UMO Alumni Association makes awards presentation

From left, Ashton ‘T.’ Griffin, Heather McPherson, and Brandon Mills.

MOUNT OLIVE — The University of Mount Olive Alumni Association acknowledged several individuals during its recent Alumni Reunion Day. Brandon Mills of Jacksonville, NC was named Business Associate of the Year; Heather McPherson of Clarendon was given the Lorrelle F. Martin and Michael R. Pelt Excellence in Teaching Award; and Ashton “T.” Griffin IV of Mount Olive was named an Honorary Alumnus of the University.

Brandon Mills is a 2007 graduate of the University of Mount Olive where he earned his degree in business management while participating on the men’s soccer team. Mills is the vice president of the Benefits Division at SIA Group, specializing in risk management involved in Human resources and Employee. SIA Group is a full-service insurance agency with six offices throughout North Carolina. Under Mills’ leadership, SIA was the 2014 sponsor of the University of Mount Olive Homecoming Weekend. Mills is also a big supporter of UMO Athletics.

Heather McPherson graduated from UMO in 2008 and immediately began her career as a science teacher at West Columbus High School in Columbus County. During the current school year, McPherson was recognized as the West Columbus High School Teacher of the Year for the second time in her teaching career. Jean Ackiss, director of Church Support at the University of Mount Olive, nominated McPherson and said, “There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Heather loves her alma mater and wants to see other students attend the University of Mount Olive. She exemplifies the best in what the University of Mount Olive seeks to do for a student. One of the most outstanding characteristics of her teaching career is the concern she shows for the students she teaches. She helps them in the classroom, out of the classroom, and beyond the classroom as she guides them to further their education and fulfill their dreams.”

Ashton “T.” Griffin graduated from Davidson College with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. He then received a master’s degree in analytical chemistry and a master’s degree in education from Duke. Later, he attended Montana State University and received a master’s degree in science education. Griffin is an active member of the St. Francis Episcopal Church and is on the board of reviews for the Boy Scouts of America Eagle Scouts. Currently, Griffin works as a chemistry instructor at Wayne Community College and is on the board of directors for professional educators of North Carolina. Griffin received the Honorary Alumnus Award for his volunteer service to the Trojan men’s basketball team. Over the years he has faithfully attended countless games and worked as the time clock and scoreboard operator.

The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The university, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Research Triangle Park, Washington, Jacksonville, and in Smithfield at Johnston Community College. For more information, visit

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