UNCG conferred honorary degrees to Broadway’s Beth Leavel ’80, as well as Dennis Quaintance and Nancy King Quaintance of Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants and Hotels during Friday’s Commencement ceremony.
Honorary degrees recognize individuals who demonstrate extraordinary achievement over their entire scholarly or artistic careers, or who have performed distinguished public service in their lifetime.
Beth Leavel was presented a Doctor of Letters for demonstrating extraordinary achievement throughout her brilliant career as a screen actress and singer. Leavel has starred in 13 Broadway shows – and counting – and owns some of Broadway’s biggest awards, including a Tony Award.
After graduating from UNCG with her master’s in fine arts in 1980, she headed to New York to build her acting career and is now recognized as one of Broadway’s greatest stars. She is currently preparing for the lead role of Miranda Priestly in “The Devil Wears Prada” in Chicago this summer, before a much-anticipated Broadway run.
Leavel’s star turn in Broadway’s “The Drowsy Chaperone” (2006-7) – in a role written especially for her – earned her a Tony Award as well as Drama Desk, NY Outer Critics Circle and L.A. Drama Critics awards.
She was nominated for a 2019 Tony, Drama Desk, Drama League and NY Outer Critics Circle award for her performance in the critically acclaimed Broadway show “The Prom.” She also received Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle nominations for her performance in “Baby It’s You.”
Other Broadway roles include Mrs. June Adams in “Bandstand,” Emily in “Elf,” Donna in “Mamma Mia!,” Frau Blucher in “Young Frankenstein,” Dorothy Brock in the revival of “42nd Street,” Tess in the original company of “Crazy for You,” Mrs. Bixby in “The Civil War,” Ellie in Hal Prince’s “Showboat,” and Anytime Annie (her Broadway debut) in “42nd Street.” She has numerous Off-Broadway, regional theater, commercials, and TV credits, including the final episode of ER and most recently “The Walking Dead” and “The Bite.
Leavel coaches, mentors, and provides masterclasses regularly, elevating the potential of the next generations of acting students. She has visited UNCG’s campus several times to give masterclasses and speak with UNCG acting students. Just last week she gave a masterclass to students before delivering the keynote address at the May 2022 Commencement ceremony.
Dennis and Nancy King Quaintance of Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants and Hotels (QW) each received a Doctor of Humane Letters for their dedication to service and excellence in their careers and lives.
The Quaintances’ story is that of self-made success. Dennis, CEO of QW, began his career in hospitality as a housekeeper’s assistant, and QW Vice President Nancy’s first gig in the industry was washing dishes at Walt Disney World.
With a dream of becoming Greensboro’s “Mr. & Mrs. Hotel-Restaurant,” Dennis opened Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen in 1989.
In the years since, Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants and Hotels have grown to include two Lucky 32 Southern Kitchens, the 130-room O. Henry Hotel and its Green Valley Grill, and the 147-room Proximity Hotel with its Print Works Bistro. Both the O.Henry and Proximity are four-diamond hotels, and Proximity is certified LEED Platinum, the greenest and most environmentally-friendly hotel in America.
In 2016, Dennis led the transition from traditional company ownership to 100 percent employee ownership, setting up a trust that provides retirement benefits for QW staff members.
Dennis is an innovator and community leader who exemplifies values that parallel those of UNCG. He came from humble beginnings, worked hard, and treated people right making him a role model and inspiration to UNCG’s Sustainable Hospitality and Tourism students.
Nancy has shared her expertise with UNCG, serving on the committee that helped create an interdisciplinary program in Hospitality Management, which ultimately became a B.A., then a B.S., in Hospitality and Tourism Management.
She was a founding member of the Hospitality and Tourism Program Advisor Board. This partnership has benefited both UNCG and Quaintance-Weaver. The company’s staff includes many UNCG students and alumni.
Previous Honorary Degree awardees include Grammy Award-winning artists, producers, and alumnae Emmylou Harris and Rhiannon Giddens; singer-songwriter-producer and alumnus Ben Folds; philanthropist and alumnus William Mangum; research pioneer Dr. Maunuskshi Wani; former Ambassador to Finland and businesswoman Bonnie McElveen-Hunter; NC Poet Laureate Fred Chappell; NC Chief Justice Henry Frye; former NC Governor Jim Hunt; and author Maya Angelou.
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications