Celia Dixon proves there is no graduation date for giving back

Every year, graduating students are given the opportunity to leave their mark on their alma mater. Started in 1991, the Senior Signature plaque is a UGA tradition that continues to grow each year. Students participate by donating a minimum $50 gift to the university. This gift includes a designation option so that graduates can give to any school, college, department, program, or scholarship that has had a personal impact on them during their time at UGA. Celia Dixon (BSED ’05), did not have the means to participate in Senior Signature when she graduated, but never lost the desire to leave her mark on campus.

Now, nearly 23 years after earning her diploma, Celia has returned to add her to name to the ever-growing list of Bulldogs, which can be found in Tate Plaza. We recently spoke to Celia about her decision to participate in the Senior Signature and what led her to give back to UGA.

What is your favorite memory at the University of Georgia?

My favorite memory at UGA has always been the first day of student orientation where we learned the “Go Dawgs, Sic ’em!” chant as a group! The sound of all of us chanting in front of Tate Student center was an overwhelming and awesome feeling.

Tell us a little bit about what you’ve been doing since graduating  and how your time in Athens prepared you for life post-college.

I am a recreation therapist on a spinal cord injury team in the Rehab Center of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  I worked 4 of my 5 years in Athens while going to school, so I developed a very strong work ethic that prepared me for my work experience now.  I have a real love for working with patients and helping them become more independent in life.

As a 1995 graduate, what made you want to participate in Senior Signature in 2018?

I know it sounds silly to some, but the money to participate in Senior Signature was not an option for me when it was offered to me back in 1995. I recalled all of that when I was in Athens two summers ago with my daughter, Hope, and I showed her the plaque wall. She said, “Mommy, where is your name?” It was devastating that I couldn’t show her! It was like I had never been there. I had my diploma to show her, my pin from the College of Education graduation ceremony, etc., but it still devastated me. Over the next year, I thought a lot about that moment with Hope. I had the money to pay for it now, but I wasn’t sure that it would matter.  So that’s when I contacted the UGA Alumni Association.

Why, in your opinion, is it important to leave your mark by giving back to UGA?

I didn’t realize what an impact giving back would make on other students.  I guess at the time, I was struggling myself and I was living in a vacuum.  Now that I can give back, it makes it all so much more important to give!

Do you hope to inspire other graduates to follow in your footsteps?

I encourage them to think of their future that they are making. By giving, it gives another student that chance as well!

How has UGA impacted you as a person and as a professional?

I am very proud of the decision and really the risk I took by coming to UGA.  Coming in as an out-of-stater (shh.. from South Carolina)…. but always living as a Dawg, my mom and I were never sure of how we were going to do it, but we did! I know that I received an excellent education that not only prepared me for my profession, but also prepared me as a mom.

Last year in March of 2017, I underwent brain surgery for trigeminal neuralgia. I was fortunate that the surgery was a success but even if it wasn’t, I was not going to give up. Giving up was not an option! I have a beautiful daughter and patients that need me. Dawgs never give up, we keep fighting. That’s just what you do as a Dawg!

Interested in learning more about Senior Signature? Visit alumni.uga.edu/seniorsignature.

Senior Signature

Warnell dedicates classroom, center to honor alumnus Langdale

This article was originally published on UGA Today on March 7, 2018.

Gift from Langdale’s estate and foundation expanded education, research efforts

The University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources dedicated a classroom and its Center for Forest Business after prominent alumnus Harley Langdale Jr. on March 6.

Langdale, who graduated from UGA in 1937, died in 2013 and bequeathed $3.6 million to UGA, which allowed the Center for Forest Business to expand its education efforts and research, as well as its service to the forest industry and private landowners. The center has been renamed the Harley Langdale Jr. Center for Forest Business.

“Harley Langdale Jr. was the consummate entrepreneur,” said Bob Izlar, director of the center. “When he encountered obstacles, he found innovative ways around them, whether it was brow beating the chairman of the regents, reforming national banking laws, helping enact capital gains tax treatment of timber, or creating new and sustainable markets for economic development of forestland. His life was a model for all Georgia. We are humbled by the legacy he has imparted to us.”

