Appalachian State University alumni Jack Hoke, of Hickory (’74, ’82, ’84), Dr. Susan Dianne Little, of Taylorsville (’71, ’96), and Dr. LaTonya M. Summers, (’94, ’96) of Jacksonville, FL, were inducted into the Rhododendron Society on July 9, 2021, at a brunch held at the Grandview Ballroom in Boone, North Carolina.
Additionally, the 2020 inductees — Dr. William “Bill” Brown, (’55, ’58) of Gastonia, Carol Deal, (’67, ’73, ’80, ’83) of Boone, and Phillip Riggs (’88), of Durham — were recognized due to last year’s ceremony being canceled.
The brunch was attended by the award recipients and their guests; past winners; Reich College of Education (RCOE) Advancement Board members, and college leadership, including RCOE Dean Melba Spooner, Associate Deans Monica Lambert and Terry McClannon, and Assistant Dean Hannah Reeder.
The RCOE established the Rhododendron Society in 1999, Appalachian’s centennial year. It is named for Appalachian’s former yearbook “The Rhododendron,” which captured the university’s historic moments, activities and accomplishments.
As the highest honor given by the college, the award honors alumni for their exemplary service to education and to their communities. The society recognizes RCOE graduates whose service as teachers, librarians, human service professionals or administrators has reflected great credit on themselves, the field of education and the university. Brown, Dean, Hoke, Little, Riggs, and Summers joined a distinguished group of Rhododendron Society members, bringing the total to 71.
Society members give back to the RCOE through an annual scholarship, which is awarded to an undergraduate and a graduate student who are outstanding in their course of study.
RCOE encourages Rhododendron Society nominations of Appalachian alumni currently working in the field of education as well as those who have retired. To learn more about the Rhododendron Society or to view nomination materials visit rcoe.appstate.edu/rhododendron-society.
Originally from Lenoir, North Carolina, Jack Hoke has served his community in virtually every position in K-12 education: teacher, assistant principal, principal, associate superintendent, and superintendent.
Hoke began his academic career at Appalachian as a business major. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in business, he returned to App State to complete his teaching certification for business education. After teaching for a few years, he completed his master of arts degree and education specialist degree in public school administration and moved into school administration roles.
As one nominator noted, “[Jack] was a teacher that students wanted to have as their leader.” In his role as executive director of the North Carolina School Superintendents’ Association, Hoke created two programs to support and mentor new and aspiring school administrators – Next Generation Superintendent Development Program and Aspiring Superintendent Program – and his work is being replicated in other states.
Hoke has been recognized for his contributions to education, including twice being named the Northwest Regional Service Alliance Superintendent of the Year. He also received the North Carolina Association of School Administrators Raymond Sarbaugh State Leadership Award and the North Carolina High School Athletic Association “One Hundred to Remember School Administrators” award.
In 2010, Hoke was a finalist for the A. Craig Phillips North Carolina Superintendent of the Year, and in 2012, he was honored with the “Long Leaf Pine Award” by the governor of North Carolina for his leadership in education.
Susan Dianne Little
“Dr. Susan Dianne Little has five successful decades of dedication to her students as an exceptional teacher, principal, and college administrator in the state of North Carolina,” said one nominator. She has taught and been an administrator at high schools and community colleges.
Little received two of her four degrees from Appalachian: a Bachelor of Science degree in English and an Educational Specialist degree in administration. She received her Master of Arts in Teaching degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her Doctor of Education degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She also completed the Principal’s Executive Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Little is consistently recognized for her commitment to excellence and education from the local to the national and international level, including being appointed by Governor Jim Hunt to the North Carolina Teacher Advisory Committee, being inducted into the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, and being named an outstanding educator and administrator many times over.
Recently, Little was appointed to the North Carolina Education and Workforce Innovation Commission by Governor Roy Cooper.
Little has channeled her love of education through philanthropy as well. Last year, she established the Jeannette Hartsell Little Scholarship at Appalachian, to honor the memory of her mother, who was unable to attend college due to a physical disability. This scholarship is for students with physical or learning disabilities and supports their academic pursuits at Appalachian.