Why They Give

Dr. Ellen Thrower ’75, ’80 MBA and Alma Sneed Peebles ’35

The late Alma Sneed Peebles ’35 was devoted to UNC Greensboro: She earned her bachelor’s degree at Woman’s College, fulfilled her career as a University staff member — retiring as a secretary at the Student Health Center in 1982 — and she maintained a lifelong connection through UNCG’s Alumni Association.

In establishing the Alma Sneed Peebles Endowed Scholarship, Alma’s daughter, Dr. Ellen Thrower ’75, ’80 MBA, took into account all of her mother’s contributions to the University. Less acknowledged, however, is how her mother’s bond with the University and strong stance on education completely reshaped the path of Ellen’s life.

In Ellen’s own words, she recounted her decision to become a member of the Spartan family:

Growing up, I (and my parents) expected that after high school graduation I would go on to college. But that changed my senior year when I decided to do what many Southern girls in the ’60s did at the time — marry their high school sweetheart.  And, when I realized this marriage wasn’t working, I also did what most girls at the time did — I went home to my mother and father.

When I returned home, my parents were loving and supportive, and mother began right away encouraging me to return to school. She was passionate about education and unwavering in her belief that UNCG would be a perfect fit for me.  She was persistent and persuasive, and confident I would be a success. And so, at age 24 — with some apprehension, but armed with my mother’s belief in me — I enrolled as a freshman at UNCG. It didn’t take long to realize that mother was right!

After graduating UNCG with her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration, Ellen earned her doctorate in risk management and insurance from Georgia State University and completed additional study at the Harvard University Institute for Educational Management. From there, her career skyrocketed.

Ellen served as the director of the Insurance Center at Drake University before she became president of the College of Insurance, an independent specialty college in New York City. She then spearheaded a merger with the College of Insurance and St. John’s University, creating the School of Risk Management, Insurance, and Actuarial Science, for which she was the executive director.

Ellen has been recognized as one of the top 100 “Insurance Game Changers” by Leader’s Edge Magazine, “Woman of the Year” by the Association of Professional Insurance Women, and one of the “100 Leading Women” by Business Insurance. Following her retirement, St. John’s School of Risk Management — which has become one of the leading programs in the nation — also celebrated Ellen’s leadership with the renaming of one of its facilities, now called the Ellen Thrower Center for Apprenticeship and Career Services.

“In looking back, it has been a wonderful career; one that has been rewarding beyond my wildest imagination,” stated Ellen. “And it would not have happened without, first and foremost, my mother’s encouragement and support for me every step of the way, as well as the outstanding education I received at UNCG.”

Story by Brittany Cameron, Donor Relations


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P. Kevin Williamson

Associate Vice Chancellor