Huntingdon College honored two alumni with the Alumni Achievement Award, two with the Alumni Loyalty Award, and two with the Outstanding Young Alumni Award during Homecoming festivities last weekend. All of this year’s award recipients are educators.
“In reflecting on each of these recipients and their lives of achievement, expressions of loyalty to Huntingdon, and the special ways they apply wisdom in service, I am reminded that perhaps the greatest gift Huntingdon College has provided the world is an army of men and women who have devoted their lives to service in education,” said Dr. Anthony Leigh, senior vice president for student and institutional development and dean of students, upon presenting the awards. “All of our recipients today are educators, and the number of young men and women who have been molded, mentored, inspired, and prepared for their lives by these individuals is incalculable.”
Dr. Maureen Kendrick Murphy, Class of 1978, dean of the W. James Samford Jr. School for Graduate and Professional Studies, was honored with the Alumni Achievement Award. After earning her degree in chemistry, she completed her Ph.D. at the University of South Carolina, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in bio-organometallic chemistry at the University of Chicago. She was one of the first two women hired as a tenure-track chemistry professor at the University of Alabama in 1985, where she was awarded research grants from the National Science Foundation, Research Corporation, and the American Chemical Society. In 1997 Dr. Murphy joined the faculty in the Huntingdon Department of Chemistry, later becoming the first woman to chair the department. By the time she stepped down as professor and chair in 2019 and moved to the deanship of the graduate school, she had taught and advised more than 2500 students and led 55 students in conducting, presenting, and publishing original research. The author/co-author of more than 90 research publications and presentations, Dr. Murphy has been recognized for her scholarly activities with an Eli Lilly Foundation Teacher-Scholar Award, the Tandy Technology Award, induction into Sigma Xi, and numerous national, regional, local, and College teaching and service awards—including every teaching award at Huntingdon.
Connie Powell Deal, Class of 1987, director of Upper School at the Montgomery Academy, was recognized with the Huntingdon Alumni Achievement Award. For 27 years Ms. Deal has taught and provided educational leadership for Montgomery Public Schools, the Montgomery Academy, and Troy University. From 2016 to 2018 she served as the statewide president of the Alabama Arts Education Association. In 2019 she was recognized as the Outstanding Educator for the State of Alabama by the Visual Arts Achievement Program; she was named Alabama Art Educator of the Year in 2020; and she received a Governor’s Commendation in 2021. Her personal work has also been featured in local competitions and in area galleries. Ms. Deal has worked with River Region non-profit organizations through her community service efforts, including Dreamcourt, the Montgomery Area Council on Aging, the Meals on Wheels program, Respite Ministries, the Montgomery Area Business Committee on the Arts, and the Girl Scouts. She is also a former member of the Huntingdon College Alumni Board.
Reita Sample Davis, Class of 1955, was honored with the Alumni Loyalty Award. Ms. Davis, the youngest of three Sample sisters to attend Huntingdon, earned her degree in mathematics. She was a career educator, beginning her teaching in Columbus, Ga., where she met her husband, Dick Davis. They moved to Homewood, Ala., in 1963 and she helped open Homewood High School, where she spent the rest of her teaching career and was the sponsor of the yearbook. After retirement she devoted much of her time to Cahaba Heights United Methodist Church and in service to the United Methodist Women. Ms. Davis is a member of the Huntingdon Society and has been a faithful contributor to the College’s endowed scholarship program.
Long-time educator Dr. Bobbie Sue Coop Welch, Class of 1954, was honored with the Alumni Loyalty Award. Dr. Welch earned her Huntingdon bachelor’s degree in English, French, and history, later completing a master’s degree in education, an Education Specialist degree, and a doctorate in education. She is a career educator, serving Tullahoma, Tenn., schools and Franklin County High School in Winchester, Tenn., and then serving as an adjunct faculty member in the graduate school at Middle Tennessee State University. Dr. Welch was recognized as the Tennessee Distinguished Classroom Teacher in 1978 and was named Tullahoma City Schools Teacher of the Year in 1990. She is a devoted supporter of Huntingdon College and an annual member of the Huntingdon Society.
Outstanding Young Alumni Award winner Kyle Futral earned his degree in cell biology with a minor in chemistry while also playing baseball for the Huntingdon Hawks. He was selected four times for the Academic All-Conference Team, earned the Scholar-Athlete Award in 2005, and was named team captain in 2007. He earned an M.S. in educational leadership from Auburn University and spent eight years in public education as a biology teacher and high school football/baseball coach. He was named the Elmore County Teacher of the Year for Elmore County High School in 2015–2016, then moved to the assistant principal role at Millbrook Middle School. He has served as principal of Holtville High School for six years and is a member of the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools (CLAS) and the Alabama Association of Secondary School Principals (AASSP). In January 2022 he was honored as the 2021–2022 AASSP High School Principal of the Year. Outside of the classroom, Mr. Futral serves as worship pastor at First Baptist Church of Eclectic.
Kirk “Juice” Johnson, who was presented with the Outstanding Young Alumni Award, earned many awards and broke records on the football field and in the weight room while achieving accolades in the classroom at Huntingdon, as well. He was a 2011–2012 Huntingdon football team captain. A history major and political science minor, he began teaching high school history and coaching football after graduating, serving Lanier High School and then Sylacauga High School, after which he moved to Montgomery Catholic Preparatory School (MCPS) in 2014. He was honored with the MCPS Teacher of the Year Award in 2015. Coach Johnson has built the strength and conditioning program at MCPS. He coached as defensive coordinator for the Knights for six years and is currently in his second season as head coach. Known as Coach J, he has led the Knights to multiple record-setting winning seasons and developed top-rated defensive squads and the highest scoring offenses in the state. Currently undefeated, the Knights are ranked number one in the state. In April 2018, Coach Johnson received the Montgomery Advertiser Community Hero Award for his role on and off the field as a leader and role model for young men.
Huntingdon College, founded in 1854, continues a legacy of faith, wisdom, and service through a liberal arts academic tradition grounded in the Judeo-Christian heritage of the United Methodist Church.