TNCC Honored Local Citizens During 43rd Commencement

Published: May 21, 2012

Thomas Nelson Community College (TNCC) presented the Thomas Nelson Medallion, Dana B. Hamel Award and Distinguished Alumni Award during its 43rd commencement ceremony on Wednesday, May 16 at the Hampton University Convocation Center. 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. This year’s recipient is the Honorable Melanie Rapp Beale, a former Virginia delegate and past president of the TNCC Educational Foundation.

Currently the External Affairs Manager for Dominion Virginia Power’s Eastern Region, Beale served seven years in the Virginia House of Delegates beginning in 2001 and sponsored several beneficial laws such as one that protects against price gouging after emergencies and natural disasters. Her background in government also includes service on the York County Board of Supervisors from 2000 to 2001.

She has also serves on numerous boards including the Thomas Nelson Community College Educational Foundation, the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (Comte de Grasse Chapter Historian), Greater Peninsula Workforce Investment Board and the Hampton Arts Foundation Board, among many others.

A York County resident, Beale has a Bachelor’s degree in International Culture and Commerce from Christopher Newport University and a Master’s degree in Education from Old Dominion University.

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 TNCC’s mission. Jack L. Ezzell, Jr. is this year’s recipient.

Ezzell is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the engineering firm, Zel Technologies, LLC, headquartered in Hampton, Virginia. The retired U.S. Air Force Colonel is a North Carolina A&T State University graduate and holds an MBA from Ohio State University. Last year, his company began partnering with TNCC to provide cyber security training to area businesses.

Among numerous awards, Ezzell was named Virginia’s Small Business Person of the Year; the Commonwealth’s Outstanding Industrialist and Daily Press’ Distinguished Citizen of the Year. He also received an Honorary Doctorate from Old Dominion University (ODU) and ODU’s Distinguished Entrepreneurial Award. In 2011, he received the CIVIC Leadership Institute’s Darden Award and was inducted into Hampton Roads’ Business Hall of Fame. Ezzell also served two terms as Chairman of the Norfolk State University Board of Visitors and the boards of several public and private sector enterprises.

The College’s Distinguished Alumni Award acknowledges alumni who have displayed outstanding leadership, professional qualities and have made significant contributions to their profession, business and/or community at local, national and/or international levels. S. Stewart Harris, Jr. is the Distinguished Alumni Award recipient.

Harris is the Deputy Director for Technical Services at the NASA Langley Research Center. He completed training at NASA Langley Research Center’s Engineering Technician Apprentice School in 1978 having begun his career with the organization as a TNCC/NASA co-op participant in 1972.

Harris oversees an $18 million budget, manages more than 130 employees and contractors and provides leadership for the design, development and fabrication of research hardware for aerospace and scientific programs. He has also been pivotal in re-establishing NASA Langley’s Apprentice Training Program which insures that an adequate pool of skilled technicians will be available to meet future mission needs. During his 40-year career, he has served in increasingly responsible managerial roles.

While serving as Deputy Director for Fabrication in 1996, Harris led in the successful development of the first flight test article simulator of the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle Crew Module thus solidifying NASA Langley Research Center’s role in helping NASA make space exploration a reality.

Harris has received numerous awards including NASA Exceptional Service and Exceptional Leadership medals and the 2011 HI-TEC Innovative Program Award. He is a member of TNCC’s Workforce Development Advisory Board and two advisory committees in the College’s Engineering, Science and Allied Health Division — Mechanical Engineering Technology and Computer-Aided Drafting and Design.

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