Campaign chairs serve as the driving force in the overall success of a campaign. We are grateful to these volunteers for playing a pivotal role in providing invaluable leadership and expertise that help to mobilize resources, build support and achieve campaign objectives.
Richard D. Cummings, Ph.D. and Sandra F. Cummings
After many summer afternoons spent feeding his interest in science at the old library in Wills Hall, Richard D. Cummings ’74, Ph.D. knew he belonged at the University of Montevallo.
Cummings, who graduated in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in biology, currently serves as the S. Daniel Abraham professor of surgery and chief of the division of surgical sciences in the Department of Surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School. His wife, Sandra F. Cummings, also works at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center as a senior research associate.
He runs a large research lab funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that studies cancer, inflammatory disorders and immune regulation/autoimmunity. He also established the National Center for Functional Glycomics, and serves as director of the Harvard Medical School Center for Glycoscience, which provide services to researchers in the glycoscience field to understand roles of carbohydrates in human diseases and disorders.
During his time at UM, Cummings worked in the chemistry department as a teaching assistant, which helped develop his teaching abilities. One of his fondest memories from UM is working on projects with Dr. Aris Merijanian in his office and lab. Cummings says UM was critical in helping him become successful and he gives back in order to help bring opportunities to those who may not have them otherwise. Giving helps him share his experiences and promote young people to increase their chances to succeed. Cummings urges students to take advantage of all that UM, which he calls “a magical place,” has to offer.
“Montevallo was the best decision I could have ever made for myself. I’ve had great personal and professional relationships with professors. I feel like the attention that I got here gave me the confidence to pursue larger endeavors, such as being selected as a Harvard intern by Dr. Cummings. I was so proud to say I’m from a small liberal arts school in Alabama.” — Hannah Waki ‘22, MBA ‘23
Tracey Morant Adams and Jeff Adams
Tracey Morant Adams ’88 and Jeff Adams ’85 met on the University of Montevallo campus when Jeff was named a sweetheart of Tracey’s sorority, but the two didn’t start dating until years later. They will celebrate their 17th wedding anniversary in December 2023.
Tracey, who’d earned a valedictorian presidential scholarship to attend UM, was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Jeff, who was familiar with the University since his older sister attended 10 years prior, earned an athletic scholarship and played on the men’s basketball team. Tracey and Jeff both studied business management, with Jeff earning his bachelor’s degree in 1985 and Tracey earning hers in 1988.
After earning her MBA at Samford University, Tracey’s career took her from banking to telecommunications, to a position with the City of Birmingham.
While there, she was recruited to work for Renasant Bank, where she currently serves as senior executive vice president and the chief of corporate social responsibility. After earning his MBA from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Jeff worked for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama in a variety of roles until he retired in 2021. Before retiring, he discovered a passion for teaching and is now an adjunct professor in the Stephens College of Business. He was also appointed to the Pelham City School Board in April 2023.
Tracey and Jeff take great pride in UM and choose to give back in order to help sustain the UM legacy. Their advice to current students is to be yourself, enjoy the college experience, get involved
on campus and don’t wait for things to happen — make them happen.
“Montevallo is perfect for me. The professors really care about you and they’re very encouraging. I’m not just another number. I’m an individual, a student who has great potential for future success. They really want you to succeed. They don’t just teach, they provide real world examples. One of my main goals was to graduate debt free, but I was having to pay tuition out of pocket. Receiving scholarships was a huge weight off my shoulders and I’m very grateful.” — Melanie Cervantes ’24
Anita McDaniel Brueck and Buddy Brueck
From the thrill of winning College Night to the joy of having girls from every stratum of life become her Phi Mu sorority sisters, Anita McDaniel Brueck’s ’77 sense of belonging at the University of Montevallo was cemented almost instantly. The relationships she formed in her time here remain intact today.
Brueck graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1977 and went on to work in the property insurance claims business for 41 years. She and her husband, Buddy Brueck, started ClaimSouth in 1985. After tremendous success, they sold it to a subsidiary of SwissRe in 1991. The Bruecks then moved to Chicago to open a new branch for SwissRe, serving multi-national insurers specializing in Fortune 500 and Global 1000 programs for property and business income. She retired in 2018.
Brueck received an education at UM that set her apart from her peers, but it was networking with UM alums that set her on a fast track and connected her with people who helped accelerate her career path. As she puts it, “there is an unbroken chain of alums helping alums.”
She gives back to UM in order to help the next generation go beyond what she did.
“Montevallo feels very much like a family and made me feel at home. Faculty are very intentional and make me feel very confident and prepared. They pushed me to get more involved outside of the classroom. I think that involvement will serve me well in life. Scholarships allowed me to have unique opportunities and to not have to take out many loans. It took a lot of stress off of me and allowed me to have a really enjoyable college experience. — Katherine Myrick ’23
William Frank Denson III “Bill” and Deborah D. Denson “Debbie”
Although Montevallo was only a few miles away from his hometown of Calera, William Frank Denson III “Bill” ’65 had never experienced anything like the atmosphere he found at the University. He felt as if he was entering a new world filled with opportunities and promise.
