Thomas Nelson to Honor Local Citizens during May 15 Commencement Ceremony

Thomas Nelson Community College will present the Thomas Nelson Medallion and Dana B. Hamel Award during its 45th commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 15 at the Hampton Coliseum. Presented by Thomas Nelson’s Local Board, the awards honor citizens who champion higher education and public service.

The Thomas Nelson Medallion honors citizens who exemplify the spirit and highest ideals of Thomas Nelson – patriot, soldier-statesman and governor. The medallion will be awarded to Ashby C. Kilgore, the first female superintendent of Newport News Public Schools.

Named in honor of Dr. Dana B. Hamel, the first chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges, the Dana B. Hamel Award recognizes individuals for their commitment to public service; to fostering access to higher education; and promoting an understanding of the role of workforce development as an essential part of Thomas Nelson’s mission. This year’s recipient is Danny Hunley, vice president of operations at Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries.

About Ashby C. Kilgore
Kilgore’s experience in education spans 35 years with service as a teacher, principal, college professor and deputy superintendent. Since her appointment in 2007, Newport News Public Schools students have benefited from increased instruction time, literacy and math coaches and access to up-to-date technology with interactive white boards, wireless technologies and online learning and videoconferencing capabilities in each classroom. The school division’s Career Pathways program and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics initiative have improved student performance and prepared them to be college students, professionals and productive citizens. Kilgore has also implemented programs that have increased the on-time graduation rate and decreased the dropout rate significantly since 2008.

Kilgore also partnered with Thomas Nelson to launch the Early College program, an initiative that allows high school seniors to earn up to 19 college credits at Thomas Nelson before graduating from high school.

In addition to serving as superintendent of Newport News Public Schools, Kilgore is a member of several educational and civic organizations. In 2011, she was named Virginia’s Region II Superintendent of the Year and honored with an Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award by the State Coalition for Justice for Civil Rights. In 2012, Kilgore was recognized as an Old Dominion University Darden College of Education Fellow. This year she received the Distinguished Educational Leader Award from the C. Waldo Scott Center for H.O.P.E.

Kilgore holds a doctorate in Educational Administration and Policy Studies from The George Washington University and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Old Dominion University (ODU) and bachelor’s degree in Political Science from ODU.

About Danny Hunley
Hunley began his career at Newport News Shipbuilding as a welder trainee in 1974 and was named to his current position in 2008. He is responsible for production labor resources and processes, plant engineering and maintenance, waterfront support services, training, instructional design and The Apprentice School.

Since joining Newport News Shipbuilding, he has held increasingly responsible positions including department head of industrial measurement, accuracy control, ship fitters and welders. He also served as program manager of the international product tanker construction program and director for trades, education and training.

Among his honors and special recognition are Thomas Nelson’s Distinguished Alumni Award, the Tenneco Leadership Award and the Newport News Shipbuilding President’s Model of Excellence Award for leadership. His civic memberships include the Virginia Workforce Council, the Aerospace Industries Association Workforce Steering Committee and the Peninsula Alliance for Economic Development’s board of directors. Hunley is also a Saint Leo University trustee and serves the university’s executive advisory council for the Donald R. Tapia School of Business.

An Apprentice School graduate, he holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Saint Leo University.

For more information about the May 15 commencement, please contact Thomas Nelson’s Office of Public Relations and Marketing at (757) 825-2725 or visit