Alumni named on Hickory’s Top 10 Under 40 list


Recognized by the Hickory Young Professionals, five Lenoir-Rhyne alumni have been named to this year’s Top 10 Under 40 list. The LR recipients include: Alexis Abernathy ’13, Cameron Mauney ’06, James Frye ’13, Juan E Ramirez ’07, and Samuel Johnson ’18.

Recipients of the award are selected based on their involvement in the community and leadership in community activities in addition to excelling in their career.

Alexis Abernathy ’13

Abernathy currently serves as the Banking Center Manager II, AVP for First Horizon Bank in Lenoir. In her role, she works on increasing branch revenue, consumer and business loans, treasury, management, and trains and mentors new hires. In 2021, she was named a recipient of the 2021 Million Dollar Club Award with First Horizon and was also a part of the 2022 Graduating Class of Leadership Catawba through The Chamber of Catawba County.

A Hickory native, Abernathy enjoys being out in the community. She serves in leadership roles including coaching cheerleading at Grandview Middle School, coaching little league teams with Hickory Parks and Recreation, and singing in the choir at Morning Star Baptist Church. At her church, she also has served as president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, the youth usher board, and is now the youth adviser for the Youth Mission Program.

As a Chamber of Catawba County advisory board member for Leadership Catawba, she helps to plan the agenda for the incoming cohorts. As a member of the ARG Group within her organization, she is able to give back to the community by volunteering her time with Safe Harbor, the Red Sand Project, local walks, school supply drives, and more.

“I have been leading the majority of my life, but being involved with Leadership Catawba has helped me to sharpen my leadership skills,” shared Abernathy, a Hickory High School graduate. “I have long-term plans to continue to be a leader and further my banking career, and continue to grow my organization, and finally to become a banking executive of the organization.”

Cameron Mauney ’06

Mauney is the CFO for David E. Looper & Company, Inc. – where she provides accounting, tax, and audit oversight to the company, and manages all treasury functions to ensure that cash is properly monitored and controlled. Additionally, she oversees all financial aspects of the development company, Delco Partners, LLC, and other various real estate entities. Previously, she worked for Davidson, Holland, Whitesell, CPAs, and also with Martin Starnes & Associates CPAs.

As a volunteer, Mauney serves as the secretary and treasurer of the Hickory Museum of Art, the chair of the Lenoir-Rhyne Business Council, the Catawba County Chamber board of directors, and is a member of the Lenoir-Rhyne Bears Club and the LRU President’s Society.

“The difference in leading a corporate group and a nonprofit is that the employees of a nonprofit are incentivized by their passion for work. I knew coming into the role with the Hickory Museum of Art that I would need to understand that passion and the goal, while trying to maximize the budget and keep the spending in line,” shared Mauney. “I think that noble leadership in any organization is really about listening, understanding, and respecting the team you are leading. My goal in everything I do is to do it to the best of my ability. I think that to do that you have to understand what goal your team or organization is trying to accomplish.”

James Frye ’13

Frye serves as the principal at Claremont Elementary School where he is responsible for setting the shared mission, shared visions, and collective commitments of the school to the community to ensure the greatest amount of growth and success possible. He is currently in his fourth year as principal and previously served as a middle school assistant principal and STEM coordinator, the Instructional Technology and Public Information Officer, and high school English teacher, all for Newton-Conover City Schools.

In 2015, he was named an Association for Supervision and Curriculum (ASCD) International Emerging Leader in 2015 and has served as a board member for the North Carolina association for seven years. He was honored by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction as one of two principals in the state who were featured as Promising Practices for School Leadership for the work that was done at Claremont Elementary School. Frye is a graduate of the North Carolina School Superintendent Association’s Aspiring Superintendent Program and is a Ph.D. candidate with The University of Kentucky’s Educational Leadership department.

Frye is a board member of the North Carolina Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development, a member of the COVID-19 Instructional Response State Task Force, NC Department of Public Instruction, serves on the State Advisory Committee, North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program, the Pyramid Model Leadership Team, the Catawba County Schools Strategic Planning Committee, and is chairman and board member, North Carolina #NCed Chat. He also serves on the Home Base Advisory Committee for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and is an International Emerging Leader with the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

“In leadership, we talk often about our ‘why’ and the importance of knowing our why, but not often do we actually talk about why ‘knowing our why’ is so important when working with people. Great leaders communicate from the inside out, from communicating their why, to their how, then finally to the what,” shared Frye. “In the 2021-22 school year, despite the adversities that the COVID-19 pandemic brought our teachers, students, staff, and community, Claremont Elementary was the third highest growing elementary school in Catawba County last year, with the third highest free and reduced lunch rate in the district — this happened because staff believed in the vision and continued with it despite the adversities COVID presented. The why behind the work remained important enough to fight for the work. I firmly believe that with any change, leaders have to empower their people, guide them, trust them, and love them through the change — but don’t give up on your shared mission for students. That is my goal for the work we have done at Claremont Elementary.”

