PEMBROKE — UNCP Trustee Mary Ann Elliott is an internationally renowned satellite communications entrepreneur.
As one of the nation’s top female satellite communications executives, Elliott understands that a qualified workforce is needed to grow the economy of southeastern North Carolina. That was among the factors motivating the donation of $500,000 toward the new multi-million-dollar facility to house the School of Business at UNCP. A career center in the new facility will be named The Mary Ann Elliott Business Career Center in her honor.
Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings commended Elliott for her generosity and firm belief in the mission of the university.
“Given Mary Ann Elliott’s leadership and remarkable accomplishments in her field she knows how to get ahead in the business world,” said UNCP Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings.
“She understands the importance of interpersonal and team dynamic skills UNC Pembroke’s Business Career Center will develop in our students. Mary Ann’s generous gift distinguishes our School of Business and enhances its impact by providing vital, value-added resources outside of the classroom to help our students excel.”
The career center will provide opportunities for business students to develop their professional skills, learn soft skills necessary for success, build and review their resumes, and provide appropriate resources to turn their practical education into careers.
Elliott envisions the future School of Business enhancing UNCP’s reputation for producing qualified graduates who are ready to embark on careers with the right skills and background.
“The Career Center is vital in taking the education background of our students and turning it into a job and a way forward. Far too often, when young people graduate from college, they don’t have a clear path on how to apply for jobs. They lack an understanding of how hard it is to apply for multiple jobs and everything from needing their resume tweaked to writing thank you letters, etc. Each of these aspects are vital to getting a job,” Elliott said. “Minor things can become major when applying for a job. I anticipate the career center’s influence will prepare these students for long and successful futures.”
“The new school will mean the difference between obtaining a job versus still out there looking. For many of the students, especially international students or young people coming from underprivileged backgrounds, it is the difference between them succeeding and failing.”
The university is planning a $36 million state-of-the-art School of Business facility near the main entrance of campus. Included in the plans are a career center, auditorium, a video conference room, computer lab, trading room, and a multi-media resource room. UNCP received $23 million from the Connect NC Bond in 2016. Since then, the university has received $8 million in additional contributions from organizations and individuals.
The announcement of a new facility is welcome for current business students like senior Michelle Kasperski.
“We have a lovely faculty, hard-working students but need a space in which we can optimize both. I believe the new building will provide our students the much needed space, technologies and resources needed to succeed academically and professionally. It will enhance and multiply the abilities of our already-talented faculty to develop and prepare students for the ever-changing, increasingly complex and technologically-dependent business world,” said Kasperski.
Elliott has been an active participant in the wireless communications revolution for three decades. She has established herself as an expert in satellite communications supporting the military and intelligence community. In the 1970s, she entered the field as the first female sales person working for Motorola Mobile in the traditional wireless terrestrial market before moving into the emerging technology field of satellite navigation and communications.
The Lumberton native has been instrumental in the founding and funding of six firms, including Arrowhead Global Solutions, Inc. Prior to starting Arrowhead in 1991, she held management positions with COMSAT International, Contel’s American Satellite Division, Talon Technology and Navidyne. She was successful in growing Arrowhead from a small business to a global company that saw $11 million in revenues in its first decade. The company provided telecommunication solutions, information technology, and professional support services throughout the federal government, contracting with the U.S. military, Department of Homeland Security, and the Intelligence Community. The firm reached $100 million in annual revenues prior to being sold in 2007.
Elliott is also the author of two books on satellite communications and a frequent lecturer on the topic. A recipient of many honors and awards, she was named one of the 40 most influential people in global defense, aerospace and national security by Defense Daily; one of only two women so honored. She was inducted into the Satellite Hall of Fame in 2007 and received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from UNCP in 2009.
Elliott has been a major supporter of UNCP over the years. She established two endowed scholarships — the Mary Ann Elliott Endowed Scholarship to support students majoring in engineering or a telecommunications related field, and, in memory of her mother, the Mary McKenzie Edwards Endowed Scholarship to assist students in UNCP’s School of Nursing. Elliott was also among the private donors who helped establish UNCP’s Entrepreneurship Incubator. Elliott adds of her long-standing relationship with UNCP, “I am privileged to serve as a trustee and to be a part of this university.”