Celebrating Global Diversity Awareness Month by highlighting a special mentoring relationship

Graduate student Kehinde “Kenny” Lawal came to the University of Georgia from Nigeria. She credits her mentor, Alex Gomez (BSBCHE ’13), with helping her make the most of her time on campus.

The Mentee

Kenny decided to attend UGA because she wanted to earn a Master of Science in engineering at a reputable university. Her husband, also a graduate student at UGA, influenced her decision.

Moving to Athens also was Kenny’s first time in the United States. She found the university system here different from back home, and it took her a couple of semesters to feel comfortable.

Kenny eventually joined the UGA Mentor Program to gain a better understanding of the American energy industry. Her search to find a mentor with experience in that field led her to Alex.

“My mentor has been great at showing me where I was at the time and where I needed to be,” Kenny said. “He guided me in setting short- and long-term goals. He also made me aware of opportunities available at UGA to help me build a brand for myself.”

Kenny says her positive experience with Alex has inspired her to become a UGA Mentor when she graduates.

The Mentor

Here, in his own words, Alex describes his experience mentoring Kenny.

It has been a pleasure to get to know Kenny. As an international student, she has overcome unique challenges that I never experienced as a student. Talking through stories together, I got to see how those challenges have her well-prepared for times of transition. Her resilience will not only benefit her career, but it also serves as an example for me to learn from. I use the insights I gain from talking with Kenny to illustrate to others who are considering becoming mentors that mentorship is a two-way learning experience.

I am always impressed by students who are taking advantage of the opportunities UGA provides, and that goes for Kenny, too. Mentorship is an investment. It requires that both mentors and mentees put in energy and effort in order to come out with a valuable experience. Kenny always took any “homework” I gave her and acted on her own to get it done. Her initiative has continuously encouraged me, especially how seamlessly she manages classes, research and family—all while still prioritizing personal development.

Kenny is goal-oriented, proactive, curious about educational and career opportunities, and extremely qualified to excel in whatever she does. Itt has been rewarding for me to watch her confidence grow to match her abilities and qualifications. Kenny is certain to go on to be a great reflection of UGA.

It may amaze you how much you get out of being a UGA Mentor

 

A holistic Dawg

Nancy Juneau’s commitment to the University of Georgia is a way of life.

She’s a UGA grad (BSED ’82), a Georgia Bulldogs sports fan and the mother of a UGA alumna. Her company, Juneau Construction, helped grow UGA’s campus and build new residence halls on East Campus. And when she became a UGA Foundation Trustee, she visited every UGA school and college to meet their development directors to learn about what mattered to their area of campus. She followed those discussions by making separate donations in support of each and every school/college. And then, she and her husband, Les, funded four Georgia Commitment Scholarships, and she mentors those scholarship recipients. “There are so many ways you can make a difference!” she always says.

Underscoring her commitment, Nancy also is a member of the Heritage Society. She included language in her will that specifies a gift to the University of Georgia Foundation as part of her estate plan. “Paying it forward and giving others opportunity. This is what is important to me,” Nancy explains. “UGA made it easy and personal.”

Nancy and Les Juneau

What it means to give holistically

A ‘blended gift’ combines annual giving with a planned gift, allowing you to see the impact of your philanthropy today while continuing to support the university’s mission well into the future. The planned giving team in UGA’s Office of Gift and Estate Planning are happy to show you how to give in the way that is most advantageous to you. Just a few minutes of your time can ensure your generosity has the greatest impact now and long after you’re gone.

 

Grady College of Journalism celebrates its 40 Under 40 honorees

Sarah Freeman and Dayne Young, along with other talented members of Grady’s team of writers, put these features together!

Seven Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication graduates are represented in this year’s 40 Under 40 class. This annual program celebrates young alumni leading the pack in their industries and communities, and Grady was proud to highlight each of them on their blog this summer/fall.

Angela Alfano

Angela Alfano

Angela Alfano (ABJ ’10, AB ’10) is the senior director of corporate communications for Major League Soccer. She used her public relations education and experience with UGA Athletics to embark on a trailblazing career in professional sports. Alfano also has worked in corporate communications for the National Football League, Washington Football Team and Tough Mudder. She regularly shares her time and expertise with UGA students. Alfano was recognized as a 2019 John E. Drewry Young Alumni Award winner.

Learn more about Angela.

