Skip to main content
At a ceremony held May 11, 2024, Anne B. “Annie B” Crockett-Stark ’69, M.S. ’79, was presented with an honorary associate degree by Wytheville Community College.

Every other week, our Highlanders are using their education to do extraordinary things. Here, we’ll highlight some notable mentions from local, regional, national and international news media. Whether our students, alumni, faculty and staff are featured as subject matter experts in high-profile stories or simply helping make the world a better place, we’ll feature their stories.

To an additional degree

A storied Highlander who’s also a former state delegate was recently recognized for her longtime support of local education.

Earlier this month, Anne B. “Annie B” Crockett-Stark ’69, M.S. ’79, was presented with an honorary associate degree by Wytheville Community College.

During the May 11 ceremony – covered by The Roanoke Times, WDBJ7 news and The Southwest Virginia Sun – WCC President Dean Sprinkle said the gesture was a recognition of Crockett-Star’s contributions toward the progress and development of the school.

After taking early classes at WCC, Crockett-Star transferred to Radford University and earned her bachelor’s degree in English in 1969.

She soon returned to WCC as an adjunct instructor, later developing counseling programs for Wythe County Public Schools and serving as a founding member of the Wythe Arts Council and Chautauqua Festival.

In an effort to get wheelchair ramps installed at Wytheville schools, Crockett-Star ran for town council and, in 1978, became the first woman elected to one of its seats – a feat she accomplished while also earning her master’s degree, again from Radford, in community college guidance.

Following her entry into politics, she followed an upward trajectory – first by serving on the Wythe County Board of Supervisors from 1999 to 2005 and then winning election to the Virginia House of Delegates for Southwest Virginia’s 6th District, a seat she held from 2006 until she retired in 2014.

“In this capacity, she was a strong advocate for state support for Virginia’s community colleges in general and for WCC in particular,” the school said in a news release.

In a 2013 profile by Radford University, Crockett-Stark reflected on her work in the House.

“I like this job because of all the interesting things I’ve learned and all the people I’ve met,” she said, acknowledging that the position had expanded her fields of expertise. “In the House, you don’t have the luxury of just concentrating on education or on just health and welfare. You have to be involved in it all.”

Otterbots assemble!

When Danville’s minor league baseball team opens its season next month, two current Highlanders will be on its roster.

The Danville Otterbots will kick off their fourth season by hosting Appalachian League Opening night June 4 at the American Legion Field at Dan Daniel Memorial Park in Danville, Virginia, where the team will welcome the Kingsport Axmen.

A May 8 story by Lynchburg’s WSET said Raymond Ladd and Mason Hatcher will join the outfit as right-handed pitchers.

“Danville native Raymond Ladd comes back home for his second season with the Otterbots,” the story said. “After a successful 2023 Appalachian League campaign, Ladd appeared in 12 outings for Radford this spring, seven of which he started.”

Recent Halifax County High School graduate Hatcher “is set to make his Appalachian debut,” the story said, noting that his “arsenal is sure to befuddle opposing batters.” 

The 2024 Appalachian League season runs through July 31, and Ladd and Hatcher will remain teammates this fall at Radford University, according to the story.

Coverage of their spots in Danville’s lineup also appeared at and

A voice of “Strength”

A domestic abuse survivor who became a staunch advocate for victims of violence has published books about her experiences and the solutions she found.

In a May 14 feature profile by WRTV-ABC (Indianapolis, Indiana), Renita Hills ’07 discusses her new memoir, “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength,” which documents how she overcame numerous hardships and obstacles and ultimately founded the nonprofit advocacy group Voice of the Victim.

“I Didn’t Know My Own Strength” is Hills’ sequel to her 2022 book, “God Let My Choices Happen to Me.”

Hills told WRTV she endured abuse for 15 years – and, in 2002, suffered near-fatal injuries – before finding a path to anti-domestic violence activism. In addition to her books, she now speaks out about self-esteem, self-awareness and good decision-making via YouTube, her website and as a volunteer at women’s shelters. 

“The unfortunate thing about abuse and abusive behaviors is … you feel all alone,” Hills said in the interview. “I don’t want anybody to ever believe there’s no life after the abuse.”