While working toward his bachelor’s degree in political science, Denson embodied the spirit of a liberal arts education by playing baritone saxophone in the UM Wind Ensemble, getting involved with the history honor society and the Delta Theta Pi men’s leadership society, working in Carmichael Library and even taking golf lessons.
Denson credits the well-rounded education he received at Montevallo with preparing him to succeed at Emory University School of Law, where he earned his juris doctorate. He worked at a Birmingham law firm for a few years and then enjoyed a 36-year career in the legal department of the Birmingham-based Vulcan Materials Company.
Receiving multiple scholarships at UM allowed Denson to achieve his professional goals and retire in 2008 after a distinguished career. Throughout the years, Denson has made it a priority to give back to UM, thereby allowing future generations to enjoy the opportunities he had as a student.
Denson chaired one of the first major capital campaigns in UM’s history in the 1980s and served on the UM Board of Trustees from 1987 to 2000. He also served eight years on the University’s Foundation Board of Directors beginning in 2007.
Denson and his wife, Deborah D. Denson “Debbie,” have provided financial support to UM scholarships for more than three decades and established the Deborah D. and William F. Denson III Recruitment Scholarship in 2011.
Giving back to his alma mater has been a tremendous source of pride for Denson.
“I’ve really grown to love the campus. It’s a very tight-knit community. I have a family with SGA, my fraternity and my cohorts in political science. Having that community and family helped me know that I belong here. I’m a first-generation student and scholarships made my education possible. You may not think that a small scholarship does a whole lot, but it does. Having a scholarship helps you focus a little bit more on your education and job prospects.” — Ethan Ivy ’24
Michael J. Grainger and Donna Hails Grainger
As a college student, Michael J. Grainger ’73 was 100 percent responsible for footing the bill for his education. With a lot of hard work, and thanks to the affordable tuition at the University of Montevallo, he graduated in 1973 with a degree in accounting and a debt of only $1,500.
Grainger is the former president and chief operating officer of Ingram Micro Inc. and has served on the Board of Directors of seven companies, both public and private. He also serves on the UM Foundation Board and on the Stephens College of Business Board of Advisors.
He met his wife, Donna Hails Grainger ’74, in high school and the two both attended UM. They married in 1973 and have two daughters, Charlotte and Caitlin. Donna worked at Bank of America in Nashville in the field of retirement plan administration before leaving to take care of the kids at home.
The Graingers have given back to UM generously over the years, hoping to eliminate obstacles for students to help them succeed both intellectually and personally. They established the Michael J. and Donna H. Grainger Endowed Chair in Business and Accounting as well as the John and Agnes Grainger Endowed Honors Scholarship for Master’s in Counseling. The Graingers’ generosity also includes establishing the UM Grainger Center for Professional Practice in the Stephens College of Business, the UM Grainger Family Center for Personal Development and the UM Grainger Com- munity Counseling and Wellness Clinic.
“Our graduate students have to have a lot of clinical hours to graduate, and this space has given us an opportunity to have another clinical site for them. Donors have given the graduate counseling students a space to get practical counseling experience and truly see how community mental health works. Having this space has been instrumental to our program and has prepared our students to enter the workforce.” — Dr. Latofia Parker, Director of Grainger Community Counseling and Wellness Clinic
Tim Lupinacci ’88, the 2021 University of Montevallo National Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, has made a significant difference in UM students’ lives and in the community.
Lupinacci, a resident of Vestavia Hills, is a member of the University’s Board of Trustees and has practiced law in Birmingham for nearly three decades. He is the chairman and chief executive officer of the Baker Donelson law firm in Birmingham, where he leads 1,300 individuals across 10 states and 22 offices.
Lupinacci considers his most fond UM memory meeting his wife, Ellen Lupinacci ’88, M.Ed. ’89. The couple has now been married for 33 years. He started his undergraduate career with the desire to work in print or broadcast journalism as a mass communication major, but the diversity of opportunities provided at UM allowed him to thrive in the field of law. Lupinacci was able to learn about industry from his business courses, learn about government and politics and how to foster community among friends, groups and across campus by actively participating in Student Government Association and gain a better appreciation of music through his classes and recitals.
Lupinacci has continued to ‘pay it forward’ to help future generations of UM students. Many have benefitted from numerous scholarships created by Tim and Ellen. The Lupinaccis hope their support leads to students graduating and dreaming big, accomplishing feats such as discovering a cure for cancer, facilitating peace in some corner of the world, ending child trafficking across the globe and teaching children in rural Alabama.
Lupinacci views his giving as a step to create the next generation of leaders.
