Hall of Honor 2012 Inductees
Stella Azalee Austin
Stella Azalee Austin was born on June 5, 1920 in Catawba County. Her family moved to the Hudson area when she was five, and she attended a one room school that included grades one through four. When she was ten years old, the family moved to the Kings Creek area. She graduated from Kings Creek School in 1937. Because of the Depression, Stella did not have the financial resources to attend college, so she went to work. She worked for six years while she continued her dream to attend college and serve as a teacher. Encouraged by friends and her family, she applied to Mars Hill College. She received the Opdike Scholarship award from the Southern Baptist Convention. The scholarship, along with her part-time work, allowed her to complete her Associate’s Degree at Mars Hill College. She then applied to Meredith College where a scholarship and part-time work allowed her to complete her B.A. Degree in 1947.
Following college graduation, she received the Ruth Keller Scholarship from the Caldwell Baptist Association to attend Women’s Missionary Union Training School, now Southeastern Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Stella was appointed as a missionary to Nigeria on April 19, 1949. She worked in various areas of Nigeria including Agbor, Oshogbo, Iwo, Ilare-Ile, and Ogbomosho. She served as a teacher, as a teacher trainer, and as a school principal. She constantly worked with local churches in all phases of church work. She returned to the United States and retired September 1, 1985. She spent over thirty-six years in educational and religious work in Nigeria. When Stella returned to the United States, she continued serving the churches in Caldwell County. She was the first woman elected as a deaconess at Kings Creek Baptist Church. She taught Sunday School classes, Bible study courses, and Vacation Bible School all over the county.
She died November 29, 1993. Stella Austin left a legacy of service in Africa and in the United States. Her students in Nigeria honored and revered her. Many of her students referred to her as “Ma,” which in that culture is a term of respect and honor. Students, families, and church members on two continents looked to her for guidance and support. Her influence has been far reaching and her dedication to make a positive difference in the world is still being acknowledged in the communities and churches where she served during her life.
Dr. William Happer
Born July 27, 1939 in Vellore, India, William Happer is the son of Lt. Col. William Happer, a Scottish physician in the Indian Army, and Dr. Gladys Morgan Happer, a medical missionary from North Carolina. The family relocated to Caldwell County and after Happer graduated from Lenoir High School, he received a B.S. degree in Physics from the University of North Carolina in 1960 and the Ph.D degree in Physics from Princeton University in 1964.
He began his academic career in 1964 at Columbia University as a member of the research and teaching staff of the Physics Department. While serving as a Professor of Physics he also served as Co-Director of the Columbia Radiation Laboratory from 1971 to 1976, and Director from 1976 to 1979. In 1980 he joined the faculty at Princeton University. On August 5, 1991 he was appointed Director of Energy Research in the Department of Energy by President George Bush. While serving in that capacity under Secretary of Energy James Watkins, he oversaw a basic research budget of some $3 billion, which included much of the federal funding for high energy and nuclear physics, materials science, magnetic confinement fusion, environmental science, the human genome project, and other areas. He remained at the Department of Education until May 31, 1993 to help the Clinton Administration during the transition period. He was reappointed Professor to Physics at Princeton University on June 1, 1993 and named Eugene Higgens Professor of Physics and Chair of the University Research Board from 1995 to 2005. In 2003, he was named to the Cyrus Fogg Brackett Chair of Physics.
From 1987 to 1990, he served as Chairman of the Steering Committee of JASON, a group of scientists and engineers who advise agencies of the Federal Government on matters of defense, intelligence, energy policy and other technical problems. He is a trustee of the MITRE Corporation, the Richard Lounsbery Foundation and the Marshall Institute. He chairs of the National Research Councils’ Standing Committee on Improvised Explosive Devices that supports the Joint Improvised Explosive Devices Defeat Organization. He was a co-founder in 1994 of Magnetic Imaging Technologies Incorporated (MITI), a small company specializing in the use of laser polarized noble gases for magnetic resonance imaging. He invented the sodium guidestar that is used in astronomical adaptive optics.
He has published over 200 scientific papers. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Soceity. He was awarded an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship in 1966, and Alexander von Humboldt Award in 1976, the 1997 Broida Prize and the 1999 Davisson-Germer Prize of the American Physical Society, and the Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award in 2000.
Currently, Happer is a Professor in the Department of Physics at Princeton University, a specialist in modern optics, optical and radiofrequency spectroscopy of atoms and molecules, and spin-polarized atoms and nuclei.
William Happer was married in 1967 to the former Barbara Jean Baker of Rahway, New Jersey. They have two grown children, James William and Gladys Anne and six grandchildren.
