Morgan Gray and Preston Turner

Morgan Gray, Preston Turner recognized as Lees-McRae Students of Excellence for September

The Office of Student Affairs has launched a new program to highlight the excellence students regularly demonstrate across campus. Two students will be recognized every month for their contributions to creating a culture of excellence of Lees-McRae.  

“The Students of Excellence program celebrates excellence in our student community,” said Melanie Hulbert, vice president for student affairs. “Faculty and staff will be asked to nominate a student who they have witnessed, seen, heard, or observed demonstrating this important quality. The Office of Student Affairs is excited about launching this program as it will be an opportunity for the Lees-McRae community to continue to ‘live out’ its motto of In the Mountains, Of the Mountains, and For the Mountains.”   

Wildlife Biology major Morgan Gray and Pre-Veterinary Medicine major Preston Turner were the first two individuals selected for Students of Excellence.  

Director of Campus Life Riley Sailor, who nominated Gray, said, “Morgan is consistently going out of her way to make new and returning students at Lees-McRae feel at home and welcomed. She is a smiling face that will wave at you from across a parking lot, and a comforting, caring soul that is easy to talk to. Seeing her interact with students as an Orientation Leader, Peer Ally, and a member of our women’s basketball team, shows you how lucky Lees-McRae is to have her as a student.” 

Gray is from Pasadena, Maryland and now lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She chose to come to Lees-McRae because of the Wildlife Biology program, the mountain location, and the basketball team. In addition to serving as an Orientation leader and Peer Ally, she is also a member of the Equestrian Club. She believes it’s important to take part in cocurricular activities because it can help students build a support system that extends beyond graduation.  

“No matter where you turn on campus there is always someone that would be able to help you if ever in need, whether it be a friend, coach, teammate, professor, anyone really,” she said.  

Gray defines excellence as “just existing and doing good around you because you want to do good, and not because someone told you to. Doing that small extra job that might not seem important but ends up being important even though no one mentioned it.” She was “shocked and surprised” to be named a Student of Excellence, although those who interact with her will agree that it’s a fitting honor.  

Preston Turner was nominated by Director of Residence Life Erin Smith, who said, “Preston Turner is one of our resident assistants at Lees-McRae College. He is a returner RA who demonstrates excellent role modeling and leadership as we onboard a new group of resident assistants. Additionally, during the storms earlier in the semester, Preston demonstrated wonderful crisis management skills in caring for peers at the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center as well as the Virginia Residence Hall. We are so lucky to have Preston in our Bobcat community!” 

Turner came to Lees-McRae because of the experience he knew he would gain from working in the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. When he’s not fulfilling his duties as an RA and a member of the Order of the Tower, you can find him in the center mentoring new students and participating in educational wildlife presentations.  

He says that to him excellence means “recognizing a need and doing everything within your power to fill that need.” 

“Students of Excellence is something I never really thought about being chosen for because I don't save people from fires or anything amazing like that,” Turner said. “I am just myself and that's all I've ever tried to be.” 

Students like Gray and Turner, who demonstrate excellence just by being themselves, strengthen the culture and community of Lees-McRae. We are lucky to have them! 

By Emily WebbSeptember 27, 2021
Campus LifeAcademics