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Cumming mayor to be honored during UNG scholarship ball

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Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt, second from left in front row, helps cut the ribbon at the opening of the Cumming Campus. Also pictured are Mary Helen MacGruder, University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby, UNG President Bonita C. Jacobs, state Sen. Steve Gooch and USG Board of Regents Chairman Philip Wilheit.

Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt, who has served in that role since 1970, will be honored by the University of North Georgia with the Presidential Leadership Award for his support of the university and his work to bring higher education to the Forsyth County community. UNG President Bonita Jacobs will present Gravitt with the Presidential Leadership Award on March 28 during UNG's 2014 Scholarship Ball.

"Mayor Gravitt sees that when government, community, industry, and UNG work in partnership, we can dramatically increase the educational attainment of students and help our region prosper," Jacobs said. "He was instrumental in the development of our Cumming Campus, and his vision and determination to establish a center of higher education will have lasting benefits for the community."

For almost 20 years, Gravitt led Cumming and Forsyth County officials and community members in efforts to bring higher education to the area. In 2011, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia approved the project; the building, with a capacity to serve around 1,000, opened in August 2012 with more than 500 students enrolled. This fall, enrollment in college courses exceeded 750 at the Cumming Campus, including students pursuing all levels of degrees, from associate to graduate.

"I am deeply honored and humbled to be given this award," Gravitt said. "It seems like a lifetime that we've been working to get higher education here in Cumming. It's only one building right now, but it's a big start for Cumming and Forsyth County. We certainly want to be able to provide every opportunity for Cumming and Forsyth County students to further their education."

Previous winners of the Presidential Leadership Award are Mike Cottrell, Paul Stringer and George Coleman. Proceeds from the annual UNG Scholarship Ball fund scholarships for UNG students, another area in which Gravitt has supported the university.

At the 2012 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Cumming Campus, Gravitt announced the creation of two annual $1,000 scholarships. One is in honor of his late wife, who was an alumna of UNG, and is given to a deserving student from Forsyth County. The other is in honor of Gravitt's high school alma mater—Forsyth Central High School—and is given to a deserving student graduating from that school.

Gravitt's children, sons Keith Gravitt and Hank Gravitt and daughter Fonda Gravitt Harrison, all attended UNG.

The 2013 Scholarship Ball raised $212,620 for scholarships, more than triple the amount of the event goal. Increasing support for students has been one of Jacobs’ top priorities as president.

"Many students do not get the chance to experience college without the benefit of scholarships," Jacobs said. "Sometimes a thousand dollar scholarship can make all the difference in whether a student can attend school or not. Through their generosity, our donors, including Mayor Gravitt, have a great influence on our students and help them achieve their dreams and career goals."

A reception before the ball begins at 6:30. The dinner and program begin at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets for the 2014 Scholarship Ball, which will be held at the Forsyth Conference Center at Lanier Technical College, are $100 per person and available online via ungalumni.org/scholarshipball. A table of eight may be reserved for $1,000. Sponsorships, which include a reserved table of eight and recognition in the event program, are available at the $5,000, $10,000 and $20,000 levels by contacting Jeff Boggan via email at jeff.boggan@ung.edu or by calling 678-717-3750.

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