Jennifer Bellamy

Jennifer Bellamy

Jennifer Bellamy (ABJ ’08) is an anchor and reporter for 11 Alive News in Atlanta. Bellamy has been a journalist for multiple television stations around the south. Bellamy’s fellow Grady grads, mentors and past professors supported her on her journey through broadcast news. She has earned various awards, including the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award in 2015 for Outstanding Local Television Investigative Reporting for report on “DSS: When the System Fails,” the Bronze Medallion from the Society of Professional Journalists and several Southeast Emmy awards.

Learn more about Jennifer.

Greg Bluestein

Greg Bluestein

Greg Bluestein (ABJ ’04, AB ’04) is a political reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and covers the governor’s office and state politics. He joined the newspaper in June 2012 after spending seven years with the Atlanta bureau of The Associated Press, where he covered a range of beats including politics and legal affairs. He contributes to the AJC’s Political Insider blog and is writing a book, “How the Peach State Turned Purple,” about the 2020 Georgia elections. He discussed the publication process and identifying local angles in national stories in this episode of Grady College’s The Lead podcast.

Learn more about Greg.

Marie Green Broder

Marie Greene Broder

Marie Greene Broder (ABJ ’06, AB ’06, JD ’10) is the first female district attorney for the Griffin Judicial Circuit, including Fayette, Pike, Spalding and Upson counties. Broder graduated from UGA as a dual public relations and speech communications major and continued with a law degree. She has developed a specialty in trying crimes against women and children, and is involved with Promise Place and the Southern Crescent Sexual Assault Child Advocacy Center.

Learn more about Marie.

Bowen Reichert Shoemaker

Bowen Reichert Shoemaker

Elizabeth “Bowen” Reichert Shoemaker (ABJ ’06) is an assistant United States attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, a position she has held since 2018. Previously, she was a senior associate at Alston & Bird, LLP and a law clerk to Judge Hugh Lawson. While at UGA, she majored in public relations and was in the Honors Program and Arch Society. Shoemaker earned her law degree from Mercer Law School where she served as editor-in-chief of the Law Review. In her hometown of Macon, Shoemaker serves on the executive board of the Macon Rotary Club, as an adjunct professor at Mercer Law School, and on the executive committee of the Macon Arts Alliance.

Learn more about Bowen.

Britanny Thoms

Brittany Thoms

Brittany Thoms (ABJ ’04) is the co-founder and president of See.Spark.Go, an Athens-based public relations agency. She and her husband, Andy Thoms (BSFCS ’02), founded See.Spark.Go in 2007 with the goal of telling the best stories in the world. They specialize in publicity, social media and digital marketing. Their team has worked with some of the nation’s largest brands on many successful campaigns and events.

Learn more about Brittany.

View the full list of honorees

Alumni Podcast Spotlight: Waitin’ Since Last Saturday

Born in Five Points in Athens, Waitin’ Since Last Saturday is a podcast focused on UGA athletics helmed by two Dawgs—Scott Duvall (AB ’00) and Tony Waller (BSA ’90, JD ’93)—and an Illinois grad who quickly developed his own Bulldog fandom, Will Leitch. We asked the three of them about how the podcast came to be, their personal UGA-fan “origin stories,” favorite moments from the pod, and more.

How did you all meet?

Scott: Will and his wife moved to Athens and we hung out for a couple years. He got to experience his first-ever Georgia game-watching party with me and my friends in 2013. The Dawgs lost against Clemson, but he was sold on the fun and passion of being a Georgia fan.

I met Tony through Will. He introduced me to Tony at a Georgia basketball game and I remember asking Will, ‘Hey, is he that famous Georgia blogger?’ He was indeed that. The next couple of times I ran into him, it was like we had hung out for years.

What was your UGA experience like?

Scott: My UGA experience was fantastic. As far as football goes, there were many ups and downs and a lot of losses to Florida. But the years I spent as an undergrad in Athens caused me to fall in love with the city—and fall in love with my girlfriend, whom I married a year after graduation. I graduated with a BA in Speech Communication and have used those skills to help develop my talent as a filmmaker, photographer and podcaster.

Tony: It was an interesting time in the University’s life. We were transitioning from the Davidson to the Knapp years, downtown was transitioning from mom-and-pop stores to more student focused businesses, parking was still out on the other side of the railroad tracks near the loop. I was fortunate to live in my fraternity house for three years after a year in Russell, so I was always close to campus—a great thing because I was very involved in campus activities.