Langdale’s family, the Harley Langdale Jr. Foundation, Warnell faculty, and UGA President Jere W. Morehead attended the dedication on Tuesday.

In addition to the classroom and center, he will also be recognized with a named professorship, the Harley Langdale Jr. Endowed Chair in Forest Business.

Langdale graduated from what was then the George Foster Peabody School of Forestry in 1937, and over the next few decades he became one of the foremost pioneers in Georgia’s forest industry. As one of the first foresters to make the move from producing turpentine to planting trees for harvest, Langdale’s vision and passion ushered in an era of tree farming and sustainability.

Lady Antebellum members to deliver Commencement address

This article was originally published on UGA Today on March 6, 2018.

Writer: Emily Webb

University of Georgia alumni Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood of multi-platinum trio Lady Antebellum will deliver the spring undergraduate Commencement address May 4 at 7 p.m. in Sanford Stadium.

Denise Spangler, the Bebe Aderhold Professor in Early Childhood Education in UGA’s College of Education, will deliver the graduate Commencement address that same day at 9:30 a.m. in Stegeman Coliseum. Tickets are not required for either ceremony.

Hunter Smith, who will receive his bachelor’s degree in political science, is the student speaker for the undergraduate ceremony.

“We are excited to welcome Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood back to their alma mater,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “They are multi-talented musicians who have impressed the world, and the University of Georgia is very proud of all they have accomplished. We look forward to their inspiring comments.”

Dave Haywood Lady Antebellum

Dave Haywood

Georgia natives Kelley and Haywood of the seven-time Grammy Award-winning trio have launched their latest single “Heart Break,” serving as the title track from their No. 1 sixth studio album, “Heart Break.” Their current release follows more than 18 million units, nine No. 1 hits, ACM and CMA “Vocal Group of the Year” trophies three years in a row and other honors including seven Grammys, Billboard Music Awards, People’s Choice Awards and Teen Choice Awards.

Charles Kelley Lady Antebellum

Charles Kelley

Both Kelley and Haywood received Bachelor of Business Administration degrees from UGA in 2004.Along with his success as part of Lady Antebellum, Kelley also earned a Grammy nomination for “Best Country Duo/Group Performance” for the title track of his solo record “The Driver,” and has penned No. 1 hits recorded by artists including Luke Bryan and Darius Rucker. In addition to multi-instrumentalist and producer Haywood co-writing four chart-topping Lady Antebellum hits, including the six-times platinum hit “Need You Now,” Haywood has also written for artists such as Miranda Lambert and Luke Bryan. The multi-platinum trio will team with Darius Rucker this summer for their co-headlining Summer Plays On Tour, which kicks off July 19.

A professor of mathematics education, Spangler also currently is interim dean of the College of Education. She holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in mathematics, both from Illinois State University. She earned her doctoral degree in mathematics education at the University of Georgia.

Denise Spangler

Denise Spangler

An award-winning instructor, Spangler is a member of the UGA Teaching Academy and is a recipient of the Richard B. Russell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. The majority of her career has involved helping elementary education majors learn to teach mathematics to children in ways that build on the numerical and spatial thinking that they develop from interacting with the world. She also teaches graduate courses on mathematics teaching and teacher education. She has graduated more than 30 doctoral students during her time at UGA.

Spangler’s research is tightly integrated with her teaching. She seeks to understand how novice teachers put into practice what they have learned from their teacher education programs, their experiences in schools and their own experiences as students—and how they balance these sometimes competing influences. The author of approximately 100 publications, including journal articles, book chapters and books, she has received continuous funding for her work since joining the UGA faculty in 1995.

“Dr. Spangler is an exemplary professor and administrator who has made a positive impact on the lives of countless numbers of students—from elementary school to the university level—through her teaching, research and service,” Morehead said. “She will provide a compelling message to our graduates.”

In addition to her teaching and research, Spangler has served on and chaired a number of committees and task forces at UGA. Additionally, she was an elected member of the board of education for the Clarke County School District for 12 years and served two terms as vice president of the board. Her national service includes chairing editorial panels for journals in mathematics education and serving on the board of directors for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

For more information on UGA’s Commencement ceremonies, visit https://commencement.uga.edu/.

