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Alumni Weekend 2015: A time of celebration, remembrance

Alumni from the class of 1975 share a laugh at a mixer held during Alumni Weekend 2015.

Hundreds of alumni returned to their alma mater to share memories with friends and honor fellow alumni during reunions and other special events at the 2015 Alumni Weekend at the Dahlonega Campus of the University of North Georgia (UNG).

Alumni Causey
Dr. Mark Causey, left, accepts the Young Alumnus Award from Brad Barton.
Causey was one of many award-winners honored during Alumni Weekend

"Our goal for Alumni Weekend is to attract alumni back to UNG and to make them and their families feel welcome and connected while enjoying a broad assortment of events," said Phil Collins, associate vice president of alumni relations and annual giving. "These events serve as a catalyst for rediscovering the university and the friendships alumni made here. One consistent thread I have heard is that, upon return, alumni are very pleased with the quality of their alma mater, and leave with a renewed sense of pride."

As part of the weekend activities, the North Georgia Dahlonega Alumni Shared Interest Group (SIG) held an Awards Luncheon to recognize outstanding students and alumni for dedication and service to the university and the community. The awards included:

  • Dr. Brian Mann, professor of modern languages and head of the Division of World Languages and Cultures, received the Distinguished Professor Award, in recognition of "total service" to the university. Mann has taught at UNG since 1999. Under his leadership, the university has expanded its language offerings to 10, including adding majors in Arabic and Chinese.
  • The Paul M. Hutcherson Outstanding Student Award recognizes a male and female student who have demonstrated the highest ideals of citizenship, and this year's recipients are Elle Cornett, a senior psychology major from Alpharetta, Georgia, and Cadet Col. Lane Hodnett, a senior business management major from Buford, Georgia. Cornett has held numerous student leadership positions at UNG, worked four summers as an orientation leader, and was chosen Miss UNG in fall 2014. Hodnett, 2014-2015 commander of UNG's Boar's Head Brigade and an Eagle Scout, has been recognized as a Distinguished Military Graduate by U.S. Army Cadet Command. In May, he will commission into the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant in aviation.
  • Dr. Mark Causey ('06) of Cumming, Georgia, received the Young Alumnus Award in recognition of his outstanding professional career and community service. Causey graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. He is president of the Georgia Orthodontists Foundation, and his practice was voted Best of Forsyth in 2015.
  • Tony Faiia ('68) of Dahlonega, Georgia, received the Distinguished Alumnus Award for his extraordinary record of service and support to UNG. Faiia earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree and commissioned into the U.S. Army's armor branch. A Vietnam veteran, Faiia has received numerous awards and recognition for his service. He worked 43 years in aviation claims and is a licensed pilot.
  • The recipients of the Alumni Hall of Fame Award are Dr. Sandra Pryor Clarkson ('65) and retired Maj. Gen. James Guest ('60). Clarkson of New York, New York, is a professor of mathematics and statistics for Hunter College, where she has held several leadership positions. Nationally, she has served as co-chair of the Joint Committee on Women in the Mathematical Sciences. Guest, who is from Toccoa, Georgia, served 33 years in the U.S. Army and held a variety of assignments, including with Special Forces, and earned a number of awards and recognition. He holds a master's degree in personnel management.
  • Dr. Melissa Durand of Cumming, Georgia, received the Ralph Colley Spirit of North Georgia award, which is given to an alumnus who has experienced adverse circumstances to live an exemplary life. Durand attended the university from 1993-95 and received early acceptance to then-Medical College of Georgia's School of Dentistry in 1995. After sustaining serious injuries in a car wreck in 2008 that required a five-week stay at Shepherd Catastrophic Care Center, Durand spent six months in physical therapy before returning to practicing dentistry and raising her family.
Gen. Joe Jarrard
Gen. Joe Jarrard, ('88), Georgia's adjutant general and
commanding officer of the Georgia National Guard, speaks
during the Corps of Cadets Military Awards Review.

Among the reunions held during the weekend were several events to mark the 50-year reunion for members of the class of 1965, 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.

"Events like this are such a great way to catch up," said Paul Armstrong ('65), one of many who kicked off the class's golden weekend at a drop-in social on Friday afternoon. "It's been five years since our last time on the Dahlonega Campus, and it's grown so much since then."

The classes of 1975, 1985, 1990 and 1995 also held reunions.

Lt. Col. Jeffery Bragg ('98), who spoke during the 32nd Annual Memorial Retreat Ceremony, reminded current students to cherish their years at UNG.

"This site gives me a sense of pride that cannot be explained and only alumni can understand," Bragg said. "I challenge each of you to truly embrace your experience here. Make this experience yours and trust me when I tell you, you will call on these four years in the back of your mind often and refer to them as the best year of your lives."

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