Will: My wife is an alum, and we met in New York City in 2007. I knew she loved football—how could you go to UGA and not?—but I didn’t quite realize how much until the 2012 SEC Championship Game. We were living on the 22nd floor of a high-rise apartment building in downtown Brooklyn, watching the game with our new infant sleeping in the next room. When Chris Conley came up just short at the goal line, I was legitimately afraid my wife was going to throw an office chair out the window and onto unsuspecting New Yorkers hundreds of feet below. I wanted to be a part of anything that would make someone so passionate. When we moved here in 2013, with our kids going to school just across the street from Butts-Mehre, it was impossible not to get sucked in.

When did you know you were a Bulldog?

Scott: I was playing in a high school baseball game my senior year, and my mom held up my acceptance letter to UGA while I was in the on deck circle. I have no idea what I did during my plate appearance that day, but I was as excited as I could be. A few months later, I moved into Creswell Hall.

Tony: In 1978, when I was listening to Munson call the Rex Robinson FG to win at Kentucky while riding back from a rec. sports playoff football game in Port Wentworth.

What was the inspiration behind Waitin’ Since Last Saturday?

Scott: We were at Grindhouse Burgers on Lumpkin Street talking Georgia football, of course. I remember Will casually saying, “I’d do a podcast with you two.” Tony and I looked at each other and basically in unison, said, “Oh, we’re so doing this.”

Tony and I thought it was cool to have Will as a co-host. He wasn’t from here, didn’t grow up a Georgia fan and didn’t even attend Georgia. It would be a journey for him to learn in real time, during shows, the little nuances of why we do things a certain way in Athens.

Tony: I’ve had two different UGA Athletics-focused blogs over the years. I’ve always liked talking more than writing, so I’ve been doing podcasts in my head for years. Given the chance to work with a talented producer like Scott and a smart writer like Will just gave me an excuse to do so out loud.

How did you get started?

Scott: Our first show and the majority of our shows for the 2015 and 2016 seasons were recorded at my house in east Athens. Why my house? Well, I had one condenser microphone. I remember we had a hard time getting the sound just right. You could imagine three guys talking into one mic. But that’s what we did for the first few episodes. Then Tony bought two more. We still use those same three mics today.

How has the podcast grown over the past 6 years?

Scott: We just hit over half a million downloads. But, in all honesty, we gauge our growth on interactions. When someone stops us at a football game, or at a restaurant and lets us know how much they enjoy the show, that means so much to me. I especially love it when it happens when my family is around— my kids usually just roll their eyes.

We have sponsors during the football season and that helps validate the hours we put into the show. Growth is good, but the three of us would probably still do it only if 50 people listened.

Was there a moment where you felt like the podcast really took off?

Tony: We had fortuitous timing, in that we started a podcast in August of Coach Richt’s last season. Having a coaching transition and the excitement of Coach Smart’s first season helped us grow, but 2017 really gave us legs.

Scott: Some of the best shows we did coincided with the Dawgs’ 2017 season. It was the “revenge tour”—that’s how we kept referring to it—and the response on social media and download numbers shot up dramatically as Georgia kept winning games.

How do you balance the podcast with other commitments? When do you find the time to record?

Scott: I’m always editing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a corporate video for the University of Georgia or a local non-profit, or if I’m going through a photoshoot for a client. I’m always editing, and I love it. Having said that, there are times where I have a huge deadline and Will and Tony are great to understand that I either can’t join them or won’t be able to edit the show.

Tony: We just have to be intentional about carving out time. My wife gets that talking with these two is my personal counseling time. The fact Scott hits record is just a bonus.

What has been your favorite moment in creating the podcast?

Scott: My favorite moment is anytime Tony goes off on one of his crazy stories about his trip to Columbia, South Carolina or smoking meats, or throwing shade at opposing fans and coaches. I’m convinced Tony could be a stand-up comic.

Which guests have stuck out to you?

Scott: Georgia beat writer Seth Emerson is always a good one because he has the pulse of the team and it’s great to provide that kind of insight to our listeners.

Tony: The two Australians I spot interviewed in the stands during the break at the start of overtime at the Rose Bowl. These guys picked a heck of a game to get their first American college football game under their belts.

Any new, exciting content that listeners can anticipate this season?

Scott: Yep, I gazed into the future and Georgia’s going to win the national championship this year.

This one’s for Will. You’re an alumnus of the University of Illinois, but having been in Athens this long and in this specific era, do you now consider yourself a bigger fan of UGA or Illinois?

Will: Fortunately, these teams have yet to play each other—other than in women’s college basketball—since I moved here, so I don’t have to face this often. But I grew up right next to Champaign and have orange and blue (the good orange and blue, not the Auburn orange and blue) in my blood. If Illinois ever plays at Stegeman, you’ll see me in my season ticket seats wearing the Illini colors, I’m afraid. But I won’t be a jerk about it.