Dr. Sharon Smith Pennell
Sharon Smith Pennell was born into a military family that placed education as a high priority and encouraged lifelong learning. Later in her youth, Pennell’s family moved to Hudson, where she graduated from Hudson High School in 1966. After graduation, she earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Appalachian State University, a master’s in education and a doctorate degree.
She was one of the most visible and respected journalism educators in North Carolina, noted for teaching excellence while serving as a mentor for countless students who went on to become journalists.
Pennell was a professor of journalism at Appalachian State University for 24 years, serving as the advisor of the local chapter of the award-winning Society of Professional Journalists as well as a consultant to the public schools in journalism, debate and speech, working with teachers in Watauga, Caldwell, Catawba, Burke,Iredell and Wake counties. She was a presenter at numerous workshops and seminars about media relations and the N.C. Open Meetings Law, and she had numerous articles published in newspapers, journals and magazines.
Her experience in journalism education overlapped a 26-year career as a member of the Caldwell County Board of Education. She served as the chair of the board 10 years and was vice chair four years. She also was a member of the N.C. School Boards Association. Her journalism education and public service careers were intertwined in her doctoral dissertation on the subject "Open Meetings Law in North Carolina and Its Impact on Public Officials and the News Media."
During her career, Pennell was recognized with numerous awards. She was the N.C. Speech Teacher of the Year and received the Governor’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Forensics as Coach of the Year. She also was named to the Tarheel Forensic League Circle of Honor for outstanding contributions to speech and debate. Pennell earned the Russell E. Brown Forensics Award, H.H. Arndt Coaching Award, Lenoir-Rhyne College Coaching Award for Debate and North Iredell Coaching Award for Debate and Speech.
Pennell was selected as the Career Woman of the Year by Lenoir Business and Professional Women’s Club, named Distinguished Woman of the Year by the Caldwell County Council for Women and chosen as the N.C. Career Woman of the Year by the N.C. Federation of Business and Professional Clubs. She also won the National Forensic League Diamond Key Award.
She also received the Advanced Achievement Award for the N.C. School Boards Association, was the first woman to receive the prestigious, statewide William C. Lassiter First Amendment Award and was named to the N.C. School Boards Association All-State School Board in addition to being part of the Academy of School Boardsmanship Scholars Circle for attaining the highest level of training.
During her career, Pennell was a member of numerous boards and committees, both for her professional work and public service, and she served as a judge for a number of oratorical contests.
She shared a comment about the importance of combining education with communication. "My colleagues on the board of education had dubbed me a ‘crusader’ for communications education," she said. "I do believe strongly in the value of communications in both the public school system and in institutions of higher education. Because I have seen the positive impact of speech activities on the self-concepts of students, I am committed to communications as a primary concern of our educational system."
Sharon S. Pennell died on May 8, 2010. She was married to Darrell Pennell, who currently serves as the Chairman of the Caldwell County Board of Education. The couple has one son, Steven Walter Pennell.
Paul Hunt Broyhill
Paul Hunt Broyhill, native son of Caldwell County, was born and raised in a furniture family that believed in a strong work ethic, as evidenced in his introduction to jobs around the family manufacturing plants at an early age. As a young adult, his college career was interrupted by a three-year term in the US Army, a time in which he served as Technical Sergeant. He completed his college education after World War II, graduating at the University of North Carolina with honors, including Phi Beta Kappa.
In 1959 he became President of Broyhill Furniture Industries, Inc., and later rose to the positions of Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer. Among other recognitions, he was awarded the American Furniture Manufacturer’s Distinguished Service Award in 1996, the L.A. Dysart Man of the Year Award for Caldwell County in 1997, the Caldwell County Chamber of Commerce Visionary Leadership Award in 2002, and the Caldwell County Medallion of Honor in 2003.
Broyhill was recognized by his peers in 2004 by being inducted in the American Furniture Hall of Fame and the NC Citizens for Business and Industry Hall of Fame. He holds Honorary Doctorate degrees from Lenoir-Rhyne, Gardner-Webb, and Appalachian State universities. In 2005 he was recognized by the Lenoir-Rhyne College Business Council as Business Leader of the Year and in 2009 received the Masonic Veteran’s Master Mason Award (60-Year Service). Most recently he was honored with the Treaty of Paris Award from the US Department of State Diplomatic Reception Rooms and in 2011 was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from Furniture Today’s industry recognitions.
