UMO duo receives prestigious Morris Awards


Softball standout Mallory Noel Ratcliff and Monica Lynn Irwin each received the Dr. Thomas R. Morris Award for Academic Excellence during the University of Mount Olive’s spring commencement.

Ratcliff earned a BS in elementary education and compiled a grade-point average of 3.975. She helped lead the Trojans to regular-season and conference tournament runner-up finishes during the spring before suffering a key injury.

A native of Fredericksburg, Virginia, Ratcliff intends to return to UMO in the fall and obtain a Master of Education degree.

“Mallory is a goal-oriented, enthusiastic young lady,” said Dr. Tommy Benson, associate professor of education at UMO. “She came with a desire to become a teacher and has worked diligently to prepare herself for the profession. She works tirelessly to do her very best and has proven her capabilities academically and athletically.”

Irwin, who hails from Wilmington, received a BS in business administration (human resource management) and posted a 3.975 GPA. 

Her future plans include developing a human resource program/package for expanding the business she started with her husband, Bill. Originally from Maine, the pair moved to Wilmington in 2019 and opened a restaurant called The Maine Lobster Roll Company.

“Monica has demonstrated herself to be professional and capable,” said Ryan Douglas, assistant professor of finance at UMO. “She knows how to execute, communicate, and provide a quality product.  She has been a pleasure to have in class and embodies the ideal character of a UMO alumni.”

The Thomas R. Morris Awards are presented to the traditional and non-traditional baccalaureate graduates whose studies have been at the University of Mount Olive during full-time, continuous enrollment. The awards are for the highest academic average based on the greatest number of credit hours.  

A check for $1,500 accompanies each of these awards.  

The awards were made possible as a result of the generosity and of the late Dr. Thomas R. Morris, a native of Nahunta and member of Union Grove OFWB.


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