Alumnus Profile: Ira Bershad

University of Georgia graduates end up in a wide array of careers and in every state and many countries. Ira Bershad, a Terry College graduate from the Class of 1987, has forged his own path as a small business owner in Texas using the skills he learned at the University of Georgia.

We spoke with Ira about his experience as a Georgia Bulldog and how he stays connected to his alma mater.

Where are you from and what made you decide to attend UGA?
I was born in Brooklyn and moved to Georgia as an 11-year old. I looked at a lot of schools, but UGA offered the best combination of business school, campus activities, sports, social and location for me.

You studied business at UGA – what drew you to that subject? Did you always want to own your own business?
I was always interested in business and specifically marketing and branding. We had a great high school business program where I grew up.  I am still to this day in touch with the program’s coordinator. Growing up in Atlanta, I wanted to be president of Coca-Cola when I grew up. I was hired by Procter & Gamble when I graduated and I got the best training there was. I still use things every day that I learned at P&G.

Tell me about your business and what you do, your experience as a small business owner and how UGA prepared you for that.
I have been recruiting in the area of sales and marketing in the consumer packaged goods industry for the past 21 years. I started Bulldog Search Group in 2011. After all those years working for other companies, I was more than ready to open my own business. I learned a lot from the various places I worked, but wanted the ability and the flexibility to build the business I wanted to run. When I first opened in 2011, it gave me the flexibility to be super involved with my daughters—coaching them in soccer and softball and having a flexible schedule. As the business grew, I had the ability and skills to grow with it. UGA was a fantastic foundation for business learning.  I was involved heavily in campus leadership as president of the business school student council, president of Leadership Resource Team (LRT), president of Freshman Council and a member of Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) Fraternity. Being involved during college teaches, amongst other important things, time management. I have found the busiest people I know are also the most productive and reliable.

Describe your time at UGA in three words.
Rewarding. Fulfilling. Endearing.

What was your most memorable college experience?
I have too many. My most memorable college experience is the total experience—activities, leadership, social, sports and oh yeah, academic.

What is the most valuable piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
Work hard and be nice to people.

How do you stay connected to UGA out in Texas?
I am probably as connected to my UGA friends as anyone. With text and social media, it’s no different than being in Atlanta but beyond driving distance. I am in constant contact with UGA and FIJI friends. I’ve organized an annual road trip to a Georgia game for nearly a decade.  There are a lot of UGA graduates here in North Texas and this area sends a number of freshmen to Athens.

The Class of 2017 just graduated – what message do you have for those new alumni?
Take your career seriously from the very beginning. Work hard and be smart about your career. Don’t be afraid to detour and take a calculated risk, but have a plan. Always remember you never know when you will meet up again with a former boss or coworker.  Your resume is everything you do in business—both your accomplishments and how you treat people. Nothing is off the record.

A Bulldog in the Golden State: Rachel Hundley

In early June, the University of Georgia traveled to California for a series of alumni receptions in San Francisco and Los Angeles. While there, we caught up with some of our outstanding Bulldogs on the West Coast. Rachel Hundley, a member of the Class of 2005, moved to California after leaving a career in law, started a food truck and is now mayor of Sonoma, California.

We spoke to Hundley about what led her to the University of Georgia and how her time as a Bulldog prepared her for an unexpected career in politics, and what advice she would give to the Class of 2017.

Where are you from and what made you decide to attend UGA?
I was born in Charleston, South Carolina and went to Wando High School in Mt. Pleasant. As high school was coming to an end, I wasn’t sure where or what my next step would be. A few friends were already committed to UGA, so I took a closer look. The wide variety of classes, programs and activities at UGA were the perfect fit for a soon-to-be high school graduate who had many interests to explore.

You studied journalism, speech communications and political science – what drew you to those subjects? Did you always initially plan to attend law school?
My “first” major was political science. I had taken AP Government as a high school senior and was utterly fascinated by the subject. Little did I know the significance this area would have in my life 15 years later when I was elected to the city council and later named mayor. I added journalism to exercise the creative side of my brain and seriously contemplated a career in that field until I eventually decided to attend law school. I was minoring in speech and communications and loved the classes so much I upgraded it to a major. Looking back, I put together the perfect program of thinking, writing and speaking to build the skills I regularly use today as a mayor, attorney and business owner.

Describe your time at UGA in three words.
Challenging, memorable and fun!

What was your most memorable college experience?
My semester with SPIA@Oxford was life-changing. The coursework deepened my understanding of policy and law, and eventually lead me to law school. The experience of living in another country while engaged in those studies and living in a house full of political science students permanently shifted the way that I saw the world and how people fit together.

