. 

Trustee Stephen Jordan, Ph.D., ’71 

Headshot of Stephen Jordan.

Major: Political Science

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

As a student, Stephen Jordan, Ph.D., ’71, quickly got involved on campus. 

Joining the Men’s Rugby Club, Jordan immersed himself in the sport and gained a group of friends that included Kent Stoffer. Being a Political Science major active in student government, Jordan took Stoffer up on his offer to run his campaign for student body president. And his career in government and politics took off.

Jordan was appointed to a student government office after Stoffer’s win, which paved the way for Jordan to gain career-altering experiences that affected him beyond graduation. After earning a master’s degree of Public Administration and a doctorate in Public Policy, both from the University of Colorado at Denver and receiving an honorary doctorate degree from University of Pecs in Hungary, Jordan was hired into his first presidential position at Eastern Washington University.

Jordan transformed a long-time commuter university, where most students drove the 30 minutes from Spokane to Cheney rather than live on campus, into a thriving university and campus community with filled residence halls. The university also became the training location for the Seattle Seahawks while Jordan was president. 

After his time at Eastern Washington, Jordan returned to Colorado to become president of Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU Denver). Under Jordan’s leadership, the university made significant strides in reducing the educational attainment gap for Latine students, particularly those who are undocumented.

UNC is privileged to have Jordan on its board of trustees. He brings a unique perspective to the board as an alumnus, a champion of social issues that directly affect UNC students and a highly successful track record as a university president who transformed two universities into hubs of innovation and community. 

 Jamar Rahming, ’06

Headshot of Jamar Rahming.

Double Major: History and Africana Studies

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

What Jamar Rahming, ’06, valued most about his time on UNC’s campus was the strong sense of community he found.

Rahming was actively engaged as a student from day one. He served as president of the Black Student Union and participated in the Center for Human Enrichment (CHE), the McNair Scholars Program, the History and Africana Studies Departments and the Marcus Garvey Cultural Center. Rahming’s fondest memories are of the lifelong friends he made through these student groups, cultural centers and departments and programs.

As a McNair Scholar, Rahming discovered and explored the life of Willie May Ford Smith, a revolutionary gospel singer who was little known at the time. He even travelled
to multiple states to learn more about Smith. This experience instilled in Rahming a lifelong love of travel, adventure and curiosity.

Today, Rahming has become a passionate champion of   humanities education and public libraries, where he has built a successful career that he is passionate about. As he describes it, the humanities help us understand one another, and the public library system provides an invaluable source of knowledge to pique people’s curiosity and cultivate interests.

As executive director of the Wilmington Institute Free Library in Wilmington, Delaware, Rahming has made a point of encouraging critical thinking among his patrons and community. To do this, he invites a wide range of inspiring and diverse guest speakers, some more controversial and provocative than others, to give access to the information that encourages people to critically think and consider different perspectives and then decide what they believe. At the heart of what Rahming loves about the humanities and public libraries is the intellectual freedom they foster and ultimately enriches culture. This innovative thinking and passion are what makes Rahming such a valuable member of the UNC community and an intriguing role model for students.

Kathleen Sears, ’76 

Headshot of Kathleen Sears.

Major: Elementary Education 

College of Education and Behavioral Sciences

Kathleen Sears, ’76, always knew she wanted to pursue education. As soon as she set foot on UNC’s campus, she felt right at home. 

Learning new ways of teaching was eye-opening for Sears. Her UNC education taught her how to be an effective teacher, something she attributes to her success in the classroom.

After five years of teaching middle school, Sears took a break to become a radio producer with KUNC FM. At the radio station, she had incredible opportunities to meet and interview all kinds of people and even worked as a substitute announcer on the popular NPR news program, All Things Considered, before deciding to return to the classroom, this time as a graduate student.

After Sears earned her master’s degree in Journalism with a focus on broadcast management from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1994, she was hired as an instructional designer at CareerTrack, a leading corporate training company at the time. Sears produced audio and video training for adults and corporations, combining her past classroom experience with her radio days. Eventually, Sears would leave CareerTrack to start her own successful corporate business training company, TreeLine Training. before selling it in 2007.

Thanks to the incredible success Sears and her husband, Jim Helgoth, have experienced throughout their lives, they created an award to recognize outstanding UNC professors. The award is unusual because the recipient must use it for something fun, like the family trip to New York City enjoyed by a past recipient. Over the years, Sears and Helgoth have been generous with their substantial support and encouragement of both faculty and students at the university.

Jill Trotter, ’87 

Headshot of Jill Trotter.

Double Major: Journalism and Mass Communication

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Throughout Jill Trotter’s, ’87, UNC experience and into her adult life, staying involved with the university has been something that has helped her feel connected to her community. 

Having two Bear parents, Trotter felt comfortable on campus even before she became a student. Her family enjoyed coming to UNC to watch many sporting events and plays every year. It was a nostalgic experience for them, especially because Trotter’s parents first met on Hi Bridge, UNC’s historic and beloved bridge that led to the tradition of greeting a friend or stranger with a cordial “Hi.”

Both of Trotter’s parents were actively involved in Greek life at UNC, and she followed in their footsteps. Joining Alpha Phi, she made lifelong friends and joined a community that she would be intimately involved with for decades.

Volunteering as the UNC Alpha Phi chapter recruitment advisor for 24 years, Trotter has made a positive impact on hundreds of women’s lives. Her goal was to help women graduate with a positive self-image, develop the habit of giving back to the community and foster participation
in philanthropy. 

In addition to her years of service, Trotter and her family are philanthropically invested in numerous areas across campus including raising funds to support female student-athletes through the annual Women’s Walk.

After retiring from her role as advisor to Alpha Phi, Trotter volunteered her time on UNC’s Alumni Board. This was an especially poignant experience, as she could remember her father’s participation on the Alumni Board as a child. It was a proud moment for Trotter when she became the board’s chair. Being named an Honored Alumni carries extra significance as her father proudly received this same award in 1973.