“I understand how important it is to select the right school and how it has the ability to change your life. After much prayer, the University of Montevallo impressed on my heart. Being a member of the SGA Executive Committee and a student worker in the Alumni Affairs office as a student has allowed me to connect with alumni that once walked the halls and my classmates.” — Jordan Dacus ’23
James Newman and Jennifer Worsham Newman
James Newman’s ’74 goal was to attend college on a basketball scholarship, but a broken ankle in his junior year of high school brought a change of plans. After dedicating himself to applying for as many scholarships as he could, Newman chose to take his financial aid earnings to the University of Montevallo due to the affordable tuition and the closeness to his hometown, Valley, Alabama.
Newman, who did end up playing for UM’s men’s basketball team, graduated early in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, which took him on to a successful 33-year career. As a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, he audited both privately held companies and large multinational public companies. Newman is retired now but does consulting for an insurance company and dabbles in rental property on the side. He also serves on the Stephens College of Business Board of Advisors and the UM Foundation Board.
In 1991, he married Jennifer Worsham Newman, who served as the managing director with Morgan Keegan & Company in Memphis before retiring. The two met when they were on a panel for the Tennessee Society of Certified Public Accountants.
For the Newmans, supporting education is the most important thing a person can do because education is the key to life. They have given back generously, most recently establishing The James and Jennifer Newman Accounting Program and The James and Jennifer Newman Endowed Accounting Scholarship.
“The Stephens College of Business helped me a lot with planning my future, with my master’s and with job applications. Everyone has helped me grow as a person and has been welcoming. I’m a first-generation student and I had to learn a lot by myself. It helped to receive scholarships and really focus on my studies. Montevallo gave me the feeling that there’s great things ahead of me. It gave me great opportunities and made me feel like I can be successful.” — Eva Dirr ’23
Gerald P. Rivero, Jr. and Claudia Crowley Rivero
As a Latin kid from Tampa, Florida, that never had left home before coming to the University of Montevallo, the support and open-mindedness that the faculty and staff showed Gerald P. Rivero Jr. ’85 meant a lot. He insists there is no other university where he could have thrived the way he did here.
Attending UM on a baseball scholarship, Rivero graduated in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in counseling and guidance. He is currently the executive vice president and managing director of Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of America, where he has worked since his graduation. He leads and manages a selling organization for SGWS throughout the U.S.
Some of his favorite memories from college include living on the baseball hallway in Fuller Hall and eating delicious meals in the cafeteria. The friends he made at UM have been by his side for 30 years.
UM is also where Rivero met his wife, Claudia Crowley Rivero ’85. He was practicing baseball at Old Gym, formerly known as Bibb Graves, and she was dancing for the University’s dance company “Orchesis.” The two married in 1987 and have one son, Gavin.
The Riveros choose to give back, saying “one small act can change the trajectory of a student’s life. We want to support them and provide confidence regardless of culture, color or background.” He offers these words of encouragement to students: Believe in your dreams and never let anyone tell you that you cannot accomplish them.
“The University of Montevallo has been a great resource. I’ve been able to have a lot of leadership opportunities. Montevallo offered amazing resources for me to be able to develop myself as an individual and prepare for success in the future. Being able to have scholarships really impacted my life. Montevallo was always so generous and gave me access to so many resources to get the financial help I needed. I knew this was a place that would help me succeed.” — Manuel Munoz ’24
Todd Strange and Linda Davis Strange
The University of Montevallo was still Alabama College when Todd Strange ’66 first arrived on campus, and he immediately knew he was where he was supposed to be. Choosing the school for its affordability and small size, he found that UM gave him the foundation for a blessed future.
Strange, who earned a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1966, was elected chairman of the Montgomery County Commission in 2004. He also served as former president, CEO and co-owner of Blount Strange Automotive Group. In 2009, Strange was elected the 56th mayor of Montgomery and served until his retirement in 2019. Strange is also the chair of the UM Board of Trustees.
In his time at UM, he helped start Sigma Social Club, played on the golf team, was involved in Student Government Association, joined various academic organizations and was a Resident Assistant. He met his wife of 58 years, Linda Davis Strange ’67, at UM in a Presbyterian Sunday School class in 1963. They married in 1966 and have two daughters, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Strange chooses to give back because of all that UM gave to him — an education and relationships that he cherishes to this day. To current students he says, “think for yourself, reach out to others and work hard for your academic, social and life success.”
“The Todd and Linda Strange Endowed Professorship has had a profound, lasting effect on teaching and learning on our campus. Because of the vision and generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Strange, the faculty member selected for the award is able to expand knowledge through personal inquiry and reflection, the product of which is channeled directly to our students through a more vigorously informed collaboration in the classroom. This is the best example of the high impact that donors can have on our crucial mission at UM.” — Dr. Joseph Landers, Linda and Todd Strange Endowed Professor of Music