Alumnus donates art collection to UGA School of Law

This article was originally published on UGA Today on March 5, 2018.

Writer: Heidi Murphy

William Elliott Stiles Jr.—an accomplished artist, Atlanta attorney and University of Georgia School of Law alumnus—is donating 10 pieces of his work to his alma mater. The hand-painted originals will portray various legal themes and contain references to the School of Law.

“I am very grateful William is donating some of his unique artwork to the law school,” School of Law Dean Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge said. “His collection will enhance our collection and provide thought-provoking imagery for members of the law school community for decades to come.”

William Stiles

William Stiles

Stiles, a 2006 cum laude graduate of the law school, began painting while in high school and said this creative activity was a much needed stress reliever during his time as a law student. In fact, while studying in Athens, he created and donated a piece titled “The Common Law” to the school. This painting reflects relevant case law, theories, ideas and history examined during the first semester of legal studies.

Law Oak

“UGA Law Oak,” is part of Stiles’ “Concept Collection” of which 10 originals will be donated to the law school.

The newpieces he plans to donate to the school are part of his “Concept Collection,” which is “firmly rooted in the practice of law and has excerpts of U.S. Supreme Court opinions in the background,” according to Stiles. He began this body of work after experiencing a significant health scare in 2015. While recovering, law school classmates and former professors encouraged him to return to this creative outlet. Stiles said his law school family “helped to restore his confidence” and rediscover this stress reliever.

It is anticipated that Stiles’ new artwork will be installed in the main part of Hirsch Hall this summer.

Stiles, who specializes in commercial vehicle litigation, currently practices with Bey & Associates in Atlanta. He is married to Amber Barrow Stiles, who is also a 2006 graduate of the School of Law.

UGA names building for Sanford and Barbara Orkin

This article was originally published on UGA Today on February 15, 2018.

Writer: David Dodson, Terry College of Business (ABJ ’89)

Third and final phase of the Business Learning Community will open in 2019

The next building to become part of the University of Georgia Terry College of Business will be named for Sanford and Barbara Orkin of Atlanta.

The University System of Georgia Board of Regents has approved naming one of the two buildings currently under construction in the third and final phase of the Business Learning Community for the Orkins in recognition of their longstanding support of UGA, including a $5 million gift to the Terry College of Business.

“Sanford and Barbara Orkin’s tremendous generosity will leave an enduring legacy at the University of Georgia,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “Their latest gift, which will further enhance the learning environment on our campus, demonstrates their unyielding commitment to supporting the endeavors of our students, faculty and staff.”

The building to be named Sanford and Barbara Orkin Hall—located at the corner of Baxter and Hull streets—will include a large auditorium, undergraduate classrooms, a behavioral lab, a computer lab for marketing research, interview suites and faculty and administrative offices.

“Throughout this building campaign and the construction that followed, creating a modern and vibrant learning community for the Terry College of Business has been our primary goal,” said Dean Benjamin C. Ayers. “We are so grateful to the Orkins for their philanthropic investment in the college’s future, and we look forward to opening and dedicating the final two buildings of the Business Learning Community next year.”

Sanford and Barbara Orkin both attended UGA. Drafted into military service while still a student, Sanford Orkin joined his family’s pest control business after returning from the Korean War and served as president. Following the sale of Orkin Pest Control to Rollins Inc. in 1964, he maintained real estate and business interests in Atlanta and volunteered his time and support to UGA in numerous ways, including as a trustee of the UGA Foundation and UGA Real Estate Foundation.

“Barbara and I love the University of Georgia and are so pleased to continue our support of its academic mission to educate future leaders for the state and nation,” Sanford Orkin said.

The Orkins’ most recent gift extends a remarkable legacy of giving to UGA. The couple has endowed a $1 million scholarship fund for low-income students, a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar position in the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases and supported the School of Law, the College of Education, the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, the College of Public Health, UGA Athletics and other academic initiatives.

Phase III of the Business Learning Community is currently under construction. Phase II was completed in 2017.

