It’s a tough job keeping the Bulldog spirit alive and well deep in enemy territory, but that’s exactly what Joe Popkowski (BBA ’05) does as president of the Columbia, South Carolina alumni chapter. Jamie Lewis (AB ’12), recently spent some time getting to know Joe and finding out more about what it is like to wear the red and black in Gamecock country.
When did you graduate from UGA and what are you up to now?
I graduated from Georgia in 2005 with a double major in finance and management. I now own and operate a risk management and insurance business, Livingston Insurance, with my wife in West Columbia, South Carolina. I moved to South Carolina with my wife in 2012 when the opportunity to run our own business became available and to be closer to my wife’s family. We have an almost 4-year old boy whose favorite football player is Nick Chubb, and twin 1-year old girls. Columbia is very small-business and family-oriented, so despite being in the middle of Gamecock Country, we are happy here!
How did you become involved with your local chapter?
The Alumni Association hosted a Holiday Happy Hour back in 2015, and I was excited to finally attend an event where the Bulldog fans outnumbered the Gamecock fans, so I offered to help with the event. At the time, there was not an official chapter for the Midlands Area of South Carolina, and I was inspired to start up the chapter and represent Georgia in enemy territory.
What chapter event are you most proud of?
Being a brand new chapter, we have only had a few events, which makes each one a proud moment for me as I begin to see the Bulldog pride emerging in the Midlands of South Carolina. But the one I am most proud of so far is a joint Georgia-Carolina game tailgate that we hosted earlier this season. I coordinated with the surrounding chapters in South Carolina, as well as Charlotte, Augusta, and Savannah. We established good contacts for future events at a local brewery and got to meet several new Georgia graduates in the area. Despite the low attendance due to Hurricane Matthew, it was a successful event!
How has being part of your local chapter benefited you?
All businesses are people businesses, so anytime I can meet new people with a connection is a benefit to me and my business. I also really enjoy being able to introduce my kids to fellow alumni who bleed red and black. Living in a town with another SEC team can be tough for a Georgia fan, and this club has given me a chance to introduce my children to the traditions of the University of Georgia and the incredible people who have graduated from the institution.
What is the most important lesson you learned during your time at UGA?
I believe my experiences both inside and outside the classroom at Georgia gave me a solid foundation on how to succeed in life. The two most important lessons I learned were hard work in the classroom pays off and trying new things keeps you open-minded. I worked hard at my school work, and we all know it takes a lot of personal drive to stay focused on your studies in a town like Athens. But it is possible, and it does pay off in the long-run. Finally, I learned so much by simply trying new activities, meeting new friends, and going to new places. I constantly pushed myself out of my comfort zone after classes were over, and it showed me there was a world beyond my apartment with incredible people that I could learn something from if only I was willing.
If there is any advice you could give to a current student, what would it be?
Work hard and play hard! Learn as much as you can in class, take as many interesting classes as possible, even take the hard classes, just get as much out of the classroom as you possibly can. Boyfriends, girlfriends and friends come and go, but GPA’s are forever. That’s not to say don’t have fun. Because I believe, play as hard as you can. Enjoy the most unique, fun-filled college town in America. Try the local restaurants, join clubs, and enjoy the evening festivities by the Arch.
The University of Georgia is committed to inspiring future leaders and solving the world’s grand challenges. What is YOUR commitment?
I’m committed to making people the best they can be! I try to give my children the opportunity and support to be the best they can be in whatever path of life they choose. I try to help my employees maximize their potential both during work hours and after. I try to bring positivity and thoughtful guidance to our clients so they can be the best businesses and households possible. I try to help shape my local community by supporting it through my church and other organizations so it can continue to thrive and be the best it can be. Although I drive my wife crazy, I want to be the best I can be to give my family and my community the love and attention they deserve.