Juan E Ramirez ’07

Ramirez serves as a statewide Spanish Services Representative for the College Foundation of North Carolina, specifically under the CFNC En Español team. Recently, as part of a team of two, he worked on a special project intern to promote access and outreach for Spanish-speaking students, families, and those that support them in the planning, applying, paying, and saving for college. A great accomplishment for Ramirez is making CFNC.org accessible in Spanish as it was a daunting task but helps the community as whole.

He started his community outreach early – first as a volunteer at the Centro Latino of Hickory to learn English, served as a mediator for the Conflict Resolution Center, entered retail banking, and later transitioned to education, served as a transfer and adult learner counselor at Lenoir-Rhyne University. He then became Educational Outreach Program Manager at Appalachian State University (Hickory and Caldwell campuses) and has since moved into his current role as Statewide Representative for Spanish Services.

Ramirez is currently a board member at LatinxEd, a statewide nonprofit that has a mission to invest in Latinx leadership and expand educational equity and opportunity in North Carolina. He is a current member of the executive board for the Hickory Public Schools Education Foundation, previously served on the executive board for the Conflict Resolution Center, was a member of the founding group of the Multicultural Office at LR and was a founding adviser of the Transfer Student Association at LR.

“When I think of community, I think about my friends, my family, my brothers, sisters, nephews, and the future of our community. If we don’t take the time to invest in their success … what will our community look like in the future?” he shared. “Hickory has been an incredible place for me to grow and learn and even with every opportunity given to me to move elsewhere, I intentionally decided that this is my home. A place where even though I have not always felt welcomed, or celebrated, I can be a catalyst for change to present the incredible contributions that our community brings to the different spaces. From our language, culture, food, lived experiences, I am part of the solution to bridge our cultures to collaborate, connect, and celebrate.”

Samuel Johnson ’18

Johnson is the Finance Supervisor for CommScope’s global Network Cable business with primary operations in Catawba County, Wales, and the Czech Republic. In this role, he supervises all operations improvements and go-to-market plans from a finance perspective. In conjunction with product line management, operations, sales, and supply chain, he forecasts sales, margins, costs, and EBITDA, as well as implementing conversations and changes, as needed. Additionally, he manages and supports the Key Account Manager team that sells to the 10 largest customers in North America and is the site leader for the RISE program. RISE stands for Relationships, Inspiration, Success, and Empowerment, and is a networking and mentoring organization within CommScope for young and early career employees. Through RISE, he coordinates mentoring programs, group activities, and leadership talks with executives for employees in the Hickory area. He also meets one on one with three early career employees and mentors them, as well as helps coach them through projects and activities they need assistance with at the organization.

Johnson joined CommScope after graduation from LR as a sales finance lead for the Hyperscale, Cloud, and Multi-Tenant Data Center team, a $250M-plus business, a $10M-plus expense budget, and a team of 30 sellers. Eighteen months after starting with CommScope he was asked to take on an additional team of 15 more sellers. Through continuous process improvement, improved reporting and transparency, and careful budget management, he was asked to move to the service provider business (a $2B business) and apply the same methods and improvements to it. Because of his reputation for getting things done and solving problems, he was able to move into his current role a year later to do the same thing for global Network Cable business.

In his free time, Johnson serves on the Christ Church finance team as vice chair, the Christ Church student ministry, Christ Church children’s ministry, Christ Church personal financial coaching team, Christ Church lay pastor, and on the board of directors for The Foundry House — a house in Statesville for men in recovery to live together and provide mutual support in a Christ-centered environment. He has also helped with children’s and student ministries at Pearl Baptist Church in Lincolnton, The Corner Table, Sipes Orchard Home and The Salvation Army.

“I was born in this community and have lived here my whole life. I have had several opportunities to leave for college or work, but something always kept me here. I now believe that it was the people, culture, and community doing that,” Johnson shared. “I believe that the best is yet to come for this area, and I desperately want to be a small part of that upcoming greatness. Whether it’s at work or through my work at church and the community, I am committing to making Catawba and the surrounding counties the best they can be.”

Award recipients will be recognized at a dinner on Thursday, Nov. 17.

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