The university broke ground on Phase III construction of the Business Learning Community in October 2017 after the dedication of Amos Hall, Benson Hall and Moore-Rooker Hall. Terry College faculty and staff moved into the Phase II buildings last summer, and classes began this past fall. Phase I (Correll Hall) was funded entirely by private contributions and opened in 2015. Phase II and III are the result of a public-private partnership between the state of Georgia and hundreds of donors. The Business Learning Community represents one of the largest capital projects in the University System’s history.

UGA reports 96 percent career outcomes rate for Class of 2017

This article was originally published on UGA Today on February 15, 2018.

Writer: Danielle Bezila

Results are 11 percent higher than the national average

University of Georgia research shows that 96 percent of recent graduates are employed or continuing their education within six months of graduating. UGA’s career outcomes rate for the Class of 2017 is 11 percent higher than the national average.

Of those students:
• 63 percent were employed full time;
• 20 percent were attending graduate school; and
• Approximately 12 percent were self-employed, interning full time or were employed part time.

“UGA’s high career outcomes rate demonstrates our university’s commitment to providing students with opportunities to learn in and beyond the classroom,” said Scott Williams, executive director of the Career Center. “Combined with our strong academics, the experiential learning requirement provides students with hands-on experiences, such as internships, equipping them with the skills and experiences that make them more competitive in the job market.”

The UGA Class of 2017 was hired by 2,925 unique employers, including Fortune 500 companies, across all 50 states and in 37 countries. Of the full-time employed graduates, 72 percent accepted employment within Georgia. Top employers for the Class of 2017 include AT&T, Chick-fil-A, IBM, Georgia-Pacific and UPS.

“Our state benefits from being home to so many successful companies—companies that want to hire our students,” said Jill Walton, UGA’s executive director of corporate and foundation relations. “UGA is committed to serving our state through educating tomorrow’s leaders.”

These graduates are working in all sectors of the economy—66 percent in business, 24 percent in education, 6 percent in government and 4 percent in nonprofits.

“UGA students are pursuing careers in diverse industries, career areas and geographic locations,” Williams said. “We are proud that our students continue to secure positions with top companies, as well as enter highly selective graduate and professional programs.”

The 20 percent of graduates who are continuing their education are attending top graduate schools such as Columbia University, Duke University, Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


UGA’s career outcomes rate for the Class of 2017 is 11 percent higher than the national average.

The career outcomes rate is the percentage of students who are employed, continuing their education or not seeking employment within six months after graduation. The UGA Career Center calculates the career outcomes rate each January by leveraging information from a variety of sources. This year, the Career Center was able to collect data on 88 percent of 2017 graduates, 26 percent higher than the national average, which helps provide a more accurate snapshot of UGA students’ employment status. Outcomes data was collected using the following sources: survey, phone calls, employer reporting, departmental collaboration, LinkedIn and the National Student Clearinghouse.

More details about UGA’s Class of 2017 career outcomes, is online.

More about hiring UGA graduates is online.

UGA Career Center 
The University of Georgia Career Center provides a range of services, helping students identify potential careers, connecting them with employers for job interviews and internships and much more. The Career Center’s home, Clark Howell Hall, provides spaces for career advising, networking events and job interviews.

Bulldog Love Stories

Meet TJ Snowden, Vice President of the Black Alumni Leadership Council

In October 2015, the UGA Alumni Association launched the UGA Black Alumni Affinity Group, which is led by the Black Alumni Leadership Council. The council seeks to connect with black alumni and students through shared experiences, and to continue building a welcoming and supporting campus community. TJ Snowden (BSED ’04, EDD ’19) is vice president of the Black Alumni Leadership Council, and we recently interviewed him to learn more about his UGA experience and what drives him to stay connected to the university.

When did you graduate from UGA and what did you do after college?

I graduated from UGA in 2004 with a degree in sports communications. After more than three years of work in retail management and collections, I returned to UGA to work as a financial aid counselor in 2007. In 2012, my wife Lesley and I moved to Washington, D.C. where I continued my career in higher education and graduated with a master’s degree in nonprofit management from Trinity Washington University in 2015. Currently, I am the director of financial aid at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C. and a second-year doctoral student in UGA’s Student Affairs Leadership Program.

