Alumnus of the Month: Martha McAfee ’86/’03

April 13, 2015

What is your favorite memory from Lees-McRae College?
There are too many favorite memories but I think what always stands out for me was the personal interaction with professors. I’ll never forget being in John “Doc” Wilson’s sociology class and, on the very first day, he said, “You can have any name you want in my class!” So I told him I wanted to be a Dean at Lees-McRae. From then on I was “Dean McAfee”. This went on even after college. He would write me letters (okay, busted - it was before smartphones and even email) and address them “Dean McAfee”. My family and friends thought it was so awesome. That was approximately 30 years agp. About 5 years ago, we rented a house in Banner Elk for Homecoming that just happened to be next door to his home. He heard us all talking and he walked up to the door and said, “Dean, is that you?” Tears ran down my face and I hugged him tight. He was one of the best professors. I’m sad to say he recently passed but his legend will always be with me!

Can you attribute any of your current success to your time at Lees-McRae College?
Lees-McRae offered the opportunity for me to find my passion in writing and working with people. My english professors, Joan Williams and Ted Ledford, guided me to appreciate everything about grammar, literature, writing papers and finding my creative edge. My philosophy professor, David Yount, helped me overcome my fear of public speaking, and my dearly departed religion and sociology professor, John “Doc” Wilson, said that I needed to find a career that allowed me to focus on people! I loved my two years at Lees-McRae and I returned several years later to earn my bachelor’s degree in communications. It was professors Mary White and John Keener that encouraged me to reach my full potential! I have served on the Lees-McRae Alumni Board from 1999 - present in roles as member, secretary, vice president and president. The experiences I gained at Lees-McRae have been beneficial in my current role. I am completely comfortable talking to people, speaking in public, teaching classes, writing speeches for executives, writing articles for newsletters and journals, and serving the community with my people skills.

What advice would you give to current Lees-McRae students?
Engage in as many opportunities as you can while you are still a student (volunteer, school committees, community events). This not only looks good on a resume but it will introduce you to people that can be lifetime connections. I built the best relationships while I was at Lees-McRae. My friends while I was a student are still my friends today (The 6-PACK), and I’ve met so many alumni from different years that have become good friends (Alumni Board members, The BCBs, College staff). I never miss Homecoming, graduation, or the summer event called ESCAPE. Please stay connected to your friends and professors. Return to campus for events. Get involved in the Alumni Association. This is YOUR organization and your involvement can make a difference.

Why do you feel it is important to give back to Lees-McRae?
I have been actively participating in the Alumni Association and giving back my time, talent and donations for over 20 years. I have always believed that Lees-McRae was the right fit for me. It is true that we all have to pay for a quality education but learning in that environment where I could focus on me was PRICELESS! Because of this and for so many other reasons that Lees-McRae is always in my heart, I am a regular donor to the Fund for Lees-McRae. The legacy of such a wonderful experience can only continue with our help.

What are you currently doing? 
I have been working in Greenville, S.C. for the past 25 years as a Technical Writer or Communications Specialist. Most of my job history has been for software development companies. Currently, I am the Executive Assistant to the Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Michelin North America. I plan and manage events, coordinate the CIO’s calendar, prepare presentations and speeches, host speakers and visitors from other sites and countries, and teach classes on our tools and technology. This is a public relations role where I serve as an ambassador to the Information Technology (IT) department by offering customer support and assistance to employees outside the department. My experience with planning events has given me the opportunity to travel with the management team to a conference in Paris, France where I will serve as a conference coordinator in early May. I participate in many active volunteer committees at Michelin: New Hire Network, International Festival, Diversity Committee, Upstate Women’s Network, Michelin Challenge Education, and the department’s Activity Committee. 

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