After a childhood of frequent visits to Athens, Cheri Harden Leavy (BSED ’97) couldn’t resist the pull of the Classic City. During college, she transferred to UGA from Ole Miss and has been bleeding red and black ever since. Today, she is the founder of Bulldawg Illustrated, Guide2Athens and The Southern Coterie, three publications that cover the modern South.
UGA Alumni Association Assistant Director of Communications Jamie Lewis (AB ’12, AB ’12) spoke with Cheri about her experiences at the university that helped shape her career:
You started college at Ole Miss. What are your connections to UGA and what made you return to Georgia?
My father, Mac Harden (BBA ’77), graduated from UGA and his mother grew up in Watkinsville. We spent a lot of time on the family farm in Oconee County when I was growing up, so I have always loved the area and cheered for the Bulldogs. Generations of our family bleed red and black. I loved my time at Ole Miss; my father says I built my resume on classes that were interesting, but didn’t fit a degree (like “Anthropology of the Blues” and “Faulkner Studies”). I transferred to UGA and got serious. I stayed on the Dean’s List until I graduated from the College of Education, where I participated in the pilot year of the Collaborative Inquiry Teacher Education Program. I taught high school for several years, then joined The Brunswick News where I launched a Newspaper in Education program to showcase local student writing.
Along with your husband Vance (AB ’94), you’ve started Bulldawg Illustrated, Guide2Athens and The Southern Coterie. Explain a little bit about what those are, the inspiration behind them and how your time at UGA prepared you for an entrepreneurial career.
Vance and I created Bulldawg Illustrated, a print newspaper and website that covers UGA sports and the Bulldog lifestyle. Now in its 12th year covering the South’s beloved tailgating and football, it is still a ton of fun. Six years ago, we created Guide2Athens. The pocket-sized square book and blog captures the people and businesses that make America’s best college town so culturally rich. We have loved getting involved in the Athens community and have had a home here for the last five years. When Athens isn’t beckoning, you can find us at home in St. Simons with our two golden retrievers.
I founded The Southern Coterie with my friend Whitney Long; it is a resource for the entrepreneurial South. Designed to offer a community of passionate business owners the opportunity to connect, collaborate and create, the “Southern C” network is capturing the South’s entrepreneurial renaissance one post at a time. The Southern C Summit brings the online content to life with a unique multi-day conference where attendees network and connect with the best and brightest names in Southern business and branding.
What is your most memorable UGA experience? Favorite UGA sports experience?
Meeting Herschel Walker for the first time at Vince Dooley’s home was pretty surreal. The Leavy Family/Brunswick News Publishing endowed a scholarship and we had brunch at the Dooley’s before the game. Vance, his brother, his brother’s wife and I went on the field that day to be recognized. Since we are all UGA graduates, that whole experience was pretty incredible. Herschel was on our Christmas card that year!
Since graduating, you and Vance have stayed involved with the university. Why do you think it’s important for alumni to stay connected to UGA once they’ve graduated?
Staying involved with the university provides you with an invaluable resource of connections to continue to support your growth personally and professionally. Vance and I enjoy supporting the philanthropic side of UGA. I attended the UGA Studies Abroad Program in Cortona, Italy, and now serve on the Georgia Museum of Art friend’s board. We also support our vibrant athletics programs.
I give back to students that are up-and-coming at the university. We have 15 interns from Grady. They bring me a tremendous amount of joy and I learn from them as much as I hope they do from me. I give them a great deal of responsibility and I have high expectations, but if they work hard, they can count on me after graduation.
I traveled recently to the West Coast and to Memphis, where I spent time with former interns. One even visited on her “engagement tour,” where she was introducing her future groom to family. We felt honored to be a stop on her travels. They turn into amazing friends as they get older and I couldn’t be prouder of their successes. The internships certainly feed the teacher side of me that was fostered while studying at UGA. I may not formally be in education any longer, but I am still using that skill set.
Can you give us a hint of what’s next for you?
Oh my goodness, there is no telling.
Vance and Cheri Leavy with Uga IX