Former Governor of Georgia and University of Georgia graduate Sonny Perdue is the recipient the Alumni Merit Award.
In April 2022, the Board of Regents named Perdue the 14th Chancellor of the University System of Georgia. As Chancellor, he oversees 26 public colleges and universities across the state with an original $10.3 billion annual budget, 48,000 faculty and staff and more than 334,000 students.
Prior to being named Chancellor, Perdue served as the 31st Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the Trump Administration. As the Secretary of Agriculture, Perdue managed an 110,000-employee workforce that stabilized the food supply chain during the COVID-19 pandemic and launched the Farmers to Food Box program to ensure vulnerable Americans had access to healthy food.
The first Republican to hold the office of governor in Georgia since Reconstruction, he served two terms from 2003 to 2011, reforming the state budget and eliminating wasteful spending while Georgia faced twin recessions. When revenues returned, his sound fiscal management allowed Georgia to maintain its Triple-A bond ratings and positioned the state for growth.
He also continued the strong stewardship of the states educational progress, as Georgia high school students posted the highest graduation rates and SAT scores in state history during his term.
From 1991 to 2001, he was a member of the Georgia Senate, representing the 18th District and serving as chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee. He was elected to the state legislature as a Democrat before joining the Republican Party in 1998. He was named Senate President Pro Tempore, where he worked with fellow lawmakers and Gov. Zell Miller to craft the HOPE Scholarship, one of the most innovative and successful higher education programs in the nation.
Perdue’s work with the HOPE Scholarship reinforced his passion for higher education, as he is committed to maintaining a connection between a world-class university system and economic success for the benefit of the state and all Georgians.
Born in Perry, Georgia, Perdue was raised on a farm in Bonaire, Georgia, before graduating from Warner Robins High School. He served four years in the United States Air Force, rising to the rank of captain.
Perdue earned his doctorate in veterinary medicine from UGA, and he is married to fellow UGA graduate Mary Ruff (BSED ’72). Together, the couple has four children, 14 grandchildren, and has served as foster parents for eight children awaiting adoption.
“His legacy is counted in so many ways. Not the least in thousands of young people that are getting an education that he oversees. He is a remarkable person.”
– Lisa Nolan (DVM ’88, MS ’89, PHD ’92) Dean, College of Veterinary Medicine