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Hundreds return to UNG for Alumni Weekend

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Alumni and their families gather on the grass near the promenade on UNG's Dahlonega Campus for the live music and family fun event held during Alumni Weekend.

The University of North Georgia (UNG) Alumni Association welcomed home hundreds of alumni and their families for Alumni Weekend 2017, a weekend filled with events, reunions, awards, and fellowship on the university's Dahlonega Campus.

Among those returning to campus was retired Lt. Gen. Burke Garrett, '81, who served as reviewing officer and guest speaker for the Corps of Cadets Military Awards Review. Garrett, who retired from active duty in December after more than 35 years of military service, shared his three-point philosophy for being an effective leader, which he summed up as: "Know your stuff. Take care of your people. Lead with courage."

Garrett's last assignment was deputy commander of the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany.

"All of us here today wish you the very best as you prepare to take up the mantle of leadership and I hope that in some small way, these lessons can illuminate the path ahead," he told cadets. "Thank you all for the courage you have to be the leaders we need in this world today."

Inclement weather moved the event inside to Memorial Hall gym, which could only hold one-third of the Corps of Cadets. Awards and scholarships were presented to some three dozen cadets.

LTC Gannaway speaks during Memorial Retreat
Lt. Col. Bruce Gannaway, '98, this year's recipient of the Ralph Colley Spirit of North Georgia award, also was guest speaker for the annual Memorial Retreat.

One of the many events held over the weekend was the North Georgia Dahlonega Alumni Shared Interest Group (SIG) Awards Luncheon. Ten individuals were recognized for outstanding leadership, service and excellence in their roles serving or attending the university.

  • This year's Alumni Hall of Fame Award was given to Dr. Jim Crupi, '70, president and founder of Strategic Leadership Solutions, for his outstanding professional career and contributions to community service. Crupi is a member of the Board of Advisors for UNG's Institute for Leadership & Strategic Studies and a trustee of the UNG Foundation.
  • Nancy Clark, '54, president of the UNG Alumni Association Board of Directors, received the Golden Steeple Award for her long record of support and extraordinary contributions to UNG and the Alumni Association.
  • Bob Babich, '85, a member of the UNG Alumni Association Board of Directors, received the Distinguished Alumnus Award for his support of the university and excellence in his profession and community.
  • Capt. Shannon Vaughn, '07, received the Young Alumni Award for his excellent professional career and outstanding contributions to community service.
  • Lt. Col. Bruce Gannaway, '98, received the Ralph Colley Spirit of North Georgia Award, which is given to an alumnus who has experienced adverse circumstances in his/her life and has risen above those circumstances to live an exemplary life. While conducting dismounted operations with his Cavalry Troop on Dec. 21, 2007, Gannaway was injured by an improvised explosive device and lost his left leg below the knee and suffered a severe injury to his left arm. Rather than taking a medical retirement, he requested to remain active duty, and subsequently deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom as the comptroller for the 75th Ranger Regiment.
  • Dr. Donna Gessell, professor of English, and Dr. Ben Wynne, professor of history, received UNG Distinguished Professor Awards for excellence in teaching and service to students, the university and scholarly publication.
  • Cameron Harper, a senior nursing student, and Krystal Jemmott, a senior cadet majoring in criminal justice, received the Paul M. Hutcherson Outstanding Student Award for demonstrating the highest ideals of citizenship through their accomplishments on campus or in home or community life.
  • Katelyn Shook, a freshman who plans to major in biology, received the Dot Strother Scholarship due to her demonstrated citizenship and leadership potential.

Gannaway, who serves as commander of the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Hood, Texas, also spoke during the weekend's 34th Annual Memorial Retreat Ceremony, which 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.

"Sacrifice comes in all shapes and sizes and our American freedoms are worth it," Gannaway said. "I know some of the faces of the names on the granite marker to my left. A couple of my fellow cadets that I knew who were ahead of me, Maj. Kevin Jenrette, class of '95, and Capt. Jeremy Chandler, class of '97. Those soldiers were proud to serve in the Army and their communities. They died in service and their families shoulder the sacrifice of their grief."

For the first time, the UNG Alumni Association also hosted a live music and family fun event on Saturday afternoon exclusively for Alumni Association members that featured performances by alumni Shawn Mullins, '90, Jay Drummonds, '91, and Wayne Baird, '89, and Dahlonega native Kurt Thomas.

Throughout Alumni Weekend, UNG provided a front-row seat at various events via Facebook Live in support of "Recall," a combination "in person" and "virtual" reunion event in conjunction with Alumni Weekend 2017; both Saturday's Memorial Retreat and Sunday's Military Awards Review were live streamed in their entirety. All the videos of events  can be viewed on the UNG Facebook page.

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