The real question: Who would my CHILDREN cheer for? Let me know when you know the answer so I can update my will.

The Natural: UGA showed Jackie Mattison new trails to blaze

This story was written by Charles McNair. 

Jackie Mattison (BS ’76) didn’t have a gymnastics team at her school in Covington, Georgia. She simply tumbled around in the gym and in her backyard, head over heels, like any kid.

She didn’t lead cheers on the sidelines in high school either. Instead, she wore a Newton County Rams costume, boosting school spirit as the team mascot.

With this background, what were the chances that Mattison would one day graduate as University of Georgia’s first-ever Black gymnast … and first-ever Black cheerleader?

“I never thought I’d be doing something like that,” she confesses. “There I was at UGA as a student, just enjoying what students do. I didn’t try to become a gymnast and cheerleader on purpose. It just all fell together.”

Tumbled, she might have said.

Her freshman year, 1973, Mattison took Tumbling 101 as a physical education elective. In one class, she practiced forward rolls on a battered wrestling mat. A sharp-eyed coach was passing through the gym.

“You look like you’re light on your feet,” the coach told her. “Why don’t you come try out for the gymnastics team?”

Jackie Mattison performing 1975

Jackie Mattison performing a gymnastics routine in 1975.

That day changed everything.

“If it had not been for the kind, inspiring voice of Melinda Airhart (1973-1976 UGA women’s gymnastics coach), my success as a student at UGA would not have manifested the way it did,” Mattison says. “She saw my little bit of talent and worked with me to make it bigger.”

Every Monday through Friday during summer semesters, Airhart waited for Mattison in the gym at Stegeman Hall. They practiced for two hours every day, one-on-one.

Mattison started team practice in fall 1973, the first year UGA fielded a gymnastics team. Her initial competition came in January 1974. She placed first in the vault in several meets that season.

From its humble beginnings, Georgia’s women gymnasts went on to win 10 NCAA national championships. The team has also claimed 16 Southeastern Conference Championships and 22 NCAA regional titles.

Today, Georgia women’s gymnastics–the Gym Dawgs–are generally recognized as one of the nation’s premier program.

Mattison and her teammates blazed the trail for them.

A vault into cheerleading

As Mattison worked out with the gymnastics team, she began to notice the UGA cheerleaders practicing nearby. Intrigued, she tried out for cheerleading in the spring of 1974.

“I got cut,” she remembers. “That hurt so bad. I remember thinking, ‘I’ll never try that again’.”

But she did. Convinced that her white cheer partner had let her fall on purpose during tryouts, she teamed up with a Black partner, Ricky Bivens. They scored highest of all the competitors in initial competitions, and among the highest in a nerve-wracking second tryout at Stegeman Coliseum.

That fall, Mattison found herself shaking pom-poms on the sidelines of Sanford Stadium. Home game Saturdays, she and her cheer teammates led tens of thousands of Bulldog fans in full-throated support of notable teams fielded by then-Coach Vince Dooley. Mattison even held Uga III’s leash as they ran onto the field for home games.

Jackie Mattison gymnastics team 1976

Jackie Mattison with her gymnastics team in 1976.

At the 1976 Cotton Bowl, UGA vs. Arkansas, she turned after a cheer to find herself face-to-face with Georgia native singer James Brown, the Godfather of Soul. Brown had a recent hit song, “Dooley’s Junkyard Dawgs,” which has the following lyrics:

Uh, ha, Dooley’s junkyard dogs 
Dooley’s junkyard dogs 
They’ll hit ya, they’ll knock ya, ha 
They’ll haul right off and sock ya 
Dooley’s junkyard dogs 
Dooley’s junkyard dogs

As rich as her gymnastics team and cheer team memories are, Mattison holds other moments equally dear. She became one of the very first UGA female student athletes to be awarded a scholarship, thanks to the enactment of a national education amendment, Title IX. And she pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., joining “a sisterhood that still exists today,” she says.

“The camaraderie of Black sororities and fraternities at UGA closely bonded the few minority students,” she says. “Among my best memories are Black student gatherings in the dorms and dining halls, social activities, and greetings as we passed on our way to classes.”

UGA also readied Mattison for life after Athens.

“I feel that the professionalism, support and encouragement of my instructors in the health and physical education department had a major role in my success as a student at UGA,” she says.

