Meet Our Staff
Vice President’s Office
Interim Vice President for Advancement
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Calvin Brown, interim vice president for advancement, leads the Division of Advancement, including all University fundraising, Planned Giving, Advancement Services, Alumni Affairs, and University Relations. A dedicated advocate for UA for more than 30 years, he has served on numerous University leadership committees and boards and is the current director of alumni affairs.
Prior to joining Alumni Affairs in 2011, he was president of and a partner in West Ellis Investment Management Inc. (1994-2009) and a portfolio manager and partner in BlueCreek Investment Partners (2009-2011).
His extensive civic and community involvement includes service as a board member for the Morgan County Chapter of the American Red Cross, Alabama Humanities Foundation and Rotary Club of Decatur, among other organizations. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UA’s Culverhouse College of Commerce.
Assistant to the Vice President
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Sara-Margaret Cates is the assistant to the vice president for advancement. In this role, she supports the vice president and coordinates scheduling, travel and special projects. A Tuscaloosa native, Cates earned her bachelor’s degree in theatre from the University of Montevallo and her master’s degree in health studies from The University of Alabama. A Certified Health Education Specialist, she also is a member of the adjunct faculty in the College of Human Environmental Sciences. Before joining the advancement team, Cates served in the Office for Academic Affairs. She spends her free time volunteering with various campus organizations and in the local performing arts community.
Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations
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As the director of corporate and foundation relations at The University of Alabama, Leslie Abernathy is the primary connection between the UA campus and its supporting foundations and corporate partners. She identifies, cultivates and solicits major gifts from foundations whose objectives match UA initiatives, and also coordinates the strategic submission of foundation proposals initiated by deans, development officers and faculty across various divisions of UA.
Abernathy joined UA in 2012 after 12 successful years of fundraising for the Tuscaloosa County Commission, during which she secured more than $4 million in law enforcement grants. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology/biology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Director of Financial Affairs
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As director of financial affairs for the Office of Advancement, Allison Gary manages all advancement accounts and day-to-day operations, including preparing an annual budget, overseeing the human resource functions of the office, and preparing financial records and budget reports for the vice president.
Gary earned both a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a master’s degree in accountancy (summa cum laude) from UA and is a Certified Public Accountant licensed in the state of Alabama. After working in Birmingham and San Francisco, Gary returned to her alma mater as a member of the advancement staff in 2012.
In her free time, Allison volunteers with various campus and community organizations, including the United Way and Leadership Tuscaloosa.
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Jennifer Horn is the scholarship coordinator for University Advancement. In this role, she manages special population scholarships for groups such as first-generation students, foster care students, and veteran and military students. She also assists the director of leadership gifts in specialized stewardship projects.
Horn is from Tuscaloosa and received her bachelor’s degree from the College of Human Environmental Sciences at The University of Alabama. Before joining the advancement staff at UA in 2009, she served as the donor relations and special events coordinator at the University of South Carolina in Aiken for five years.
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As a program specialist for University Advancement, Angela Jewell assists the associate vice president for advancement in achieving the department’s overall mission.
A Tuscaloosa native, Jewell worked for the UA College of Engineering for nearly 12 years before joining the University Advancement staff in 2014. She began as program assistant for the Capstone Engineering Society, and later served as development assistant for the College, where her responsibilities included researching and identifying prospects, writing proposals, assisting with major events planning, donor relations and stewardship, and managing the budget.
She is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in public relations at The University of Alabama.
Director of Advancement
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Allison Leitner serves as director of advancement for The University of Alabama, representing all areas of campus with expertise in the Honors College, College of Community Health Sciences and School of Social Work. Leitner has over nine years of fundraising experience with eight years in advancement at the University. She received her bachelor’s degree in accounting from UA in 1996 and her master’s degree in family financial planning and counseling in 2012.
Outside of the University, Leitner is a community leader who has served numerous charitable, civic and arts organizations over the years. In 2012, she won the Junior League of Tuscaloosa Leadership Award.
Director of Advancement
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As the director of advancement at The University of Alabama, Brett Riley works with donors to match their philanthropic desires with the needs of UA.
Riley joined UA in 2012 after serving two and a half years as the assistant director of annual giving at Western Kentucky University where he played a vital role in the successful completion of the $200 million “New Century of Spirit Campaign.” During his tenure at WKU he managed the campus-wide faculty and staff campaign, which raised $1.5 million toward the overall campaign goal, and personally secured $450,000 at the leadership annual giving level. Prior to fundraising, he worked with the Atlanta Braves and the WKU football program.
Riley holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in recreation and sport administration from WKU.