You left a career in law to start your own food truck and are now in politics. What is one piece of career advice that has been valuable to you across all of these careers? What would you say to someone who is looking to change career paths and start something new?
You don’t need to know where you will end up. You only need to pick a direction and start moving. Opportunities will present themselves to you along the way that you never could have imagined when your journey began.
Sometimes making a big decision — such as what you should study or which job offer you should take or in what city should you live — is paralyzing because we can’t see how the story ends. My experience has been that the most exciting, interesting and satisfying opportunities I’ve had have only presented themselves to me while I was hard at work toward a different goal.

It was a big jump for me to leave the South and move to New York City after law school. I had never considered living there before I got the job offer, but it seemed like an adventure. Not only did I gain experience in the legal field and have a lot of fun, I also met the person who would later become my business partner in California.
Working in the corporate legal world was educational and interesting, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do forever. In my spare hours, I started exploring other paths I could take and eventually settled on moving to California and starting a food truck business. The decision wasn’t made overnight and involved a lot of due diligence. It took a year to make the official move and then another year to launch the business.

My understanding and appreciation of local government was quietly growing in the years after I graduated from UGA. I knew I wanted to be more involved “one day,” but when 2014 rolled around, “one day” turned into “right now.” I had only been living in Sonoma for a year, and, to be honest, didn’t think I had a shot at winning a spot on city council. On advice from some of the current council members at the time, I saw the experience as a practice round. I didn’t know the first thing about campaigning, and, most of all, I wanted to immerse myself in my new community. I spent the summer drinking an excessive amount of coffee as I met with community leaders one by one to learn more about the issues facing the community. In the afternoons, I’d go door to door, and every Tuesday night I set up a table at the big farmer’s market.

By the time election night rolled around, I was proud that I tried something bold and put myself out there. Whether its moving to a new city, pivoting to a new career path, or running for office, it can be scary to take the first step in a new direction, but the opportunities waiting for you out there are beyond your wildest dreams.

How did your time at UGA prepare you for “the real world?”
UGA gave me so many opportunities to grow. I still remember and use a lot of the substantive knowledge and practical skills I learned. Outside of class, the extracurricular activities and clubs introduced me to my closest friends and gave me opportunities to build leadership skills. By the time I left UGA, I was more than prepared for my next step of attending law school.

What did getting into politics teach you about yourself?
Running for office takes “putting yourself out there” to a whole other level. The closest way to describe running for local office is like going on a first date with everyone in your city. I was pretty shy growing up and have a history of stage fright, so having to publicly market myself to thousands of people was challenging. Now that I am mayor, I really enjoy talking to people about city issues because those are the things I care the most about and have a deep understanding of.

Being a public figure, particularly mayor, has also been illuminating. My constituents are passionate and opinionated, and they are never in perfect agreement. Sometimes the decisions are tough, but I’ve learned the only right answer is the one in which I truly believe… even when I know people I respect and admire will be disappointed or that I will face sharp criticism. I’d rather keep my integrity and lose a reelection than cast a vote I didn’t wholeheartedly believe in.

How do you stay connected to UGA out on the West Coast?
I am thankful for all of the magazines and online news coming out of UGA, but I need to work on my UGA west coast network!

The Class of 2017 just graduated – what message do you have for those new alumni?
The world is yours to shape! Pick a direction, start moving and keep an eye out for unexpected opportunities.

40 Under 40 and Bulldog 100: Kevin Aycock

Written by Claire Dickey

We caught up with Georgia graduate Kevin Aycock, who has been recognized through the 40 Under 40 and Bulldog 100 programs, to learn about how these recognitions have enhanced his career and network. Nominations are open for the 2018 Bulldog 100 through May 31. 

Kevin Aycock:

  • 40 Under 40 Class of 2016 and Bulldog 100 2014 and 2015
  • BBA ’02, MBA ’15
  • Owner of Kevin Aycock Homes and president of Arthur Rutenberg Homes

What He Does: “We build custom homes and have been doing so since I finished undergrad. I started working for another homebuilder for a while, and in 2009 I went out on my own and started Kevin Aycock Homes.”

His Experience with 40 Under 40 and Bulldog 100: “I’m very proud of having these recognitions. I’m a Bulldog through and through, so it was a really big deal to me personally, but it’s also been a great addition to my resume. Living in Atlanta, and building homes for people in Atlanta, we run across a lot of fellow Bulldogs. Most Bulldogs keep up with UGA, so most of them have seen our recognition. It’s very reassuring for them when they’re deciding to do business with me.”