“I was motivated by the commitment, energy and excitement in their voices as they taught and engaged students. There was a feeling of a great deal of mutual respect between students and professors. To me, that was a formula for success.”

She took that formula into the world.

Passing it forward

Earning a 1977 master’s degree in health and physical education, Mattison launched a 33-year career as an educator.

She began as a K-5 physical education teacher at Barnett Shoals Elementary School in Athens. She shaped young minds and bodies at subsequent posts in Georgia, North Carolina, Maryland and Tennessee.

Along the way, she and her husband Larry had two sons, Landy and Ryan, and one grandson, Sean.

She spent the last 12 years of her career back home, at Newton High School in Covington, teaching health and physical education. In three decades-plus of education, she coached co-ed cross-country and golf, as well as girls’ softball, tennis, and gymnastics. She retired in 2016, her career distinguished by awards and the achievements of her students.

UGA has been with her along all the trails she blazed.

“I left UGA with confidence that I could make a difference in the lives of students from every walk of life,” Mattison says.

“I followed my heart. To this day, I have no doubt that the major reason I was successful in a career as a health educator, physical educator, and coach for 33 years is because I was prepared for life – and made highly qualified in my field – by the University of Georgia.”

Checking in with Alumni Board Member Truitt Eavenson

The following Q&A originally ran in the UGA College of Engineering e-newsletter. Thanks to the college for allowing us to share Truitt’s spotlight!

Truitt Eavenson (BSAE ’83) recently retired after a long and successful career with Georgia Power Company. He also recently established the Truitt Eavenson Engineering Scholarship, is a UGA Alumni Association board member, and is a member of the Engineering Advisory Board.

What led you to UGA as an undergrad?

“Growing up 30 miles outside of Athens, I knew that UGA would be where I would go to school. Saturday afternoons listening to Larry Munson on the radio was always a fall tradition. I remember sitting down with the course catalog and reading through the programs, and that’s when I found Agricultural Engineering. I made an appointment with Dr. Robert Brown, and after that visit I knew what my major would be.”

Truitt Eavenson with Uga

Truitt Eavenson with Uga on the sidelines of a football game.

What are your favorite memories of your time at UGA?

“I transferred to UGA in the fall of 1980. Any Dawg fan will say that there was probably not a more exciting time to be in Athens. The football team was headed to the national championship, work was being done to close in the stadium, and Ag Engineering was selling pieces of the track to fans that had sat there and watched a game. The Ag Engineering program was small enough that we really got to know our fellow students and the professors. And I have to put in a plug for Dr. Sid Thompson. He started what would be a long, memorable career and touched many of our lives as students.”

What inspired you to give back to the College of Engineering?

“This may sound like a simple reason, but I was at work one day talking with a colleague that had also graduated from UGA. We were talking about making contributions to the school where you graduated. They made the statement that they really didn’t understand why people wouldn’t support the school where they received their degree, since the school helped you get a job, reach your career goals, and simply gave us the means to provide for our families. That statement really resonated with me, and I started making small contributions to the engineering program.”

What led to your decision to support scholarships in the College of Engineering?

“I think it just grew from making small gifts. I’ve enjoyed a successful career with Georgia Power, and I wanted to do this as a way to pay it back. An early president of Georgia Power used a line in a speech around 1928. He said that we would be a “citizen wherever we serve.” That was a big part of my career with volunteer activities and the jobs that I was asked to do in communities around that state. My fellow employees at Georgia Power have always set the bar really high when it comes to giving back. When you spend 36 years of your career where that is encouraged and supported, it just becomes second nature, and you find yourself looking for opportunities where you can serve.”

What are your hopes for the future recipients of your scholarships?

“My hope is that 40 years from now they will be asked these questions and will be able to say that the study they completed at UGA allowed them to accomplish all their life goals, and that it helped them provide for their families and make a significant contribution in whatever they attempted to do.”

What has been the most rewarding part of supporting a scholarship in Engineering?

“Just knowing that you are doing a small part in helping the next generation prepare for the future. There’s a proverb that says “society grows when men plant trees they will never sit under.” I feel certain these trees will grow and prosper in ways we haven’t even imagined yet!”

 

Mistress of Cultural Affairs: Nawanna Miller’s legacy of diversity and inclusion at UGA

This was written by Charles McNair.

In fall 1970, Nawanna Lewis Miller (ABJ ’73) took on a daunting mission: showcasing the traditions of African American culture at UGA. The student body at that time was overwhelmingly white, and Miller remembers—painfully—how some classmates did not welcome Black faces.

