Congratulations to the 2017 Award Recipients 

Distinguished Alumni Award


Distinguished Alumni Award - The Service Committee of the Alumni Association Board of Directors is charged with bringing nominations to the board at large, and a vote is taken during the annual spring meeting.The Distinguished Alumni Award is meant to honor excellence in one's profession or community service.  

Dawn Harwood Allen ’81 has served as chief executive officer of GHA Autism Supports since 1984. She joined the organization as a direct care staff person in 1981, when it was known as “The Group Home for the Autistic.” Since that time, GHA Autism Supports has expanded and offers a number of services for individuals from across North Carolina with autism spectrum disorder. Under her leadership, the entity has grown from a home in Stanly County serving five children to an organization that currently supports over 90 individuals in programs providing residential, vocational, educational, community and in-home services. This nationally-recognized model community hosts visitors from all over the world who are interested in using similar practices in their native countries. 

Dawn currently serves her professional community as the immediate past president of Cardinal Innovations/Piedmont Network Council and past president of the North Carolina Providers Association. She is also a member of the admissions committee of the Murdoch Developmental Center and the board of Rubicon. In both 1998 and 2008, Dawn was named Professional of the Year by the Autism Society of North Carolina and in 2008, she was presented the Achievement Award by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Division TEACCH Program. In 2012, she was awarded the North Carolina Providers Council Steve Jordan Lighthouse Award for her extraordinary contributions to the state’s intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental health and substance abuse systems through innovative practices, inspiring leadership, and passionate advocate.

After graduating from Pfeiffer, Dawn remained in Stanly County becoming active in the community by serving as past president and campaign chair of the local United Way, multiple terms on the executive committee of the Chamber of Commerce, and as past chairman of the Stanly County Community Foundation. She currently serves as the chair of the Stanly Regional Medical Center Advisory Council and is an active member of the Albemarle Rotary Club. She earned her Master of Education degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.


Presidential Merit Award


Presidential Merit Award - is given by the President of Pfeiffer University to alumni who are 35 or younger at the time of selection, who have excelled early in their careers, and who show potential for continued success.

Alejandra Buchanan Miller ’03 began her career as a soccer promotions representative at Eurosport, the largest soccer specialty company in the world, after playing soccer and lacrosse at Pfeiffer University. The last 12 years have been spent with Adidas, where she has climbed the ranks to her current role as the senior sports marketing manager. Her first assignments were in Grassroots Soccer, supporting club soccer organizations throughout the U.S., before progressing to the management level and working with the highest level of U.S. soccer, Major League Soccer (MLS). She currently oversees the partnership marketing of seven of the current professional franchises and is closely involved in helping the league launch new franchises. She has also managed marquee assets for Adidas, including the Chelsea Football Club of England’s Premier League. 

Alejandra has provided assistance and guidance to the Charlotte Soccer Taskforce in their efforts to bring professional soccer to Charlotte. She has also been a key-note speaker for Women’s Day at the annual Adidas NSCAA Coaches Convention and at Pfeiffer’s 2017 Accepted Student Day.

In service to her community, Alejandra is involved with The Kuykenstrong Foundation, a nonprofit organization working in partnership with Georgetown University's Lombardi Cancer Center, to help children afflicted with pediatric cancer. She is also a member and supporter of Peace Passers, a Charlotte-based charity that redistributes soccer equipment to underserved communities around the world, and a Falcon Club member in support of both the men's and women's soccer teams. Go Falcons!


As an industrial/organizational psychologist, Dr. Marissa Shuffler Porter ’04 has spent more than a decade helping organizations address workplace challenges related to team development, training, leadership, and improving organizational effectiveness.  She has worked with the U.S. Army Research Institute, National Science Foundation, Center for Army Leadership, Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Air Force, sharing expertise in intercultural collaboration, multi-team systems, communication, and adaptation, with an emphasis on high risk and complex environments. Recently, she has conducted research to develop leadership tools for NASA astronaut crews that will go to Mars and deep space, and – as part of her passion to help improve healthcare organizations – worked with Greenville Healthcare System in upstate South Carolina, to address healthcare worker and medical resident burnout.

Marissa has received over $1.4 million in grant funding from federal and private entities and was recently awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER grant for her research exploring team profiles as a mechanism for better designing interventions that will improve healthcare and engineering teams. Her scholarship includes a book on multi-team systems, over 45 publications, and 100+ presentations at national and international conferences. She serves on the editorial boards of Small Group Research, Military Psychology, and the Journal of Business & Psychology.

At Pfeiffer, Marissa completed over 3,600 hours of volunteer service through the Bonner Leaders Americorps Program and received the Francis Leadership Award and Pearl Walton Fisher Citizenship Award. She was a member of Psi Chi, Phi Delta Sigma honor society, the Order of the Sundial, and served as president of the University Honors Association. After graduating from Pfeiffer, she completed her Master of Arts degree in industrial/organizational psychology at George Mason University, while serving as an instructor, and was a graduate research fellow at the U.S. Army Research Institute. She earned her doctorate in I/O psychology from the University of Central Florida. She is currently an assistant professor of I/O psychology at Clemson University.




Award winners are awarded for their accomplishments at Homecoming's Annual Gathering. This year's Annual Gathering is Saturday, September 29, 2018 at 10 am in Henry Pfeiffer Chapel. 

Since 1959, the Pfeiffer Alumni Association has chosen to recognize the extraordinary contributions of alumni by presenting two annual awards to deserving individuals. The Alumni Board Executive Committee is charged with bringing nominations to the Board at large, where a ballot vote is taken during the annual June meeting. Once the vote is finalized, the Alumni Board President notifies recipients and their nominators.

Submission deadline for the Homecoming 2018 awards is April 30, 2018.

**Please note: Individuals may only be nominated for one award per year. The Board reserves the right to determine which award category is most appropriate/applicable for nomination in the case of an alumnus being nominated for both Outstanding and Distinguished Awards.

Submission deadline for the Homecoming 2018 award is April 30, 2018.

  • The Presidential Merit Award is given by the President of Pfeiffer University to alumni who are 35 or younger at the time of selection, who have excelled early in their careers, and who show potential for continued success. Once the recipient is selected, the University President notifies the recipient and their nominator. Download a fillable PDF form here.


Print and mail nomination forms to Pfeiffer University-Alumni Affairs P.O. Box 960 Misenheimer, N.C. 28109 or email to