Donors Honor Chemistry Professor With Scholarship To Help Rural Students and Naming Classroom Space

By Amanda Mlekush

It is sometimes difficult to measure the impact a teacher has on their students, but one former student found a unique way to honor an Appalachian State University faculty member who made a big difference in his life and career. 

Dr. Lynn Lewis studied at Lees-McRae College in the 1970s and fondly remembers what he learned during his Chemistry classes taught by Al Overbay, then an assistant professor of Chemistry at App State and adjunct faculty at Lees-McRae. Lewis continued studying chemistry and other health sciences in his pursuit of a dental degree at UNC-Chapel Hill, eventually establishing his dental practice in North Carolina.

“The rigor of Professor Overbay’s course instilled a love and passion for the health science field, and was instrumental in preparing me to be successful in dental school,” said Lewis. “Given his career at Appalachian State and his steadfast commitment to his students, it was important to find a way to honor him, and the lives of all the students, like me, that he inspired.” 

About the classroom and scholarship honoring Overbay

On behalf of his wife, the late Janet “Jan” Blackburn-Lewis, and himself, Lewis recently provided funding to endow a scholarship for students from the couple’s home county of Ashe or the surrounding region. The scholarship is named for Overbay, and Lewis’ gift also recognizes him by naming a classroom space in Leon Levine Hall of Health Sciences at Appalachian State University. 

Students from Ashe County or other rural Western North Carolina counties studying health sciences with a GPA of 3.0 or higher are eligible to apply for the scholarship. The scholarship was awarded during the 2023–24 academic year to Allyson Greer, a senior from Ashe County majoring in Exercise Science.

Dr. Lynn Lewis, Allyson Greer and Al Overbay
Celebrating a special gift

A special dedication was held for the classroom named for Overbay in Levine Hall, Room 256. The dedication was attended by Lewis; Overbay, his wife, Shirley; and daughter Kimberly. Both of Overbay’s children (including son Michael) are App State alumni and work in the university’s Information Technology Services. Greer was also able to attend the event, meet her scholarship’s namesake and thank her scholarship donor. (Photo above shows from left: Lewis, Greer and Overbay). 

“It was important to me to honor Professor Overbay in a meaningful way and demonstrate how his interest and enthusiasm for science impacted me,” Lewis said. “In the classroom, he always challenged us to work hard, supported our dreams and gave us the tools to pursue those dreams. By creating a dedicated physical space and funding a scholarship to help educate health professionals, I hope to continue extending Professor Overbay’s legacy to future generations.”  

About Alfred Benjamin Overbay

Alfred Benjamin Overbay was awarded Emeritus status from the Appalachian State University Board of Trustees in 1998, after retiring a year earlier from a more than 20-year teaching career at the university. He previously taught Chemistry at Wingate University and also served as an adjunct faculty member at Lees-McRae College. 

Overbay earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Chemistry from Appalachian in 1963 and 1965, respectively, and oversaw the department’s chemistry laboratories. He earned the rank of assistant professor in 1976.

About the College of Arts and Sciences 

The College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) at Appalachian State University is home to 17 academic departments, two centers and one residential college. These units span the humanities and the social, mathematical and natural sciences. CAS aims to develop a distinctive identity built upon our university's strengths, traditions and unique location. The college’s values lie not only in service to the university and local community, but through inspiring, training, educating and sustaining the development of its students as global citizens. More than 6,400 student majors are enrolled in the college. As the college is also largely responsible for implementing App State’s general education curriculum, it is heavily involved in the education of all students at the university, including those pursuing majors in other colleges. Learn more at

About the Beaver College of Health Sciences 

Appalachian State University’s Beaver College of Health Sciences (BCHS), opened in 2010, is transforming the health and quality of life for the communities it serves through interprofessional collaboration and innovation in teaching, scholarship, service and clinical outreach. BCHS offers nine undergraduate degree programs and seven graduate degree programs, which are organized into six departments: Nursing, Nutrition and Health Care Management, Public Health and Exercise Science, Recreation Management and Physical Education, Rehabilitation Sciences, and Social Work. The college’s academic programs are located in the Holmes Convocation Center on App State’s main campus and the Leon Levine Hall of Health Sciences, a state-of-the-art, 203,000-square-foot facility that is the cornerstone of the Wellness District. In addition, the college supports the Blue Cross NC Institute for Health and Human Services and has collaborative partnerships with the Wake Forest School of Medicine’s Physician Assistant Program, UNC Health Appalachian and numerous other health agencies. Learn more at

Student is standing beside a retired professor holding a sign that says Classroom
Published: Mar 6, 2024 9:20am