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HRSM 2018 distinguished alumni and friends award winners announced

Posted on: October 26, 2018
By Bryony Wardell, 

The University of South Carolina’s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management (HRSM) is proud to announce the winners of its 2018 HRSM Distinguished Alumni and Friends Awards. The awards recognize alumni and industry partners who have established a strong record of distinction in their respective fields and who exemplify responsible citizenship within their communities. 

The 2018 honorees are:

HRSM Distinguished Alumni Award - Karen O’Neill, 1997

Karen O'Neill is president of the Americas market for Knowcross, a global hotel management software and technology intelligence provider for the hospitality industry. She is a 1997 graduate of the University of South Carolina with a bachelor of science from the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management. O’Neill is a thought leader and hospitality industry veteran with 20 years of experience working with top-tier hospitality and restaurant clients. She has climbed the ranks of the hospitality technology sector, becoming one of the few female VPs, and one of the youngest, for a $1 billion software company along the way.

Originally from Maryland, O’Neill was one of the only students from her high school to attend UofSC. She began her career with MICROS Systems (now ORACLE) after securing an interview at a job fair she attended while she was in college. She worked for MICROS for 15 years where she held various positions in project management, major account management and sales and strategies. In her last role, as vice president of hotel sales and strategies, O’Neill worked closely with leading global hotel chains, independent properties and management companies on technology strategy, system selection and deployment. O’Neill helped grow the company from $500 million to more than $1 billion, positioning the business for a strategic sale to technology giant, ORACLE.

O’Neill went on to found KnockOut Hospitality Consulting, LLC, in 2013. She then joined StayNTouch, a property management software system, as the vice president of sales and marketing where she managed the company’s global sales and marketing initiatives. In 2017, O’Neill was recruited to serve as president, Americas for Knowcross, where she leads the company’s growing operations and sales initiatives across North America.

HRSM Distinguished Young Alumni Award - Meghan Azevedo, 2008

Meghan Azevedo is a 2008 alumna of the University of South Carolina and earned her bachelor’s degree in sport and entertainment management. Azevedo went on to earn her MBA from the University of Virgina and has worked hard to advance her career path that began while she was a student at UofSC working for Gamecock Athletics. As an undergraduate student, she stood out to her professors for her determination and keen knack for finance.

She began her post-graduation career in ticketing and corporate sponsorships for the Baltimore Ravens and went on to work with Under Armour for more than seven years. Her knowledge and leadership is clearly demonstrated by her rise through the ranks at Under Armour to the position of senior manager and chief of staff to the CFO.

In 2018, Azevedo joined T. Rowe Price global investment management firm as a senior finance manager. In her current role, she works closely with businesses, providing both financial and strategic support for short and long-term initiatives.

In addition to her career success, Azevedo has been a strong advocate for the College of HRSM and has shared her time and talent to help the next generation of students. From securing donations that support student scholarships, to hosting a delegation of UofSC visitors at Under Armour Headquarters over fall break, she has helped her alma matter grow and provide enriching opportunities for students.

HRSM Distinguished Service Award - Michele Braddock-Beagle, 2007

After a successful banking career, Michele Braddock-Beagle returned to college to complete her degree at the University of South Carolina. With the help of her faculty members, Braddock-Beagle made the most of her experience at UofSC and gained valuable career connections made available to her through the Department of Sport and Entertainment Management.

After graduating from UofSC with her degree in interdisciplinary studies in 2007, Braddock-Beagle relocated to Atlanta to work for the Atlanta Falcons as the stadium event coordinator. She was part of the original WNBA Atlanta staff, which became the Atlanta Dream, and was a key part of the first WNBA arena sellout event. She has extensive experience in event management and fundraising, working in various capacities for three NFL teams, the Masters, the Hootie and Blowfish Monday after the Masters Tournament, and more.

Braddock-Beagle goes above and beyond to dedicate herself and her time to service. She volunteers extensively with the George Rogers Foundation, planning the annual Heisman Golf Tournament and Gala weekend event each year as well as additional fundraising events for the Foundation. She served on the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Board, Georgia PTA Board and is a member of the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, Team in Training, and National League of Junior Cotillions.

While event planning is what she is best known for, the University of South Carolina is Braddock-Beagle’s passion. She has great institutional knowledge about the university, and she helps students in all majors and walks of life by providing information and mentorship to help them on their path to personal and professional success. She currently serves as president of the Atlanta Gamecock Club and Atlanta My Carolina Group, and loves supporting Gamecock events with her husband, also a Carolina alumnus.

Her nominator had this to say about Braddock-Beagle: “Michele goes above and beyond to help any future students with information about the College of HRSM and helps current students with internship and job placements. Her knowledge of and passion for HRSM is what landed me in the program I am in today.”

Distinguished Friend of the College Award - Darlington Raceway

Darlington Raceway is a pillar of sport, entertainment and tourism in South Carolina and has become ingrained into the degree programs and learning experiences of hundreds of University of South Carolina students.

Established in 1950, Darlington has become famously known as the "Track Too Tough to Tame" and contributes more than $64 million in annual economic impact to the state of South Carolina. With 111 different NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winners in 65 years of racing, legends such as Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Dale Earnhardt, David Pearson and Jeff Gordon have made their marks at Darlington.

The historic and thriving raceway is an invaluable friend to the College of HRSM and the University of South Carolina — impacting the education and lives of students, alumni and faculty. Hundreds of students gain career experience each year at Darlington through unique opportunities to work at signature events like the Bojangles’ 500. Every semester, the organization opens its doors and makes time for students studying the business of NASCAR. The custom course was once taught by then Darlington President Jim Hunter, who would be proud to know that a legacy and relationship he helped build has prospered and grown since those early NASCAR marketing courses.

The organization’s support is also felt across campus, as it played an instrumental role in founding the Thomas H. Regan Lecture Series, sponsored by NASCAR, which gives students and the broader Carolina community the chance to hear from prestigious industry leaders. Many of these students go on to work in internship and full-time roles with Darlington, providing a direct pathway from sport management education to career — all right here in South Carolina. Darlington Raceway President Kerry Tharp accepted the award on behalf of the organization. 


The honorees were recognized at an awards ceremony and dinner on October 25, 2018 on campus. Pictured above from left to right are College of HRSM Dean Haemoon Oh, O'Neill, Azevedo, Tharp, Braddock-Beagle and College of HRSM Alumni Relations Director Tina Weeks Weaver. To learn more about the awards and to see past nominees, click here.

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