Four Distinguished Seahawks to Receive UNCW's Highest Honor

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

UNCW will bestow its highest honor given to graduates and supporters to four distinguished alumni during Homecoming 2023. The Alumni Association Distinguished Awards are presented to individuals in recognition of their extraordinary achievement, outstanding character and exemplary service to the university and community.

The awardees are a testament to the outstanding quality of alumni produced by the university over the past 75 years. They will be recognized during the university's Homecoming celebrations scheduled for Feb. 10-12.

“This year's distinguished honorees demonstrate tenacity and selflessness for the greater good in their professional and personal lives,” said Lindsay LeRoy, executive director of the UNCW Alumni Association. “They have overcome barriers and have brought others along in the wake of their success. Their Seahawk pride is like no other, and we look forward to celebrating their success with all Seahawks during Homecoming.”

This year's recipients are:

Riley A. Stephenson '15, Distinguished Young Alumnus of the Year, serves as vice president of the board of directors for StepUp Wilmington, a nonprofit that helps the unemployed and underemployed with job training and development. His community involvement also includes serving as co-chair for the NC Azalea Festival parade, advisory board member at the Mosley Career Readiness Academy, vice-chairman of the First Tee of Greater Wilmington Young Professional Board, chairman of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce Young Professional Advisory Council and a founding member of “100 Men Who Care.”

Stephenson is actively involved with UNCW, serving as a member of the UNCW Alumni Board of Directors, the Cameron School of Business Executive Advisory Board and as past CSB Alumni Chapter president. He is a member of the UNCW Society and the Clocktower Society.

Stephenson is a financial advisor with Decision Point Wealth Consulting at UBS Financial Services in Wilmington. He received his bachelor’s degree in business administration and finance from UNCW. In 2022, he earned his CFP® Certification Education Program, Financial Planning from NC State University.

Alejandra Sotelo '00, Distinguished Diversity Award, is the highest-ranking female and Latinx officer in the history of the Wilmington Police Department. Sotelo oversees a majority of the department's uniformed officers in her role as deputy chief.

Sotelo inspires young women through her involvement in GLOW Academy's “Cool Women, Hot Jobs,” which brings women role models to the academy that serves mostly minority, low-income students. She also oversees COP Camp, where at-risk children participate in police department-sponsored activities. Sotelo is an executive board member and former president of the North Carolina Police Executives Association. She also advocates for women in law enforcement as a member of the NC Law Enforcement Women's Association.

She is a mentor for UNCW Centro Hispano's MI CASA and a member of the Latino Alliance. Sotelo received a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and a minor in sociology from UNCW. Sotelo earned a master’s degree in public administration from UNC Pembroke. In 2022, she completed the Senior Management Institute for Police.

Lauren Daley Bryant '07, '10M, Distinguished Citizen of the Year, is the executive director of Domestic Violence Shelter & Services, Inc. in Wilmington, an organization that works toward eliminating domestic violence. Before joining Domestic Violence Shelter & Services, Inc., Bryant held positions as the director of operations and development at the agency and development director for Thalian Hall Center for Performing Arts and development coordinator for Lower Cape Fear Life Care.

Bryant is active in the UNCW Cape Fear Alumni Chapter, currently serving as president and previously holding positions as vice president and secretary, and is a member of the UNCW Society and Clocktower Society. She also serves as president of the Cape Fear Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Bryant was a 2022 IMPACT (Inspiring and Mentoring Peers for Advancing Community Transformation) Award nominee for her dedication to domestic violence awareness and advocacy.

Bryant received her bachelor's degree in political science and a minor in international affairs and public administration in 2007. She earned a master's degree in public administration with a concentration in nonprofit management in 2010.

Marcia J. Avedon, Ph.D. '83, Distinguished Alumna of the Year, is Avedon Advisory, LLC's founder and chief executive officer. She served as a corporate officer on the executive leadership teams of three Fortune 500 companies in multiple industries and worked in corporate America for 38 years. She retired from Trane Technologies (formerly Ingersoll Rand) in 2022, where she served as the executive vice president and chief human resources, marketing and communications officer.

She serves on the board of directors for Generac and Acuity Brands. She is the executive director of the Center for Executive Succession at the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business. She teaches in several university executive education departments as a guest faculty. Avedon has served on numerous nonprofit and corporate boards, including the Board of Directors of the United Way of Central Carolinas, advisory boards for the UNC Charlotte Belk School of Business and Cornell University Center for Advanced Human Resources Studies.

Avedon holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in industrial/organizational psychology from George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from UNCW. She was named one of the “Most Powerful Women in HR” by HR Executive Journal. Avedon and her husband, Charles Farrar ’83, met at UNCW and are long-time university supporters and are members of the UNCW Society and Clocktower Society.

-- Venita Jenkins

Riley Stephens on UNCW campus

Riley A. Stephenson '15, Distinguished Young Alumnus of the Year

Alejandra Sotelo on UNCW campus

Alejandra Sotelo '00, Distinguished Diversity Award

Lauren Bryant near a pond

Lauren Daley Bryant '07, '10M, Distinguished Citizen of the Year

Marvia Avedon in an office

Marcia J. Avedon, Ph.D. '83, Distinguished Alumna of the Year