Miller and her Black classmates resolved to stand up and stand out.

Bannered under the theme of Pamoja, the Swahili word for togetherness, Miller founded a pantheon of Black cultural organizations unlike anything seen before at UGA.

The Pamoja Dancers daringly expressed the Black experience through artistic motion. (Miller danced completely alone at first.) The Pamoja Singers gave beautiful a cappella concerts on the plaza outside Monument Hall. The Pamoja Drama and Arts troupe recounted Black life in stories. (Again, Miller performed solo shows at first.) Finding still more ways to share the importance of Black culture, Miller launched the landmark Journalism Association for Minorities (JAM), and that group produced Pamoja Newspaper.

The ripples of Miller’s work would spread through the next five decades into currently active UGA groups (The African American Choral Ensemble, the Black Theatrical Ensemble, etc.). Thousands of UGA students have taken part in these performing arts ensembles. A 50th Anniversary of Pamoja event in 2020 commemorated their contributions to UGA.

Miller’s leadership came with a unique title: Mistress of Cultural Affairs.

Nawanna Lewis Miller 1970

Nawanna Lewis Miller in the 1970 Pandora yearbook.

“I didn’t know what it meant. Nobody knew what it meant,” Miller laughs. “I went and typed out a job description and took it from there.”

The Pamoja movement excited Black students and left them optimistic … to a degree.

“We only had a minuscule number of Black students on campus,” Miller says, “but they made for a supportive audience.

“A few white students,” she smiles, “were curiously polite.”

New success against long odds

After earning a broadcast journalism degree in just three years–Miller took 20 hours each semester–Nawanna and husband George C. Miller (her sweetheart since junior high school), moved in 1977 to Washington, D.C. George took a high political post in the United States Department of the Treasury in President Jimmy Carter’s administration.

The Millers started a family, eventually to grow to six children and seven grandsons. Though the home front kept her busy, Miller now set her sights on another lifelong dream–the ministry.

“My first encounter with Jesus Christ came while I was still in a high chair,” she says. “Through my whole life, I have vigorously served in the church.”

It would turn out that becoming a female minister at a time when men dominated the clergy would take more determination than she ever imagined.

“I can say that the physical, mental, and emotional impact of attending UGA as a minority student in those early years of integration was very, very costly,” Miller says. “But I believe it was even harder to be accepted among Black people—men especially—as Black preacher.”

Miller approached her pastor at Metropolitan Baptist Church in Washington about her yearning. As a first step, she served as director of metropolitan youth ministries, offering spiritual guidance to children in 30 organizations. Then, in 1989, more than a decade after moving to D.C. and over the objections of other pastors, Miller was licensed to preach by Reverend Dr. H.B. Hicks, Jr.

Finally, in 1992, Miller was welcomed fully to the gospel ministry following a substantial public catechism by clergy who “courageously ordained her,” she says.

“The beautiful part is that this revolutionary moment happened in front of about 1,500 people. That was a powerful affirmation.”

She became one of the first female pastors in the Baptist church.

Miller went on to earn a master’s degree in divinity from Howard University. When the Millers returned to the Atlanta area, she founded the Messiah’s Temple Christian Ministries, serving as pastor there until 2016.

The Gospel of Great Health

After a stroke in 2015, Miller reduced her time in the pulpit. She now serves as a personal pastor to people “from all walks of life,” she says, sharing spiritual guidance through The Institute for Christian Fellowship, yet another organization she founded, this one in 1996.

She spends time writing books. She has five titles in all, with a new one, B.O.L.O. – Be On the Look-Out for Satan’s Top Ten Tricks, due in 2021.

Nawanna Miller 2021

Nawanna Miller in 2021.

Doctors gave Miller only a 15% chance of surviving her stroke. Yet, once again, her unbreakable spirit prevailed. Turning the setback into something positive, Miller designed The Gospel of Great Health program, teaching what she calls “supernatural energy techniques for healing and wholeness” to students and churches.

She’s seen many changes since her days at UGA, but Miller insists that one thing in her life has always stayed the same.

“Excellence was our brand for all of the Pamoja groups,” she says. “And I’m grateful to say that’s still the standard I’ve been blessed to attempt in everything I’ve done all these years.”

Vaughn’s Victory: Terry College’s first Black female graduate shares remembrances 

This story was written by Charles McNair. 

Margaret Vaughn (BBA ’70) didn’t realize she was making history.

“I did not set a goal to become the first Black woman to graduate from the Terry College of Business,” she says. “I knew at the time that two Black males had preceded me. But even at graduation, I did not attach any great significance to that moment.”