Kevin, second from right on the back row, and other Terry College grads at the 2016 40 Under 40 Celebration.

Future Goals: “Since being named Bulldog 100 the first time, the business has doubled in size – it’s grown significantly. Our goal is to keep growing and keep doing what we’re doing, but do more of it. [Homebuilding] is such a large and growing market; I feel like the sky’s the limit, and we can just keep growing each year.”

UGA’s Role: “Starting with undergrad, and then getting my MBA from Georgia later in life, both degrees certainly prepared me for the world I’m in – the business world. The MBA program was fantastic and just what I needed to really grow my business. On a social level, the connections I’ve made through UGA are helpful. That instant bond you have with another bulldog is priceless.”

Tips for Success: “Regardless of what you’re going to do, if you’re planning to own and operate your own business, study finance. Everything revolves around that. Second, keep networking. UGA has such a huge alumni base, especially in Atlanta, so take advantage of that.”

40 Under 40 and Bulldog 100: Christy Hulsey

Written by Claire Dickey

We caught up with Georgia graduate Christy Hulsey, who has been recognized through the 40 Under 40 and Bulldog 100 programs, to learn about how these recognitions have enhanced her career and network. According to Christy, her greatest strength lies in her ability to create a strong team, and we chatted with this exceptional alumna to learn about her team’s accomplishments. Nominations for the 2018 Bulldog 100 are open through May 31. 

Christy Griner Hulsey:

  • 40 Under 40, Class of 2014 and Bulldog 100 2014 and 2017
  • ABJ ’98
  • Creative director and owner of Colonial House of Flowers

What She Does: “Colonial House of Flowers was started in 1968, and we’ve been designing flowers ever since. We have a historical and legendary local shop, and now host workshops, teach classes and do events all over the country.”

Her Experience with 40 Under 40 and Bulldog 100: “It’s meant everything to me; [the recognitions] give you credibility. Our shop was 50 years old when I came in, and it was in really bad shape. So, when we started getting awarded for growth, like with the Bulldog 100, it gave people, locally and regionally, confidence in our shop and that it would be around for another 50 years. Going [to UGA], and then being awarded by UGA, has been one of the most special things to me.”

Future Goals: “We’ve just been named the 2017 Mayesh Design Star, which is really big. This is the first time they’ve had a flower workshop tour that goes around the country – it’s eight cities in one year. We’re also doing workshops with Pottery Barn in five of those cities.”

UGA’s Role: “The advertising I learned though Grady is what saved my business, because I had no prior experience with floristry. I’m able to write copy, headlines and create a visual story that people can use. The idea of a flower shop is gone. Historically, flower shops have a certain brand and a certain look. They don’t normally focus on advertising and branding methods. Being able to come in with a fresh perspective and offer new advertising – that’s what saved our business, hands down.”

Tips for Success: “I really believe that you can build a business and a life that’s Y-O-U by bringing your individual skills to it. For me, advertising, journalism and writing are what I like to do. I also really like to lift other people up, so I’m able to bring that to floristry. Bloom where you’re planted, and bring the skills and the heart to whatever you want to do.”

Two UGA buildings named for business leaders

Two new University of Georgia buildings have been named in honor of donors with lasting connections to the Terry College of Business.

Construction of Benson Hall and Moore-Rooker Hall is near completion as part of the second and largest phase of UGA’s Business Learning Community. The buildings are located on the Athens campus at the corner of Lumpkin and Baxter streets.

“I want to thank these outstanding alumni for their tremendous loyalty and support,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “Their generous gifts will enhance the learning environment for business students at the University of Georgia for generations to come.”

The two new buildings adjoin Amos Hall, the centerpiece of Phase II’s construction, and are next to Correll Hall, which opened in 2015.

“We are honored to name these buildings for such respected leaders in the business community. I am especially grateful for the faith and confidence these alumni have demonstrated in the future of the Terry College of Business,” said Dean Benjamin C. Ayers. “We’re very excited for completion of the second phase of construction this summer, when all of our faculty and students will be able to work, learn, study and collaborate in business school facilities that are second to none.”

The naming of Benson Hall and Moore-Rooker Hall was approved earlier this spring by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia.

Benson Hall, on the business school’s east side facing Lumpkin Street, is named in honor of three generations of one of Athens’ well-known families: patriarch W.H. “Howard” Benson, son H.E. “Ed” Benson, and grandson Larry R. Benson.

Howard Benson, who passed away in 1971 at age 83, founded Benson’s Inc. in 1918. Today, Benson’s Inc. is the parent company to Benson’s Hospitality Group in Athens and Benson’s Bakery in Bogart.

