Triad Retirements Impact Corporate, Community Leadership

Last month we featured on our cover N.C. A&T alumnus Willie A. Deese, who during a forty-year career achieved great success in the highly competitive pharmaceutical industry. Researching the article on Deese’s retirement brought to mind several other brilliant business leaders in the Triad who have elected to transition into the next phase of their lives.

In March, Justice Henry Frye, who had been of counsel with the law firm Brooks Pierce since 2001, retired after a distinguished and historic career. Frye joined Brooks Pierce after leaving the N.C. Supreme Court, where he had served as both the first African American justice and the first African American chief justice. In 1968, he became the first African American elected to the N.C. House of Representatives in the twentieth century. He served in the House for twelve years and was then elected to a two-year term in the state Senate.

Last month, my friend and former colleague Alan Caldwell stepped down as head of civic engagement at Reynolds American Inc. Caldwell enjoyed a thirty-five-year career at Reynolds, the nation’s second-largest tobacco company. Caldwell was an all-ACC defensive back and Honorable Mention all-America in 1977 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He played for the Los Angeles Rams and New York Giants in the NFL before succumbing to injuries. He returned to Winston-Salem and worked his way up from manufacturing supervisor to being named in 2006 senior director of public issues/corporate social responsibility. Three years later, he became director of community and civic engagement. Caldwell was also executive director of the Reynolds American Foundation. Some of the foundation’s gifts during his tenure included a $1.5 million donation to Winston-Salem State University for its Student Success Center and to help students affected by Pell Grant cuts.

Another trailblazer, Cynthia Williams of BB&T, will retire at the end of this month as chief corporate communications officer and senior executive vice president. It is rare for a chief communications officer to be among a major corporation’s executive management team, but Williams broke that barrier when she was such appointed in 2012. She has spearheaded brand and advertising strategy, corporate communications and social media, CRA and community development, multicultural banking and corporate philanthropy. She also chairs BB&T’s executive diversity council.

“During one of the most challenging and tumultuous times our industry has ever faced, Cynthia’s dedication to shaping our steady voice helped BB&T weather the storm and set the right tone for the future,” BB&T Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Kelly King said.

We offer congratulations to each of these business stalwarts and say JOB WELL DONE! We are certain that each will remain active by sharing their immense talents with a variety of civic organizations.

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