The College of Charleston Alumni Association will honor eight distinguished alumni at the Alumni Awards Gala on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, as part of the College’s 2023 Fall Alumni Weekend. Each year, the awards recognize alumni whose achievements reflect honor upon their alma mater.

The gala is a black-tie dinner-dance held at the Charleston Marriott from 6:30-10:30 p.m. Tickets are $170 per person through Oct. 8 and $195 per person starting Oct. 9. The gala includes a gourmet dinner accompanied by fine wines, followed by a top-shelf open bar and dancing to the sounds of the Java Band. Net proceeds from this event will benefit the Alumni Association in support of the College of Charleston.

Fall Alumni Weekend also includes the Lowcountry Oyster Roast in Cistern Yard on Friday, Nov. 17, from 6-9 p.m., co-hosted by the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (SEWE). All guests for the oyster roast must be age 21 or older and provide valid, government-issued, photo identification upon entry. Net proceeds from this event will benefit the Alumni Association and SEWE.

Detailed information on these events is online at Tickets may be purchased online or in person at the George Street Box Office.

mayor riley

Joseph P. Riley

Joseph P. Riley Jr. ’09 (Honorary Degree)
Alumni Award of Honor

The Alumni Award of Honor is the highest award presented by the College of Charleston Alumni Association. It recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions for many years to the Alumni Association and the College.

Joseph P. Riley Jr. ’09 (honorary degree) served as mayor of Charleston from 1976 to 2016. While he graduated from The Citadel, he has been a steadfast supporter of the College of Charleston since his days in the General Assembly, in part due to the strong influence of his late mother, Helen Schachte Riley ’36, an economics major and salutatorian.

As mayor, the native Charlestonian supported the College and the community in myriad ways. He was instrumental in the launch of Spoleto Festival USA in 1977, which continues to put Charleston and the College on the map. Riley spoke at the dedication of the Marlene and Nathan Addlestone Library in 2005 and former President Barack Obama’s campaign appearance in 2008.

In recognition of his leadership, the Joseph P. Riley Jr. Center for Urban Affairs and Policy Studies was established in 2001. The College renamed the center in 2010 to the Joseph P. Riley Jr. Center for Livable Communities to reflect the center’s focus on enhancing community life.

In recognition for all he did for Charleston and the College, Riley received an honorary degree at the December 2009 commencement ceremony, where he also delivered the keynote address. Riley was also the first recipient of the Albert Simons Medal of Excellence in 2010. Established by the College’s Historic Preservation and Community Planning Program to honor the 20th anniversary of the School of the Arts, the medal recognized Riley’s unwavering commitment to civic design, historic preservation and urban planning.

Matt tuerk

Matt Tuerk

Matt Tuerk ’02
Distinguished Alumnus Award

The Distinguished Alumnus Award was established in 1983 to recognize alumni for significant, sustained contributions to their professions and/or communities, thus reflecting honor upon the College of Charleston.

Matt Tuerk ’02 is the mayor of Allentown, Pennsylvania, the third-largest city in the state. At the College, Tuerk majored in international business and studied abroad in Cuba. He was also inducted into Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and worked in the Center for Student Learning.

Tuerk went on to earn his MBA from the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina. He then joined the Allentown Economic Development Corporation, where he helped establish the Urban Manufacturing Alliance, a national coalition of cities dedicated to strengthening their manufacturing economies. He also worked to develop resources at the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, helping AEDC earn a grant from the Economic Development Administration and a visit from the U.S. Secretary of Commerce in 2012. Tuerk cofounded the Lehigh Valley’s first co-working space and first community-operated “hackerspace,” where individuals with shared creative pursuits can meet and collaborate.

In 2013, Tuerk joined the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation and was quickly promoted to vice president of administration. He led LVEDC in attracting billions of dollars in economic growth to the Lehigh Valley, creating thousands of jobs for its residents. LVEDC was recognized as a Top 20 Economic Development Organization by Site Selection magazine in 2019 and 2020. That year, Matt stepped down from his position at LVEDC to run successfully for mayor of Allentown. He is the first Spanish-speaking mayor of the city. He also speaks Portuguese and French, is learning Chinese and has plans to learn Arabic.

In his spare time, Tuerk runs marathons, including the Boston, New York and Chicago Marathons. He and his wife, Karen J. Tuerk ’02 (M.S., marine biology), are the proud parents of two daughters, Amelia and Margot.