Currently, Broyhill is Chairman of BMC Fund, Inc., Broyhill Investments, Inc., Broyhill Realty, and Broyhill Family Foundation. As Chairman of the Broyhill Family Foundation, Broyhill supports and funds initiatives in higher education through such programs as the Broyhill Lecture Series at Wake Forest University, the Leading With Integrity business program at Meredith College, the Broyhill Graduate School of Business at Mars Hill College, the Broyhill School of Management at Gardner-Webb, the Broyhill Business Institute at Appalachian State University, and the Broyhill Leadership Institute at Lenoir-Rhyne University. Through the foundation, he has established numerous endowments for medical research and the performing arts. He has focused on youth development through such programs as the Broyhill Leadership Camps, the Broyhill campus of Baptist Children’s Homes, and was involved in the development of the Caldwell Career Center and the Teaching Center on the campus of CCC&TI. Broyhill is a lifetime Deacon at the First Baptist Church of Lenoir and is a Trustee Emeritus of the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina, the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and various colleges, universities, and institutions. In addition, Broyhill has served on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Manufacturers, the Dallas Market Center; the board of American Furniture Manufacturers Association; and served as a board member of the United States Business and Industry Council. He is a member of the NC Order of the Long Leaf Pine. Broyhill earned certifications in flying numerous airplanes including Single Engine Land/Sea, Multi Engine Land, Instrument, and Glider/Lear Jet.
For 46 years he was married to the late Faye Arnold Broyhill, a former Miss North Carolina and runner up to Miss America 1956. They have three children, Caron Broyhill, Claire Broyhill Greene, and Hunt Broyhill and seven grandchildren. In 2007, he married Karen Rabon, mother of two children, Jenny Robeson and Chris Rabon. He lives in Lenoir and Linville, NC, and in Naples, Florida.
Dr. Jeffrey Neal Isaac
Graduate of Hibriten High School and ardent band student who served as the Hibriten High School Band President his senior year in 1977, Jeffrey Neal Isaac has been greatly influenced and mentored by Caldwell County notable band directors and music teachers, such as George Kirsten, Patsy Bost Hollar, Camilla Graeber, Bill Witcher and John Miller.
He completed his Ph.D. in Leadership in Higher Education from Capella University in May 2008 with a dissertation topic of "Reducing Students’ Writing Deficits Utilizing Online Remediation Approaches." He has a Master’s of Divinity in Religious Education degree from Southern Seminary and a Bachelor’s degree in Arts from Wake Forest University.
Neal Isaac is currently serving as the Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Services, a responsibility that includes 30 campus locations. Previously, he worked at Keiser University as Director of Student Services; Associate Vice President in Continuing Education; and Campus Vice President and Campus President at Keiser University’s Pembroke Pines Campus.
Before Keiser University, Dr. Isaac worked at Goldey-Beacom College in Wilmington, Delaware in Student Services, Alumni Relations and Career Services teaching history and social science electives as well as working part time at Silverside Church as Director of Education. Previously, he completed internships at the Baptist Union of Scotland/University of Aberdeen, Scotland and with the University of Georgia Baptist Student Union in Athens.
As a youth he served in Youth Ministry through College Avenue Baptist Church of Lenoir, where he and his family attended. Later as an adult, he continued to serve as Youth Director/Education Director at the following churches: Oak Grove Baptist Church in Boone; Grace Baptist Church of Charlotte; First Baptist Church of Marion; Rehoboth Baptist Church, Washington, Georgia; Bridge of Don Baptist Church, Aberdeen Scotland, where he worked as a Baptist Journeyman for two years. He has held committee leadership positions in the Eastern Association of Colleges and Employers, and he has been a member of the National Association of Colleges and Employers as well as the Chambers of Commerce in the cities where he has worked.
He is a graduate of both Leadership Delaware program and the Career College Association Leadership Institute in 2002. He has been involved in the KEY Executive Program since July 2006 as part of Leadership Centers USA/Vistage. With the support and vision of Mrs. Belinda Keiser, he has helped establish a LEADERSHIP DISTINCTION program at 30 campuses whereby students complete up to 10 professional development seminars and community service hours to gain a Leadership Certificate. Neal Isaac dedicates his time to students and graduates in an effort to assist them with positive educational experiences and successful career placement. With over 26 years of experience in higher education, he regularly visits college campuses to ensure that the development of student leadership teams reach optimum performance and identify the interrelatedness of departmental operations.
As a native of Lenoir, he continues to be involved in his hometown community. Recently, he organized the "Loving Lenoir 2011" weekend with assistance from former classmates and alumni. He is the son of Mary Suddreth Isaac and Lewis Richard Isaac and grandson of the late Viola Suddreth, Richard and Josephine Isaac. His sister Libby Isaac Hamby resides in Cary, NC, and his older sister Cindy Isaac Stamey resides in Lenoir, NC. Neal Isaac also attributes his success to a strong foundation of support from members of College Avenue Baptist Church, Lenoir and other extended family members including Aunt Hazel Davis, Aunt Elosie Austin, and Aunt Jan Suddreth.