Vaughn may have been distracted by job offers.

It was 1970, and businesses and the federal government were just waking up to the potential of a diversified professional workforce. Vaughn heard from NASA, the Big 8 accounting firms, the U.S. Department of Labor and others.

“I attribute that attention,” she says modestly, “to the fact that a University of Georgia business degree was highly respected by employers.”

But, hello Houston, there was a problem. The potential employers all wanted Vaughn to relocate–to Texas, New York or New Jersey.

“The U.S. Department of Treasury won out,” Vaughn says, “because the Internal Revenue Service did not require me to leave Georgia.”

In 1970, she started a distinguished career with the IRS, retiring in 2004 after serving in multiple roles with increasing responsibility.

In an unexpected way, Vaughn says, her UGA classroom experience prepared her perfectly for the 1970s business world.

Margaret Vaughn 1970

Margaret Vaughn in the 1970 Pandora yearbook.

“Initially, my work environment was a near mirror image of my environment at UGA,” Vaughn says. “Predominately male and white.”

“I was the only African American and one of only two females in my first tax training class. I was one of only two or three African Americans and the only African American female employed as an IRS field agent in Georgia. I remember being one of only two African Americans in the swearing-in ceremony when I became a certified public accountant.”

“So not only did my UGA experience provide me the technical knowledge to become an expert in my field,” she says, “it also fully prepared me for the environment where I would have to work.”

Roads not taken

Vaughn never plotted to enter the business world.

As a student at Pearl High School in Madison, Georgia, she loved to write. She created the school’s first yearbook and wrote the school’s alma mater. She had her heart set on making a living by the paragraph and page.

That changed in her senior year. The principal of her high school called Vaughn into the office with news.

“You’re going to be the senior class valedictorian,” the principal said. “And you’re going to the University of Georgia. I’ve already talked with your father about it, and he agrees.”

Goodbye Spelman. Goodbye historically Black universities and colleges.

Vaughn, in retrospect, sees two powerful reasons behind that decision made for her.

First, her principal wanted to show that a student from her school could excel at UGA. Second, Vaughn’s dad had come home from the military and had been denied an opportunity to attend UGA. His daughter’s admission would mark an achievement for the Vaughn family. (Margaret would be the first in her immediate family to go to college.)

Dad also had a very practical concern. He felt sure that a business degree could ensure that his brilliant daughter would find a job with steady paychecks and financial security instead of rejection slips and unsold manuscripts.

Taxing times

Vaughn speaks thoughtfully and philosophically about the challenges she faced as a young Black woman in the late ’60s at a newly-integrated Deep South university.

“I entered UGA feeling that a personal sacrifice had been made to enroll,” she says, “but the remaining unanswered question was whether the struggle for representation and inclusion would be worth the sacrifice.”

“Of course, I was also concerned about more immediate matters. What would I face in the classroom? Would I be marginalized? Would I face open hostility? Would I have help in my studies, if I needed it?”

Terry proved an education.

“It felt as though each class held a different UGA experience with different challenges,” she says.

“I specifically remember a speech class. I was the only Black student in a white, predominantly male class, and I was deeply concerned that it would be the worst experience of the quarter.”

“The icebreaker was that I could write. I shared a few of my discarded speech drafts. Contrary to my initial fears, it went exceedingly well. I had initially dreaded the class and my study group, but that was a time I experienced inclusion from fellow students.”

Helping others blaze trails

Solving challenges on her own, class by class, turned out to be an important part of Vaughn’s education.

“UGA showed me in many ways that I was strong and resilient,” she says. “The university taught me that if I want my life to matter, I must live it on my own terms, unselfishly, with responsibility for my own happiness.”

Vaughn often recalls how, in 1966, she felt alone and without support in classrooms. It’s why she is now passionate about giving special attention to small, often unsupported, businesses through her tax consulting practice, Margaret Davis Vaughn, CPA.

She also serves on the boards of organizations that provide guidance to promising young people.

“Being a trailblazer in 1970 meant there were no African American female role models, no mentors, for me at UGA,” Vaughn says. “There was no one to call to ask for directions.

“This is why I am determined to have an impact on the lives of as many students as I possibly can. Just as someone saw a possibility for me, I am certain there are CPAs waiting among the students within my reach.”

40 Under 40 Spotlight: Angela Alfano, champion of the sports industry

Angela Alfano (AB, ABJ ’10), senior director of corporate communications for Major League Soccer, is committed to empowering the next generation of sports executives.

