SWU Recognizes 2019 Outstanding Alumni

Staff Report From Greenville CEO

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

The Southern Wesleyan University Alumni Association recognized six outstanding graduates during an awards ceremony Sept. 28.

Those who received awards were:  Caleb Lewis, Professional Excellence Award, School of Business; Dr. Verna Lowe, Professional Excellence Award, School of Education; Rev. Kenneth Wagner, Professional Excellence Award, College of Arts and Sciences - Division of Religion; Dr. Paula Lemons, Professional Excellence Award, College of Arts and Sciences - Division of Science; William Brothers, Young Leader Award; and Jonathan Catron, Alumnus of the Year Award.

Lewis was named by Greenville Business Magazine as one of the “50 Most Influential People of 2018.” After attending Southern Wesleyan and pursuing a degree in business, Lewis worked mostly in sales, then became an entrepreneur, starting Carolina Recycling Company, which focuses on post-industrial plastic recycling along with other items such as wooden pallets and cardboard for several major companies. Carolina Recycling started small, but doubled in size every year from 2008 to 2014. Due to rapid growth, his company moved into the old Taylors Mill. He became the lead investor in purchasing and redeveloping this old mill that was once the workplace of many residents in Taylors, S.C. Taylors Mill is now breathing new life into the area and is home to more than 75 small businesses and includes an event space and a restaurant. Lewis and his wife Natalie have two children. He is also currently a member of the advisory board of The Benson School of Business at Southern Wesleyan.

Lowe graduated from Southern Wesleyan University (Central Wesleyan College) in 1974. She earned her master of arts degree in school psychology and an Ed.D. in special education personnel preparation from the University of Kentucky. Lowe is manager of compliance and accreditation for educator preparation for the Western Governors University, Salt Lake City, Utah, and is partner and co-owner of Strategic Assurance Consulting, LLC, an education consulting practice. She is also a member of the SWU Board of Trustees. Under her leadership at Asbury University, the School of Education received three National Awards. Early in her career, Lowe taught students with learning disabilities, was a school psychologist and developed and modeled a support program for students with learning disabilities (SPSLD). She has served on the State Education Standards Board and on the former NCATE Accreditation Board (now CAEP). Lowe is an author and co-author of numerous publications in professional journals and has been a highly acclaimed speaker, seminar presenter and panel member or facilitator at professional conferences across the United States. She is married to Rev. Dr. Milton Lowe.

Wagner is lead pastor at United Wesleyan Church, Dover, Del.  While at Southern Wesleyan, he was part of the 2007 NCCAA National Championship Baseball Team and was instrumental in establishing a growing Bible study among student-athletes. After graduating in 2008, he married his wife Sherry, also a SWU graduate. Under Wagner’s leadership, serving alongside other SWU alumni, United is actively involved in downtown cleanups, clothing the homeless, stocking food pantries, partnering with local schools and serving anywhere they can find the opportunity. According to SWU Head Baseball Coach Mike Gillespie, “Kenneth realized that our campus is a mission field and witnessed daily to his teammates and others in the campus community. It’s easy to see how the ministry that he is building in Delaware is thriving for the Kingdom.” Rev. Mike Hilson, Chairman of the SWU Board of Trustees and Co-District Superintendent of the Chesapeake District, said, “Whether leading one of our foremost youth ministries, directing our district youth camp, building one of the fastest growing churches in the country, or helping lead the district as part of our Lead Team, his commitment to excellence and the expansion of the Kingdom of God is unmatched.”

Lemons is an Associate Professor at the University of Georgia in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Since joining the faculty in 2009, she has taught Introductory Biochemistry as well as graduate level courses. Lemons is a 1994 graduate of Southern Wesleyan University. She earned her PH.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Kentucky in 1999 and did some post-doctoral work at Duke University. In July 2019, the White House presented Lemons with the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), presented to outstanding scientists and engineers beginning their research careers and who show exceptional promise for leadership in science and technology. Lemons’ research is particularly focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) higher education in the context of Biology and Biochemistry. She has received several grants for her research which also focuses on how to support college faculty as they seek to modernize their teaching in the college classroom. In 2015 she was honored with the University System of Georgia Board of Regents Excellence in Teaching Award for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. She is married to Derrick, also a 1994 SWU graduate, and they have two sons.

A 2002 business graduate of Southern Wesleyan University, Brothers is vice president at Southwestern Community College. As the chief financial officer, he has developed and executed a strategy to improve the College’s cafeteria from an operation loss to making a profit within 12 months of his promotion. He led Southwestern to a point where the college provided a salary increase of 5.45 percent over a two year period when other North Carolina Community Colleges could only pay 4 percent. At Western Carolina University, he earned a MBA and ME in business administration and entrepreneurship. In August, 2010, Brothers became the Business Administration Instructor and Lead Instructor at Southwestern Community College where he received the Teaching Excellence Award in 2014. He received post graduate degrees from Nova Southeastern University, the University of England, and Herzing University. In 2014, he became the Accounting Program Coordinator at Southwestern Community College, then became dean of career technologies. He managed more than 60 full and part-time faculty. He served as project director for Appalachian Region Commission Grant providing $888,973 in capital funding welding and automotive career technologies.  Brothers is married to Chelsea and is a father to five children.

Catron began his working career at Southern Wesleyan when it was known as Central Wesleyan College, then worked at Woodside Mills, followed by Michelin Corporation. In 1986, Catron began serving as camp director at Table Rock Wesleyan Camp. He then returned to Southern Wesleyan, where he served as director of the Physical Plant until his retirement in 2019. Catron served The Wesleyan Church as secretary for 28 years and vice chairman for 25 years. He served nine terms on the District Board of Administration and represented the South Carolina District three times at the General Conference of The Wesleyan Church. Over the years, Catron either designed, managed, and/or participated in the construction or remodeling projects including construction of Bethel Worship Center at Table Rock Wesleyan Camp, relocation and reconstruction of Freedom’s Hill Church, design and construction of Clyde Dupin Amphitheater and the design and construction of the Military Memorial. Catron has a wife, Sandra, and two children. He also has two grandchildren and a great grandchild.