Jennie Stephens

Jennie Stephens

Jennie Stephens ’89 (M.P.A. ’94)
Alumna of the Year

The Alumna/Alumnus of the Year award honors alumni who have been recognized for a major accomplishment in their professions, their communities or the College during the year prior to selection.

Jennie Stephens ’89 (M.P.A. ’94) is CEO of the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation, a nonprofit that protects property either purchased or deeded to African American people after emancipation. Much of this land has been passed down through generations without the benefit of a will, so the land is owned in common by all the heirs. This unstable form of ownership means any heir can force the sale of the entire property. The Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation provides the legal services necessary to resolve heirs’ property issues, including title searches, document preparation, scheduling land surveys, requesting hearings and full representation in court.

Stephens, who received her B.S. in business administration and her M.P.A. from the College of Charleston, earned her Ph.D. in organizational leadership from Regent University. She has led the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation since its inception in 2005.

Stephens has been featured on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, at TEDxCharleston and in the BET documentary series, Disrupt and Dismantle, with Soledad O’Brien. She is among 25 BALLE Fellows who are building healthy and equitable rural economies across the U.S. and Canada. In 2022, the U.S. Department of Agriculture named Stephens to its newly formed Subcommittee on Agriculture as part of its Equity Commission, which is charged with closing the racial wealth gap and addressing longstanding inequities in agriculture.

Richard Maclean

Richard Maclean

Richard Maclean ’88
Howard F. Rudd Jr. Business Person of the Year

The Howard F. Rudd Jr. Business Person of the Year Award recognizes graduates who have made significant contributions as business leaders and who have exhibited great integrity in their professional and personal lives. The award is named for the founding dean and dean emeritus of the School of Business. The School of Business selects the recipient.

Richard Maclean ’88 is a founding partner of Frontier Growth, a growth-equity firm focusing primarily on managed IT and health care management software and services-investment activities. Founded in 1999, the firm thrives with a culture that puts “people before numbers,” because Maclean believes it is people who lead to real growth. Frontier Growth was one of the first firms to focus on helping growth-stage software companies develop the strategies and operational capabilities needed to accelerate success in the market.

Prior to his current position, Maclean served as director of several privately held companies, including Peak 10, LURHQ/SecureWorks and Anodyne Health. He has a wide range of experience completing numerous private capital and M&A transactions as both principal and advisor, and he currently serves on the boards of Healthx, Celergo and talentReef.

After graduating from the College with a B.S. in business administration, Maclean earned his MBA from the University of Virginia. He is a generous and prolific donor to the College, endowing the Maclean Business “Ready to Work” Scholarship and donating to the School of Business Dean’s Excellence Fund, the Kerrigan Investment Fund and the CofC Fund.

When he is not in the office or on the road, MacLean spends time outdoors with his wife, Holly, and his three English Cocker Spaniels.

Aundrea Loftley

Aundrea Loftley

Aundrea Eason Loftley ’06
Outstanding Service Award in Medicine

The Outstanding Service Award in Medicine is sponsored by the Alumni Association, the School of Sciences, Mathematics, and Engineering, and the Alpha Epsilon Delta Pre-Health Honor Society. The award recognizes graduates whose leadership in the medical sciences represents remarkable achievement and who demonstrate an enduring commitment to the College and their community. The members of AED select the recipient each year.

Dr. Aundrea Eason Loftley ’06, M.D., is an associate professor of medicine and endocrinology and serves as vice chair for diversity and inclusion in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases at the Medical University of South Carolina Department of Medicine.

A member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, Loftley graduated from the College with a B.S. in biology and then attended MUSC, where she completed her medical school training, internal medicine residency and an endocrinology fellowship.

Upon completing her fellowship, Loftley established the first outpatient endocrinology practice at McLeod Regional Medical Center in Florence, South Carolina. In 2018, she returned to MUSC and the adult clinical services team in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases. Loftley is a master clinical skills teacher for the College of Medicine and associate program director for the internal medicine residency program. MUSC students nominated her to be the 2022 MUSC commencement speaker due to her strong passion and dedication to teaching and precepting.

In 2019, Loftley served on a clinical team awarded a $1.28 million Duke Endowment grant to create a joint endocrine and obstetric clinic model to improve health outcomes for pregnant mothers diagnosed with diabetes. She is a member of the Academy of Medical Educators, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, the Endocrine Society, the American Medical Association, the Diabetes Initiative of South Carolina and Diabetes Free S.C. She is also an academic editor for the Journal of Diabetes and Clinical Research. She resides in Charleston with her husband, Charles Loftley ’05 (communication); their sons, Andrew and Lucas; and their Boston terrier, Porkchop.