Ed Benson is chairman emeritus of the parent company and graduated from UGA with a bachelor’s degree in business in 1942. He received the Terry College’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1969 and is an emeritus trustee of the UGA Foundation.

Larry Benson is chairman and CEO of Benson’s Inc. and also graduated from UGA in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in management. In addition to his support of the business school, he established the Benson White Coat Support Fund for the university’s Medical Partnership with Augusta University.

Benson’s Hospitality Group operates the Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Athens and the SpringHill Suites in Oconee County. A $35 million Marriott hotel property owned by Benson’s is under construction adjacent to the Holiday Inn, located two blocks north of the Business Learning Community. And Benson’s Bakery produces Benson’s Old Home Kitchens cake products for retailers nationwide.

As Benson’s Bakery prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary, the family’s gift naming Benson Hall provides a lasting landmark reflecting the integral connection the Athens-based company shares with Terry College and the university community.

Moore-Rooker Hall, on the business school’s west side facing Hull Street, is named in honor of the Dudley L. Moore Jr. family of Atlanta and the John W. Rooker family of Atlanta.

A 1957 graduate of the business school, Moore has served in a number of alumni leadership roles. He was elected the founding chairman of the Terry College’s Board of Overseers in 2001. He is a past chairman of the UGA Foundation Board of Trustees, a former trustee of the UGA Real Estate Foundation and an emeritus trustee of the UGA Athletic Association Board of Directors. He established the Dudley L. Moore Jr. Chair of Insurance with an endowment in 1986.

Moore’s father-in-law, Richard Bowden, is a graduate of UGA, and his wife, Peggy, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UGA’s College of Education. Three of the Moores’ children also graduated from UGA.

Moore was the founder, chairman and CEO of Atlanta-based Omni Insurance Group Inc., a specialty insurer that was acquired by Hartford Financial Services in 1997. He received the college’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1985 and was named Risk Management and Insurance Alumnus of the Year in 1992.

Three generations of Rooker family members have graduated from the Terry College of Business. John W. “Jack” Rooker was the second of three sons of William A. Rooker Sr. to graduate from UGA-all in business. After his graduation in 1960, Jack Rooker joined his father’s Southern Bonded Warehouse company. Only a couple years prior, Rooker Sr. had added a real estate and investment company to the family’s business.

Today, the Rooker Co. has evolved into a highly successful real estate development business that designs and builds warehouses, large distribution centers, manufacturing and government facilities predominantly in the Southeast. Jack Rooker is the company’s chairman, and his son, John, a 2002 Terry College graduate, became CEO in 2011.

Jack Rooker’s previous gifts to the university have supported not only the business school but also the UGA Real Estate Foundation, where he served as founding chairman for five years, the Athletic Association’s golf facility and equestrian team center, and the Rooker Family Equine Receiving Barn at the veterinary medicine hospital. In 2005, one of the four residence halls in the university’s East Campus Village was named John W. Rooker Hall in gratitude for his years of alumni leadership and support.

Amos Hall, which connects Benson Hall and Moore-Rooker Hall, will be the Business Learning Community’s hub when all three phases of construction are complete. It is named in honor of Daniel P. Amos, chairman and CEO of Columbus-based Aflac.

As the “Building Terry” campaign chair, Amos held the top leadership role in the business school’s campaign, which exceeded its original fundraising goal of $90 million by more than $30 million when the campaign ended in 2015. Amos Hall was the first of the three buildings that comprise Phase II to be named.

Amos joined Aflac after graduating from UGA in 1973. He has been Aflac’s chief executive since 1990 and chairman since 2001. Aflac is a Fortune 500 company that insures more than 50 million people worldwide. It is the leading provider of individual insurance policies offered at the worksite in the U.S.

Amos was awarded the Salute to Greatness Award from the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Atlanta in 2013 and the Terry College’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1990. He is a past chairman of the UGA Foundation Board of Trustees and previously endowed the Amos Distinguished Professor of Insurance at the college.

The university broke ground on Phase II in 2015 at the same time that Correll Hall was dedicated. Supported by $35 million in private funds, Correll Hall was the first building of the Business Learning Community to open. It is named for A.D. “Pete” Correll, chairman emeritus of Georgia-Pacific and a Terry College alumnus, and his wife, Ada Lee Correll, a graduate of the UGA College of Education.

Phase II construction is the result of a public-private partnership that combined significant donor support and state funds totaling $63 million. In all, the three buildings of Phase II encompass 140,000 square feet with two large auditoriums, a capital markets lab, a music business lab, undergraduate commons, classrooms, team rooms, and faculty and staff offices.

