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Memories shared, friends remembered during Alumni Weekend 2016

2016 Alumni Weekend recap
Alumni from the class of '66 reminisce with each other and university staff during the 50th reunion brunch at the home of President Bonita Jacobs and Glenn Jacobs.

The University of North Georgia (UNG) welcomed back hundreds of alumni April 22-24 for reunions, ceremonies and other special events at the 2016 Alumni Weekend in Dahlonega.

AW Jacobs
Class of '66 alumni talk with President Bonita Jacobs (center).

"When we welcome our alumni and friends back to UNG, our objective is always to have something for everyone," said Wendi Huguley ('90), director of alumni relations and annual giving at UNG. "We want all of our guests to feel welcome while they experience places and faces they may not have seen for many years. We also try to showcase how their alma mater is continuing its tradition of excellence, and we frequently hear how impressed our alumni are with the university's growing reputation."

One of the many events held over the weekend was the North Georgia Dahlonega Alumni Shared Interest Group (SIG) Awards Luncheon to recognize outstanding students and alumni for dedication and service to the university and the community. The awards included:

  • Distinguished Professor Award, given to Dr. Victoria Hightower, assistant professor of history at UNG. She was hired in 2011 after receiving her doctorate in Middle East history from Florida State University. Her publications focus on the history and heritage of the pearl trade in the Persian/Arabic Gulf and the politics of restoration in the United Arab Emirates. In 2013, she received a UNG Presidential Summer Scholar Grant to conduct research on Persian/Arabic Gulf piracy in the British Library India Office Records.
  • Paul M. Hutcherson Outstanding Student Award, which recognizes a male and female student who have demonstrated the highest ideals of citizenship. This year's recipients are Michaela Climer, a Mike Cottrell Scholar and president of the Dahlonega Campus Student Government Association, and c/MAJ Eric Gleason, who was ranked the eighth-best cadet in the nation for the FY 2016 national ROTC rankings of senior cadets.
  • Young Alumnus Award, given to 1LT Michael Rose ('11) of Fort Lewis, Washington, in recognition of his outstanding military career. During his time as a cadet at UNG, Rose was an active member of the Mountain Order of Colombo, Sigma Omega fraternity, Ranger Challenge and Scabbard and Blade. After commissioning, Rose and his wife Abbie moved to Hawaii, where he became a rifle platoon leader. In 2014, Rose and his partner John Bergman won the Best Ranger Competition. Rose now serves as a Ranger platoon leader in the 75th Ranger Regiment, and plans to one day become a Ranger instructor.
  • Distinguished Alumna Award, given to Elizabeth Lord Rhodes ('66). She graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, and taught for 30 years in the Cobb County School System. She served on the Alumni Council from 2007-2015. While on the council, she served as chair of the Awards and Scholarship Committee, treasurer and president. She currently serves on the Corps Advisory Council, the UNG Alumni Association Board of Directors and the board of the North Georgia College Eagle Fund.
  • Distinguished Alumnus Award, given to Mac McConnell ('79) of Dahlonega, Georgia, for his extraordinary record of service and support to UNG. He has been employed by UNG since 1987, and currently serves as the institution's senior vice president for business and finance. He has also served as president of the Dahlonega Rotary Club, The Dahlonega Jaycees, The Lumpkin County Touchdown Club and the North Georgia Athletic Association. He currently serves on the UNG Foundation, and this past fall he was awarded the Judy Wilder Lifetime Achievement Award by the University System of Georgia Board of Regents' Office of Facilities.
  • Alumni Hall of Fame Award, given to MG (Ret.) Jim Cravens ('66). After graduating as a distinguished military graduate with a Bachelor of Science, Cravens went on to Clemson University to earn a Master of Science. He served 32 years of active duty in the U.S. Army, culminating in his role as Commanding General of the U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery Center and School in Fort Bliss, Texas. He received numerous awards and decorations for his service. After retiring from the Army, he served in the defense industry for 11 years, including his position as director for PAC-3 International Business Development at Lockheed Martin Missile and Fire Control in Dallas, Texas.
  • Ralph Colley Spirit of North Georgia Award, given to Capt. (Ret.) Cameron West of Acworth, Georgia. This award is given to an alumnus who has experienced adverse circumstances to live an exemplary life. West commissioned from UNG's Corps of Cadets in 2008 into the U.S. Marine Corps. In 2010, he deployed to Afghanistan as an infantry platoon commander. He lost his right leg from an improvised explosive device during combat operations. He retired from the Marine Corps in 2013 and moved back to Georgia with his wife.
  • Dot Strother Alumni Scholarship, given to Madeline McRee and Andrew Stein. This scholarship is awarded to a dependent of a NGCSU Alumni Association, Inc. member with demonstrated citizenship and leadership potential. McRee is a freshman majoring in psychology, and serves as a UNG orientation leader and in Campus Outreach. Stein will soon graduate from Oconee Christian Academy and will attend UNG in fall 2016, where he plans to major in political science with a concentration in pre-law.
Fun Run
Cadets prepare for the annual 5K Fun Run.

This year's events also included the inaugural Recall celebration, a combination "in person" and "virtual" reunion that featured three videos produced by UNG including an overview of the university, photos from throughout Alumni Weekend 2016 and the Memorial Retreat ceremony in its entirety. For those who missed Alumni Weekend or couldn't make it to all events, all three videos and social media feed remain on the Recall website.

Among the reunions held during the weekend were several events to mark the 50-year reunion for members of the class of 1966, who were inducted into UNG's Golden Alumni Society and presented the society's golden medallion by UNG President Bonita Jacobs. The society is exclusively for UNG classes marking 50-plus years since graduation.

Maj. (promotable) Dan Kearney ('02), who spoke during the 33rd Annual Memorial Retreat Ceremony, told cadets to make sure they use their time at UNG to prepare. The ceremony pays tribute to all UNG alumni of the armed forces who gave their lives, as well as faculty, staff, students and friends who passed away since the prior ceremony.

"It is a great honor to return to where the foundation for my career was laid many years ago," Kearney said. "This university continues to stand as the premier institution for producing leaders for our armed forces. I tell you cadets, the will to prepare is more important than the will to succeed. You will one day be charged with leading our nation's most precious resource — its sons and daughters. Prepare yourself and your team. Let us never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice."

On Sunday, the Corps of Cadets held the annual Military Awards Review, and welcomed the Hon. Debra S. Wada as guest speaker. Wada currently serves as the assistant secretary of the Army for Manpower & Reserve Affairs. She is the Army's point person for policy and performance oversight of human resources — military, civilian and contractor — training, readiness, mobilization, military health affairs, force structure, manpower management, equal opportunity, equal employment opportunity and other critical matters as part of the Army leadership. She was appointed to this position on Oct. 2, 2014.

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