Lucy Arnold Sikes
Director of the President’s Cabinet
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Lucy Arnold Sikes is the director of The University of Alabama President’s Cabinet, a 300-member group of alumni and friends of the University who support the president’s priorities. She also serves as the adviser to the Capstone Men and Women, UA’s official student ambassadors.
Previously, Sikes served as director of communications for UA’s capital campaign and coordinator of corporate relations at UA’s Culverhouse College of Commerce. Throughout the years, Sikes has been a leader in both professional and volunteer organizations in the state, and her work in the field of public relations and advertising has won numerous awards.
Prior to joining UA, Sikes was the vice president for public relations at the University of Houston Alumni Organization. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida State University.
Director of Annual Giving
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As director of annual giving, Mary Lawhorn manages annual giving programs and special fundraising projects for the Office of University Advancement.
Lawhorn has been a part of the UA family for more than 10 years. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in advertising, she began her professional career here at the Capstone. She has enjoyed serving in additional leadership roles, and is currently chair of the University Awards Committee and a member of the Professional Staff Assembly.
She is a two-time recipient of the Sam S. May Commitment to Service Award.
Coordinator of Annual Giving
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Rachel Loper serves as the coordinator of annual giving. Among her responsibilities in this role, she administers the division’s direct mail renewal campaign on behalf of each of the University’s colleges and schools, as well as the division’s online fundraising campaigns.
Loper earned a bachelor of arts in English and a distinction in leadership studies from Birmingham-Southern College. Prior to joining the University’s advancement team, Loper worked in the offices of development for two nonprofit organizations, including the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. She honed her skills in multichannel annual giving fundraising, particularly online fundraising, through these valuable work experiences.
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Lacy Sellars is the administrative secretary for advancement. In this role, she assists with special projects and supports the daily needs of the office staff. Lacy has an associate’s degree in both psychology and sociology from Bainbridge State College. Currently, Lacy is seeking a bachelor’s degree in family financial planning at UA. She previously worked on campus in Student Involvement overseeing about 500 student organizations.
Office of Planned Giving
William “Butch” Hughes
Associate Director of Planned Giving
firstname.lastname@example.org | 205-348-4775
William “Butch” Hughes joined The University of Alabama as the associate director of planned giving in 1999. In this capacity, he identifies prospective donors and assists them with making gifts to the University. He also serves on the Planned Giving Advisory Council and is a charter member of The Denny Society.
A native of Hartford, Ala., Hughes earned his bachelor’s degree in commerce from The University of Alabama and is a graduate of the Alabama Banking School at the University of South Alabama. He spent the majority of his career in the banking industry, much of it on the retail side. At his retirement, he held the position of vice president and branch administrator, with responsibility for 10 branches in Tuscaloosa. He presently serves on the board of directors of First National Bank of Hartford, Ala., and Bryant Bank of Tuscaloosa.
Assistant to the President
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Charles Hilburn, assistant to the president, fulfills a variety of roles at The University of Alabama. In the Office of Planned Giving, he specializes in gifts of art, furniture and other tangible items. He also directs the operations of Capstone Village, the University’s retirement complex, and coordinates activities for Women of the Capstone, a group that provides academic scholarships to students at the University.
Prior to joining UA, Hilburn, a native and lifelong resident of Tuscaloosa, worked on an antiques publication for the Tuscaloosa News for 10 years, followed by 32 years at the Westervelt Company, formerly known as Gulf States Paper Corporation, where he served as curator of one of the largest privately held art collections in the United States.
Sunee Gates Lavender
Estate Administration Officer
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Sunee Gates Lavender serves The University of Alabama as a planned giving officer with responsibilities primarily related to estate administration. Outside of her work at the University, she is active in and has held leadership positions in numerous civic and charitable organizations.
Prior to joining The University of Alabama, Lavender was comptroller for the Bank of Tuscaloosa. She holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from The University of Alabama and a master’s degree in business administration from Mississippi State University.
Planned Giving Communication Specialist
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Lisa Pritchett joined The University of Alabama Office of Advancement in 2008. As the planned giving communication specialist, she coordinates print and electronic communications for the planned giving program, tracks and analyzes response data, and organizes special events for The Denny Society and Women of the Capstone.
A native of Arlington, Texas, Pritchett received a bachelor’s degree in marketing and a master’s degree in family financial planning and counseling from UA. Over the course of her career, she has also served as a marketing representative, a professional development trainer, a legal assistant, and a financial planning assistant. As a way of giving back to the University, Pritchett dedicates some of her personal time to teaching undergraduate students in the College of Human Environmental Sciences.