Millie Embree

Millie Embree

Mildred “Millie” C. Embree ’02
Honors College Distinguished Alumni Award

The Honors College Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes Honors College alumni for their professional achievements, contributions to society and exceptional service to the College of Charleston.

Dr. Mildred Embree ’02, M.S., DMD, Ph.D., is the Dr. Edwin S. Robinson Assistant Professor of Dental Medicine in orthodontics and director of the TMJ Biology and Regenerative Medicine Laboratory at Columbia University.

Embree is an orthodontist and cell biologist with more than 15 years of experience in the field of osteoarthritis and TMJ. She is a co-inventor of StemGEL and a co-founder and scientific advisory board chair of Wnt Scientific.

After graduating from CofC’s Honors College with a B.S. in chemistry and biochemistry, Embree completed her DMD and Ph.D. in cell biology at MUSC. During this time, she took advantage of the National Institute of Health Graduate Partnerships Program and worked with Marian Young, senior investigator in the Molecular Biology of Bones and Teeth Section of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, to complete her graduate thesis examining the role of extracellular matrix proteoglycans in TMJ osteoarthritis. To optimize the clinical application of her research, Embree completed an orthodontic residency at Columbia University School of Dentistry and was recruited to her current faculty position.

Embree and her team focus on TMJ biology and disease, stem cells and stem cell–based cartilage and bone regeneration. Her laboratory uses a combination of stem cell/molecular biology methods and clinical questions to shape the direction of each scientific project. Overall, Embree’s research aims to improve current treatment modalities for patients with TMJ and musculoskeletal diseases.

Ashley Cafasso

Ashley Cafasso

Ashley Cafasso ’14
Young Alumna Award

The Young Alumna or Alumnus Award recognizes individuals expressing the finest of CofC traditions through service to their community or profession within 10 years of graduation.

Ashley Cafasso ’14 is a senior project manager of operational excellence for Apellis Pharmaceuticals. Prior to joining Apellis, she was both a project lead and manager of business administration (Nursing) at New York Presbyterian Hospital. While at New York Presbyterian during the COVID-19 pandemic, Cafasso developed corporate health programs for 26 Fortune 500 companies.

Cafasso volunteers her time with multiple organizations, including iMentor, the Junior League of Bergen County and Radio Lollipop. At the College, she majored in anthropology and minored in linguistics and French and Francophone studies. She joined Kappa Alpha Theta and served in various leadership positions. She continues to work with Theta headquarters as a member of their National Risk Management Committee.

In 2015, Cafasso earned her master of public health from Tulane University, where she was the professional development chair for the Healthcare Management Student Leadership Association and co-founder and president of the student-run Clinic Club – Public Health Partnership.

Cafasso is an inspiration to young women; she has served as an outstanding mentor to countless friends and colleagues. She is a donor to the College, giving consistently since 2020, and since graduating has attended many CofC alumni events, including CofC Day, A Charleston Affair and regional NYC club events.

Tanner Clay

Tanner Clay

Tanner Clay ’15
Young Alumnus Award

The Young Alumna or Alumnus Award recognizes individuals expressing the finest of CofC traditions through service to their community or profession within 10 years of graduation.

Tanner Clay ’15 joined Charleston Battery, Charleston’s professional soccer team, in 2021 and was promoted to director of revenue in January 2023. Previously, Clay worked as branch manager at Enterprise Holdings and as the inside sales team lead for Help Systems (formerly PhishLabs).

Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, Clay accepted an athletics scholarship to play soccer at the College of Charleston. While at the College, he majored in finance and was a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

A leader in the community, Clay serves on the Philanthropy Committee of the Mount Pleasant Chamber of Commerce and as the chair of the East Steering Committee for the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce. He was recently recognized as the first Community Hero of the Match. Presented by The Ideal Life, the award recognizes a person whose community contributions positively impact the lives of others in the Lowcountry.

Clay is an active CofC alumnus. He created “CofC Night at the Battery,” which draws hundreds of alumni wearing maroon and white to a soccer match each year. He has also been a spokesperson, advocate and donor for the first two years of the College’s commencement-themed “Share Your Chair” fundraising campaign for scholarships.

In his free time, Clay shares his passion and knowledge of soccer by coaching a youth team through the Charleston United Soccer Club. Clay also works as a mentor through the Be a Mentor Program. Clay resides in Charleston with his wife, Irene Villegas Diego, and their son, Diego.