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Distinguished Leadership Graduates
In 2014, Oriana Clayton was the recipient of the Lura S. Tally Award for Leadership Excellence. Throughout her career at Methodist University, Oriana demonstrated many leadership qualities. She demonstrated a well-rounded and very active campus life, being heavily involved in many things. She was the Chief Justice for SGA for two years and held other positions throughout her four years as well. Her passion was campus ministry, where she was on the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) Leadership team, active in spiritual development sub-groups, and served on 7 mission trips both domestic and international. She volunteered to help others through the peer mentor program both at MU and at Haystreet UMC.
During her four years at MU, she sat on the Dean of Students National Search Committee, the Presidential National Search Committee, the Master Plan Committee, and currently serves on the National Campaign Committee. She participated on the Women’s Soccer and Lacrosse teams. She also was a part-time firefighter while taking a full course load. She absolutely loves serving for her church (Fayetteville Community Church) and her church family. She is currently on staff as a Media Assistant.
Her junior year she lost a very important person in her life, her “pawpaw.” Oriana says, “he taught me everything I needed to know, and was like a father to me.” It became vividly apparent to her that she wanted to be a servant leader like her grandfather was.
While at MU she became a tour guide for MU admissions because she was able to tell everyone she came in contact how much she loves Methodist University. After graduation she decided to stay at MU and work in the Campus Ministry office while working on her career within the Criminal Justice system.Oriana has a strong faith and believes that God has given everyone gifts to be a leader in many ways. She would say, “Invest in something that is meaningful to you and run with it.” She loves people and never meets a stranger. She is living the vision of the Lura S. Tally Center for Leadership by being a leader on and off campus and inspiring others so that they can achieve anything that they put their mind to.
Jennifer Perez is the 2012 receipt of the Lura S. Tally award for Leadership Excellence. A recent Methodist University graduate, she was nominated by her professors for demonstrating outstanding leadership abilities as a student. She graduated in December of 2013 with a major in Accounting and double minor in Business Administration and Leadership Studies.
Growing up in the military town of Fayetteville, North Carolina, the daughter of an army veteran, Jennifer recalls the spirit of leadership always being celebrated throughout her life. As a child, she has always been passionate about music, teaching herself the guitar and eventually leading worship at her home church. She describes the defining moment when she first realized her calling as a leader while performing on stage, "The first time I ever sang a song in front of people was at a talent show on campus. I sang, "How He Loves" and before I started I told the entire room about Jesus and how much He cares about us..not knowing if I was going to get booed off stage. But then after I said it, people starting clapping, even coming up to me after and thanking me for what I said. It was that moment which defined my role as a musician and that is to lead people to hope and purpose through the sound of my voice."
Throughout her college career, Jennifer has served as a leader in many different areas throughout campus. During her sophomore year, she partnered with Manna Church and led an outreach program on campus known as "RUSH" (Reaching the Unreached Student Harvest). She then started "Worship Nights: Unplugged", a monthly night of worship led solely by students, engaging them into a role of leadership. She served on the Fellowship of Christian Athletes team, Campus Ministry leadership team, and was the Secretary of the Accounting club. Additionally, she was selected as the student leader for Easter Jam, a yearly Christian concert open to the community hosted by the university.
Her experiences in leadership earned her the opportunity to intern at Lifeway Christian Resources located in Nashville, Tennessee. She was an Accounting and Finance Intern in 2011 and 2012, respectively. During her senior year, she studied abroad in Guatemala, with a focus in International Accounting, learning about micro business and Mayan culture. After graduating, she accepted a full time position as a staff accountant at Systel Business Equipment where she was delegated to oversee business property taxes for counties in the state of North Carolina.
In June of 2014, she moved back to Nashville and is currently working at Sussman & Associates, an accounting firm specializing in the entertainment industry. She credits her experiences in leadership at Methodist University for developing her as a person and enriching her professional career and encourages students to take every opportunity to get involved on campus, "Always be willing to serve on campus. There's always a need in any group, whether its putting out chairs out or volunteering to clean up. True leadership involves serving people and any opportunity you take on campus will contribute to your life."
In 1999, then Mary Johnston was the first recipient of the Lura S. Tally Award for Leadership Excellence. Throughout her exceptional career at Methodist College Mary demonstrated all of the qualities for which great leaders are known. She was proactive in working to form the first Residence Hall Association at Methodist College, and served as its secretary. Mary undertook other challenges, including service as senator in the Student Government Association. She also volunteered to help others through the peer mentor program. In recognition of her excellent academic record, Mary was inducted into the Alpha Chi and Omicron Delta Kappa honor societies.
During her senior year Mary experienced the tragic loss of her mother. Mary refers to this period as the most “difficult lesson” of her college years. As a result, she says: “I started putting my life into perspective by recognizing that certain problems, like my mother’s cancer, were outside of my circle of influence.”
A key part of Mary’s leadership training was the internship she completed at The Fayetteville Observer. As an intern she had the opportunity to apply many of the leadership principles she had learned in the classroom. She must have impressed someone, because just one week after her graduation, Mary started working full-time with the newspaper in what has become for her a fulfilling career.
As the photo shows, Mary is starting her own family. Since marrying Greg, she is now Mary Johnston Kinney, and the youngster is Christopher. Together they make their home in Lillington, North Carolina.
In the years since college, Mary continues to demonstrate the leadership qualities for which she was know while at Methodist. She accepted the responsibilities of secretary for the Fayetteville Observer Credit Union Board, and led the Observer’s March of Dimes WalkAmerica team for several record-breaking years. Mary is also captain of a four-member group of volunteers at a local elementary school, and she has served as judge for the county’s Spelling Bee finals. In her church she directed the bell choir and serves as secretary for the United Methodist Women.
In her family, career, and community service, Mary is living the vision of the Lura S. Tally Center for Leadership Development, which is to prepare students to achieve significant positive change in their communities and careers.
Congratulations to Mary Johnston Kinney for being designated a Distinguished Leadership Graduate of Methodist College!