The UNC Asheville Office of Athletics Communications will try to provide an Alumni Spotlight every few weeks to let people know what our former Bulldogs are doing right now. Today we profile former men's soccer player - Andrew Heath.
Former UNC Asheville soccer player Andrew Heath came to the school as a freshman back in the fall of 1999, and he recently joked that he was a little disappointed that he wasn’t playing professional soccer like one of his youth soccer teammates from Fort Wayne, Indiana, DaMarcus Beasley, who is on his way to his fourth World Cup.
He quickly got over that disappointment and ended up having a great career for the Bulldogs, helping lead the Blue & White to a Big South Conference regular-season title in 2001 while finishing as one of the top goalkeepers in school history.
Today, he’s Commissioner of the North Carolina Industrial Commission, appointed by Governor Pat McCrory last year.
His job is a big one.
The North Carolina Industrial Commission is an agency of the State of North Carolina created by the General Assembly in 1929 to administer the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act. In 1949, the Industrial Commission was also given authority by the General Assembly to administer the Tort Claims Act. Additionally, the Industrial Commission is charged with administering the Law Enforcement Officers’, Firemen’s, Rescue Squad Workers’ and Civil Air Patrol Members’ Death Benefits Act, the Childhood Vaccine-Related Injury Compensation Program and Compensation to Persons Erroneously Convicted of Felonies.
“We have a lot of responsibility here as we process more than 70,000 workers’ compensation claims a year. There are more than 160 employees working with us, and we have a $16 million budget,” explained Heath.
He enjoys the job.
“I love working here,” Heath said from his office in Raleigh. “I’ve had the privilege of having meetings with the Governor and other cabinet officials at the executive mansion. It’s just an incredible opportunity."
Chairman Heath remembers coming to UNC Asheville from his hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
“I really enjoyed my time at UNC Asheville,” commented Heath. “I was lucky enough to make life-long friends and still see them consistently. Brett Breitschwerdt, Mike Roach and Jeremy Schrader are all attorneys in the area, and I get a chance to spend some time with them.“
One of the Andrew’s biggest memories at Asheville came in the 2001 season. The Bulldogs were a preseason pick to finish in last place in the Big South Conference. However, thanks to brilliant goalkeeping by Andrew and a terrific team effort, the Bulldogs captured the Big South Conference regular-season championship with impressive wins over Coastal Carolina, Liberty, Radford and High Point.
He earned All-Conference honors for his play and was named Big South Player of the Week twice during the 2001 season.
“The 2001 season will always be special for me,” declared Heath. “We really came together as a team and found a way to get the job done.
“And that experience has helped me in my work,” added Heath. “As a student-athlete, you learn to budget your time and deal with adversity. You know in a game that things aren’t always going to go the way you plan, but you make adjustments.
“It’s the same thing as an attorney. You’ll get surprises in a trial or in a case and you’ve got to adjust,” Heath also said.
Andrew played for long-time head coach Steve Cornish, whom he fondly remembers.
“I loved playing for Coach Cornish,” said Heath. “He was a great guy to play for who understood the concept of a student-athlete. I had a great soccer experience at Asheville.”
He graduated from UNC Asheville with a B.S. in Management in 2003. Heath then attended law school at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law and received his J.D. in 2006. During his time in law school, he really appreciated his education at Asheville.
“I was really lucky to go to UNC Asheville, and it really prepared me for law school,” explained Chairman Heath. “Our class size at Asheville was small, and you really got a chance to know your professor, and you couldn’t hide in class as just being a number.”
“By being in small classes, you had to engage your classmates and your professor,” he said. “That’s the way it is in law school. Some people have a hard time with that but thanks to my time at UNC Asheville, I was prepared. I took the management track and earned a great degree that I’m very proud to have.”
While in law school, he clerked for Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels in the Office of the General Counsel, interned for Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Paul Mathias, and clerked for Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter.
He was in private practice in his wife’s hometown of Wilmington from 2006 until his appointment with the Industrial Commission in early 2013, during which time he represented employees while working for The Cole Law Firm, PLLC and employers while working for Hedrick Gardner Kincheloe & Garofalo, LLP. He was named as a Lawyers Weekly Emerging Legal Leader and one of Business North Carolina’s Legal Elite. During his time in Wilmington, Heath served on the New Hanover County Bar Association Board of Directors and on the Executive Committee of Welcome Home Angel, Inc., a nonprofit charitable organization that he helped found in 2007.
Andrew finished his career as one of the best goalkeepers in school history. He is second all-time in career shutouts with 12 and fifth in saves with 249.
Coach Cornish is no longer at UNC Asheville and is now the soccer coach at Shattuck-St. Mary's Soccer Center of Excellence in Minnesota. He remembers Andrew fondly.
“I’m quite proud of Andrew and not surprised with his great success after graduation,” stated Cornish. “He was a fine lad who was a big part of our success both on and off the field.”