UNCW Alumni Association Recognizes Distinguished Alumni, Supporter

Friday, February 05, 2021

Four individuals will receive the highest honor UNC Wilmington bestows upon its graduates and supporters during Homecoming 2021. The UNCW Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Awards recognize extraordinary achievement, outstanding character and exemplary service to the university and community.

They will be recognized during the university’s virtual Homecoming celebration Feb. 8-14. New this year is the Distinguished Diversity Award, which honors an individual who has made exceptional contributions in the areas of diversity, equity, access, inclusion and social justice.

“In a year like no other, this year’s recipients have gone above and beyond. Greatness is woven into the fabric of their being and it shows in their everyday work,” said Lindsay LeRoy, executive director of the Alumni Association. “The association’s Awards and Scholarship Committee had their work cut out for them as nominations for this year’s distinguished awards were at an all-time high. We couldn’t be happier to recognize each of these individuals’ accomplishments for their impact on the lives around them and will be forever grateful for their enrichment of UNCW.”

This year’s award winners are:

Dr. Philip M. Brown Jr. ’88 is the recipient of this year’s Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award. As the executive vice president and chief physician executive at New Hanover Regional Medical Center, Dr. Brown oversees care quality, care transformation and physician leadership. He has been part of an expansive effort to transition NHRMC from a regional medical provider to a more comprehensive health system to better serve the health care needs of the region.

Dr. Brown began his medical career as a vascular surgeon. He also served on the academic faculty at East Carolina University before returning to Wilmington in 2004 to practice medicine at Wilmington Health, where he served as president of the multi-specialty clinic practice. He has been a community leader on issues including the pandemic and racial justice, and has spoken to diverse communities on COVID-19 precautions and the role the medical community can play to address social injustice through medical care. Dr. Brown is an advocate of diversity, equity and inclusion and has spearheaded many initiatives at NHRMC for staff and has advocated for health equity among New Hanover County residents.

Dr. Brown is a former president of the New Hanover-Pender Medical Society and co-director of the Kanof Institute for Physician Leadership, a leadership college provided by the N.C. Medical Society Foundation. In October 2020, Dr. Brown was named president of the North Carolina Medical Society, one of the state’s oldest professional societies. Dr. Brown also gives back to the community through several initiatives including Healthy North Carolina 2030, a project that brings together experts and leaders from multiple fields to inform the development of a common set of public health indicators and targets for the state over the next decade. Dr. Brown also facilitated a partnership between the Blue Ribbon Commission, Northside Bridge Builders and NSEA Swim, a newly formed Wilmington-based swim team, to provide free swim lessons and water safety to children in the Northside community of Wilmington.

Dr. Brown remains active in the Seahawk community. He serves as the medical director for the master's program in athletic training and on the Dean's Advancement Council in the College of Health and Human Services. He often lectures as a guest in CHHS and mentors students interested in a medical career.

Distinguished Young Alumna of the Year winner Courtney Rickert ’15, ’18M is a two-time UNCW alumna with a bachelor’s degree in special education and a master’s degree in public administration. She currently serves as the business operations coordinator for Talbert & Bright, Inc., a professional airport engineering and planning consulting firm in Wilmington. A former special education teacher for New Hanover County Schools, Rickert continues to serve children in the Wilmington community through her role as director of Children’s Music at Wrightsville United Methodist Church, as well as vice president of the Board of Young Professionals for Communities and Schools of Cape Fear. Rickert also serves on the Cape Fear Alumni Chapter Leadership Council. In her free time, she enjoys performing in the local theater scene alongside her husband and fellow Seahawk Christopher Rickert, ’06, ’19.

While an undergraduate, Rickert was part of the 25th class of the North Carolina Teaching Fellows cohort under the direction of Amy Rottman. She was also a student ambassador, “serving Seahawks past, present and future,” a motto she is thankful to still be able to uphold today. Both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees were achieved with honors while working at the UNCW Disability Resource Center. During her graduate assistantship there, she benefited immensely from the guidance and mentorship of Beth Ann Bryant-Richards.

Distinguished Citizen of the Year Wilbur D. Jones Jr. is a nationally known, award-winning author and military historian. A Wilmington native, he holds a University of North Carolina history degree, is a retired Navy captain and a former assistant and advance representative to President Gerald Ford. He served the Department of Defense for 41 years, the last 12 as a defense acquisition university professor and associate dean.

Jones writes, lectures and consults on World War II as well as other history and defense issues; leads North Carolina WWII history preservation projects and tours; and led WWII tours to Europe and the Pacific. He served on the USS North Carolina Battleship Commission from 2013-17 and was appointed by Governor Pat McCrory as chairman of the commission in 2014-15. Since 2000, he has chaired the 501c3 all-volunteer WWII Wilmington Home Front Heritage Coalition, whose mission is to identify, preserve and interpret southeastern N. C.’s WWII legacy.

For more than 12 years, he conceived and led a successful project seeking national recognition for Wilmington as the first “American World War II Heritage City,” working with the state’s congressional delegation. In March 2019, President Trump signed into law a bill establishing that national preservation program. On September 2, 2020, at the Battleship North Carolina, President Trump announced the designation by the Secretary of the Interior of Wilmington as the first World War II Heritage City.

Jones has been recognized with a Wilmington StarNews Media Lifetime Achievement Award. His civic service includes Wilmington Rotary Club director, Hannah Block Historic USO/Community Arts Center Advisory Board chairman, and former Advisory Boards member for the Salvation Army and New Hanover County Public Library.

He is a retired professional college and high school baseball umpire and basketball referee. For 54 years he was married to Carroll Robbins Jones, who died in 2013. Carroll Jones worked part-time in Randall Library’s Special Collections for 12 years, organizing personal papers collections and establishing a broad video interview program of area personalities and artists. Wilbur Jones, who is a member of the E.L. White Society, has gifted his vast military history collection to Randall Library.

Edelmira Segovia, ’98, ’12Ed.D., the first recipient of the Distinguished Diversity Award, serves as director of Centro Hispano in the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion at UNCW. She supports the growing number of Latinx students applying, attending and completing degrees at UNCW; maximizes the success of each student; and most importantly, works to provide a place where every student feels at home while striving for success.

Segovia’s area of research is the academic success of ethnic and racial minorities, particularly of Latinx students at selective colleges or universities. In her 22 years of work with public education, she has served populations underrepresented in higher education, taught world languages (Spanish and English as a Foreign Language), coordinated migrant education programs, and served as diversity and inclusion administrator. Segovia is co-chair of the UNCW Latino Alliance of Southeastern North Carolina. She supports the mission of the alliance in building a stronger network among people and organizations that serve the Latinx community in the region, and empowers local citizens and organizations that serve the Latinx community by creating positive change in areas of education, business, health care, safety, and community building.

Most recently, she joined the founding team of the Latin American Business Council of the Greater Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, where she supports accessibility for established Latinx businesses in the region. In this role, she advocates for economic and public policy opportunities in a multilingual and culturally aware platform, with equal access to all resources that foster economic growth, success and integration of Latinx businesses and professionals into fabric of southeastern North Carolina.

Additionally, she serves as Pender County liaison for the Juntos Mentoring Program, under the Division of Student and Academic Affairs at North Carolina State University. The mission of the Juntos program is to coach Latinx students into achieving high school graduation and pursuing higher education.

“Each year I am blown away reviewing the accomplishments of our alumni and friends of the university,” said LeRoy. “In a year where many of us were happy just to make it through the day, our award recipients, even when faced with adversity, held to their values and helped make this world a better one.”

To view the awards presentation and participate in many of the virtual activities, visit

-- Venita Jenkins



Dr. Philip Brown outside holding his doctor's jacket.

Dr. Philip M. Brown Jr. ’88, Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award


Courtney Rickert standing outside under a tree

Courtney Rickert ’15, ’18M, Distinguished Young Alumna of the Year


Wilbur Jones standing outside a building on the UNCW campus

Wilbur D. Jones Jr., Distinguished Citizen of the Year


Edel Segovia inside the Wise House

Edelmira Segovia, ’98, ’12Ed.D.,  Distinguished Diversity Award