With construction scheduled for completion in May, faculty and staff from all seven of the college’s academic departments, as well as other Terry College program staff, will move into the Phase II buildings in June.

A dedication of Amos Hall, Benson Hall and Moore-Rooker Hall is set for Sept. 15, with a groundbreaking ceremony for Phase III construction to follow on the same day.

So you just became a UGA alumnus – now what?

Tomorrow, the UGA Alumni Association will welcome 5,625 new members into the UGA alumni family. No matter where life takes these graduates, they will always be members of a passionate group of Georgia Bulldogs that is more than 310,000 strong.

So, what does it mean to be a UGA graduate? We asked Kendall Little, soon-to-be alumna and former digital communications intern, to share why she plans to stay involved with the UGA Alumni Association after she dons her cap and gown.

UGA Gameday with Chick-fil-A and the NYC Dawgs

Meet friends in your new city

For most grads, the first few months after college are filled with new jobs, real world surprises and new cities to navigate. Whether you’re moving across town or across the globe, meeting new people can be a challenge. That’s where the 80+ alumni chapters around the globe can help! Being active in the UGA Alumni Association means there is a network of people with whom you share a history and connection, no matter where life takes you. With that foundation, you’ll be one step closer to building lasting friendships. Find the alumni chapter in your new city.


Friends aren’t the only connections you make as a graduate. Expanding your professional network in your new city is easier when you have something in common—like a shared love for the Georgia Bulldogs or memories of a favorite professor. Many alumni chapters hold networking events throughout the year where you can meet people and grow your professional network.

2015 UGA in Los Angeles Reception

Attend fun and spirited events

In the past few months, alumni chapters have hosted a variety of events, including bocce ball tournaments, Dawg Days of Service, casual happy hours, trips to local breweries and outings at major and minor league baseball games. There is also no shortage of game-watching parties during football season. Being involved with your alumni chapter can lead to one-of-a-kind experiences. For recent grads who may be new to an area, participating in these events is a great way to get to know your new home.

Opportunities for leadership

For many recent grads, it can be a shock to no longer have club/chapter/group meetings every night. Feeling like an integral part of an organization outside of work is fulfilling, and that fulfillment can come from being an active member of your local alumni chapter. For those wanting to be even more involved, serving in a leadership role with your local chapter is the perfect opportunity.

Staying connected to campus

College is a special time, but the days, months and years afterward are also wonderful. No matter how far from Athens life takes us, being a part of the Alumni Association can bring a bit of UGA back into our rapidly changing lives. Spending time with people who share that connection and can reminisce about shared experiences helps us feel like a part of Athens is still with us no matter where we put down roots. By keeping the Bulldog spirit alive across the country, we can give back to the university that gave us so much during our time here—and that’s what being an alumnus is all about.

No alumni chapter in your area?

Stay connected to the UGA Alumni Association on social media and consider joining Digital Dawgs, the official UGA Alumni Association social media ambassador group.

The UGA Alumni Association also sends out a monthly newsletter, the Bulldog Bulletin, which is full of news, events and other information that is relevant to all UGA alumni. ‘Simply keep your email address updated with UGA and then keep an eye out for it in your inbox each month!

Are you a graduate of the University of Georgia? Please take a moment and update your information to stay up-to-date with all things UGA!

2017 Alumni Awards Celebration

On April 21, the UGA community gathered together in the Tate Student Center to enjoy the 80th annual Alumni Awards Luncheon, and celebrate this year’s group of honorees. Alumni Awards celebrate distinguished alumni, faculty members and friends of UGA. The Alumni Merit Award, Young Alumni Award, Faculty Service Award, Family of the Year Award and Friend of UGA Award recognize those who demonstrate dedication to the University of Georgia. Meet this year’s accomplished honorees and learn more about their UGA experiences.

Young Alumni Award

AJ Green (M ’12)

Cincinnati Bengals Wide Receiver and former Georgia Football Player

Friend of UGA Award

Cora Nunnally Miller


Faculty Service Award

Loch K. Johnson, Ph.D.

Regents Professor of International Affairs and Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor

Family of the Year Award

The Alston Family – Gayle (AB ’65) and Jimmy (ABJ ’66) Alston

Alumni Merit Award

Kessel D. Stelling, Jr. (BBA ’78)

CEO of Synovus Bank

Alumni Merit Award

Kathelen Van Blarcum Amos (JD ’82)

President of Aflac Foundation and UGA Law School Board of Visitors

Interested in learning more about the Alumni Awards and seeing past honorees? Click here.

Are you a graduate of the University of Georgia? Please take a moment and update your information to stay up-to-date with all things UGA!