For her personal, professional and philanthropic achievements, Angela ranked among UGA’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2021. The program celebrates young alumni leading the pack in their industries and communities.

Angela being interviewed

Angela being interviewed after the John E. Drewry Young Alumni Awards ceremony at UGA.

Who is Angela Alfano?

Angela graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. with a master’s degree in Sports Industry Management and received undergraduate degrees in both public relations and political science from the University of Georgia. Angela started her sports communications career working as a student assistant in UGA’s Sports Information Department.

A strategic young executive, Angela has more than a decade of leadership and innovation in communications.

Since joining Major League Soccer in July of 2018, Angela has been instrumental in garnering positive publicity for the league outside the traditional scope of soccer. She showcases the business behind the brand, finding creative ways to highlight executives in the media and oversee strategies for the league.

UGA Sports Communications-Student Assistants Oct 2009

Angela Alfano (lower left) as a UGA sports communications student assistant in 2009.

What led Angela to Major League Soccer?

Prior to her work at Major League Soccer, Angela spent two years at Tough Mudder’s NYC headquarters in the communications department and six years working in public relations for professional football – both at the National Football League (NFL) headquarters and the Washington Football Team.

Angela oversaw corporate communications for the Washington Football Team where she promoted the team’s community relations and publicized player, coach and ownership initiatives off the field. She also oversaw media credentialing, press box staff supervision and event media coverage recaps for the team.

Angela then moved onto the NFL, where she elevated league initiatives, such as Breast Cancer Awareness, Salute to Service and PLAY 60. She led more than 20 press conferences annually at the Super Bowl and developed public relations campaigns for major league events, such as NFL Kickoff and Draft.

Angela at an MLS All Star Game

Angela working at an MLS All Star Game.

How have Angela’s efforts been recognized?

Angela was honored by PRSA Chicago with a Chicago Skyline Award for “Establishing a New Identity for the NFL Draft” and as one of PR News’ “Rising Stars 30 and Under.” In 2019, she received Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications John E. Drewry Young Alumni Award and currently serves on UGA’s AdPR Executive Advisory Council. Angela was also honored as one of Sigma Kappa’s National Headquarters 35 Under 35.

Watch Grady College salute Angela Alfano: 

Where is Angela now?

Angela currently resides in New York with her husband Michael and dog, Lohi.

Angela dedicates her free time to the next generation of young sports PR executives. She serves as a supportive and accessible mentor to women and men in sports businesses. Passionate about championing a new wave of leadership in the industry, Angela and her husband, Michael O’ Brien, created the “Alfano and O’Brien Sports Communication Award”— an endowment through the Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communications to help students pursuing a career in the sports industry.

40 Under 40 Spotlight: Eric Gray advocates for inclusive adventure sports

Eric Gray (BSED ’04), executive director of Catalyst Sports, is committed to service and adventure. Eric and his team of dedicated volunteers break down the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from accessing adventure sports in their communities.

For his personal, professional and philanthropic achievements, Eric ranked among UGA’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2021. The program celebrates young alumni leading the pack in their industries and communities.

Discover how Catalyst Sports creates an inclusive environment for people with disabilities: 

How did Eric Gray become involved in Catalyst Sports?

Eric Gray received a degree in recreation and leisure studies from the Mary Frances Early College of Education. From a young age, he had a passion for improving the world around him.

At the age of 10, Gray received treatment for childhood cancer at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Twenty-five years later, he returned to Children’s as a recreation therapist to give back and share his experiences to those facing similar circumstances. He also worked for the National Ability Center, where he taught people with disabilities how to ski, snowboard, canoe, climb, horseback, and cycle.

Removing barriers and creating access for people with disabilities is at the heart of Eric Gray’s work.

What is Catalyst Sports?

Catalyst Sports is a chapter based, nonprofit organization which gives people with physical disabilities access to adventures within a supportive community. Adventure sports like climbing and cycling empower people with disabilities to discover their strength.

“The Catalyst Sports family has helped me in my recovery, helped me heal and grow, test my physical and mental boundaries and has introduced me to new groups of people who love life and embrace challenges. I can’t thank you enough,” said Michael Breed, an active member of Catalyst Sports.

How can you support the mission to make sports more inclusive?

Private support is essential to Catalyst Sports’ success. The nonprofit relies on contributions from the community to ensure a more inclusive tomorrow. Donations support opportunities for training, certification, scholarships, recruitment, and purchasing new equipment.

SUPPORT CATALYST SPORTS