Friday, November 28, 2014

Seahawk Love: Creating a Legacy

Each step you take on UNCW’s campus showcases evidence of the generations of Seahawks who have created the student experience that the university provides today. When George Barnes ’82 remembers his own student days, he often thinks of his daily bike ride from his home off Rose Avenue.

In contrast to many students in their late teens and early 20s, Barnes shared his home with his bride, Leonora Barnes ’80. She completed her nursing degree prior to his attending UNCW. After his graduation, the couple used their education to propel their careers, giving them opportunities to move across the nation.

“I was really good at taking poor performing places and making them good,” recalls Barnes, a retired utility plant operations executive. It’s been four years since he’s worked, and his team’s record-breaking performance still hasn’t been matched.

The Cameron School of Business graduate quotes many professors on his path to success, and he recounts the text from tattered text-book pages that have helped shape his management style. His decades of experience could easily fill a book themselves, and it’s been more than once that he’s been asked to teach others what he knows.

However, Barnes prefers to give back and support our next generation in another way – a way that honors the woman who captured his heart and continues to hold it tight. The Wilmington Society member has created a legacy for Leonora at UNCW that echoes her passion.

“She was the most caring person I have ever known,” he said about Leonora, who passed away in May 2014.

George Barnes '82 shares memories and his plan for a new nursing scholarship.

Sitting across from Barnes, who has managed billion-dollar operations in the highly regulated utility industry, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with pride by his accomplishments. But when his face brightens talking about Leonora’s generous nature, it’s obvious who he’s most proud of.

He shares memories about Leonora, especially how she was always looking for a way to lend a hand to help others. She got a lot of personal satisfaction out of it, he says, and it’s likely the reason she pursued a degree in nursing at UNCW. “She did a lot. She always gravitated towards things that helped people,” Barnes recalls.

When asked if Leonora learned her hard-working ethic from his example, Barnes laughs and admits that influence is likely from her mother. He also remembers her devotion to their son Alex, and her willingness to pass up executive trips to take care of him, even personal tours of Germany, Leonora’s native country.

Now, she’s the reason that George is creating a new scholarship for nursing students. 

The new, endowed scholarship will provide $4,000 annually to a high-achieving student in need. As Barnes hopes, it will provide the hands-on experiences that Leonora wanted to support in the nursing program.

“The gift will allow our School of Nursing to recruit and retain an outstanding nursing student who will make a difference in the health and life quality of individuals, families and communities in southeastern North Carolina and beyond,” said Dr. Charles Hardy, Dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences.

Barnes has created a legacy for Leonora that will forever benefit nursing students at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

“They need it,” he says of the gift in his late wife’s honor. “They need it right now.”

Friday, November 21, 2014

Eradicating Poverty and Supporting Economic Growth: A Regional Sociologist’s Mission

Meeting an alumna with a track record of presenting to the U.S. Congress and N.C. General Assembly is awe-inspiring, especially when you consider the fact that her work has led to economic development partnerships that receive millions in support. But, when you spend a few minutes with Dr. Leslie Hossfeld ‘83, watching her smile and wave to familiar faces walking by, any nervousness quickly fades away.

Leslie’s friendly, collaborative approach to working with others is essential to her success as co-founder of the Southeastern North Carolina Food Systems Program (SENCFS), which connects farmers to local businesses and consumers through its nonprofit initiative, Feast Down East.

Her latest partnership is one that she hopes many alumni will join. Feast Down East has teamed up with University Advancement, UNCW Campus Dining, Wilmington’s Residential Adolescent Achievement Place and the Food Bank of Central & Eastern N.C. to sponsor Hawks for Hunger to provide a meal to a local family for each new donation received from UNCW alumni and students. The campaign fits perfectly with the nonprofit’s goal of ensuring “access to healthy, affordable food” for everyone.

Partnering with Hawks for Hunger was an offer Leslie Hossfeld '83 couldn't refuse.

Spearheading Feast Down East represents just one part of Leslie’s plans to improve the quality of life in Southeastern North Carolina. As professor and chair of the UNCW Department of Sociology and Criminology, she is leading campus efforts to eradicate poverty in the region. Leslie believes we all are stewards of our communities and leads by example as a Clocktower Society member, showing consecutive philanthropic support to UNCW for at least three consecutive years.

“I focus on 11 counties in Southeastern North Carolina, and I work with USDA Rural Development thinking about change mechanisms we can have for our region. We want a vision for what that change could be over the next 10-20 years. How can we help grow communities? The university is a big part of that,” Leslie said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development provides financial support for economic development opportunities in rural areas.

One of her standout programs is the Community Campus at Hillcrest, where she has created a home base for the public sociology program through a partnership with the Wilmington Housing Authority. The program provides numerous service learning opportunities for students while also creating stronger connections between them and local residents.

“It gives me a lot of pride working with students who just jump into community work,” said Leslie.

“The students don’t come to a classroom on campus. It’s a two-semester program, so they have a year of working in the community.” She reflects on the impact these applied learning opportunities provide, citing how students often continue their studies and work in the same field. Feast Down East is another example of hands-on learning.

“[Students have] been involved in every aspect of this project. They are doing interviews, data analysis and planning and running programs,” she said.

Leslie still maintains a hands-on approach to addressing community social problems as she did during her work as a new graduate, teaching in South Africa during the apartheid era in the 80s and 90s.

Helping to shape her mission, Leslie is currently working on two books. One is a collaboration titled, “Food and Poverty,” and a second that will address the heritage of African-American agriculture in the Southeast. She also has inspiration from her decade-long project, Jobs for the Future Collaborative, which is currently conducting follow-up interviews with Robeson County residents on job losses due to the start of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).