How did you get involved with the Alumni Association?

I reconnected with a great group of UGA black alumni in D.C. where I learned that UGA was developing the Black Alumni Affinity Group. As my wife and I were planning to move back to Atlanta in 2016, it just so happened that Realenn Watters (AB ’04), a friend and alumna, was working for the Alumni Association and encouraged me to apply for a position.

Which Black Alumni event are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the work we have been able to do with the Admitted Student Reception. In two years, we have helped move the diversity needle at UGA, bringing in one of the most diverse incoming classes in 2017. Equally as important, the Black Alumni Leadership Council has been able to secure more than 40 black alumni at each of these events to welcome these new students of color to the Bulldog Nation.


TJ Snowden

How has serving on the leadership council benefited you?

Participating in the Black Alumni Leadership Council has allowed me tap into a larger network of UGA black alumni to help further our cause of recognizing and supporting black excellence at our alma mater.

What is the most important experience you learned as a student?

Embrace the space, and I mean that metaphorically. UGA is a special place, and a number of my greatest memories as a student came from getting involved on campus. Some 13 years after I graduated from undergrad, I still relish those experiences gained and relationships I cultivated. It was an environment that I was under-prepared for when I entered. Thankfully, I found ways to contribute to the university community, and more importantly, the Black UGA community, as a member of the Zeta Iota chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.

What is one piece of advice you would give to UGA students?

Network. There is only so much that a resume, diagnostic test or GPA can tell about your ability to excel at a task or job. Having someone who can vouch for your character and potential speaks volumes. Dawgs take care of Dawgs.

UGA is committed to its students and mission as a land and sea grant university. What is your commitment?

I’m committed to increasing diversity and black philanthropy at UGA. UGA has only been integrated for a little more than 57 years, so there is a need to develop and sustain philanthropic efforts among black students and alumni to aid UGA in its support of students of color.

Saucehouse BBQ tops the 2018 Bulldog 100

The University of Georgia Alumni Association recognized the fastest-growing companies owned or operated by UGA alumni during the ninth annual Bulldog 100 Celebration on Jan. 27 at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta.

The 2018 fastest-growing business is Saucehouse BBQ, co-founded by Christopher Belk, who earned his bachelor’s degree in political science in 2005 and his MBA in 2013. Belk is from North Carolina and his co-founder is from Alabama. The pair wanted to highlight the regional differences in barbecue, so customers are offered a variety of sauces for their slow-smoked meats and homemade sides. The restaurant and catering company is based in Athens, and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

2018 Bulldog 100 Top Ten

“We look forward to the Bulldog 100 Celebration each year because it provides us with an opportunity to deepen our connections with passionate alumni,” said Meredith Gurley Johnson, executive director of alumni relations at UGA. “The feeling in the air as we count down the businesses from 100 to 1 is incomparable. This is such an honor for the honorees because they have poured themselves into their entrepreneurial ventures. We are proud to celebrate their achievements.”

The Atlanta office of Warren Averett CPAs and Advisors partnered with the UGA Alumni Association to review nominated businesses’ financial records to determine the ranked list. Each organization must have been in business since 2013, experienced revenues in excess of $100,000 for the calendar year 2014, and be owned or operated by a former UGA student who owns at least 50 percent of the company or is the CEO, president or managing partner.

Christopher Belk, who co-founded the 2018 fastest-growing business, Saucehouse BBQ, is shown with Meredith Gurley Johnson, executive director of alumni relations at UGA.

The Bulldog 100 recognizes the fastest-growing businesses regardless of size by focusing on a three-year compounded annual growth rate. The average compounded annual growth rate for this year’s Bulldog 100 businesses was 47 percent.

This year’s list featured 101 businesses, with a tie for No. 45. The class includes companies in a variety of industries, including pharmaceuticals, law, IT, consulting, retail and pest control. Companies as far as California and Minnesota are on the list.

This year’s keynote speaker was Amy Smilovic, founder and creative director of Tibi, an international women’s clothing and lifestyle brand. Tibi has been featured everywhere from New York Times fashion photographer, the late Bill Cunningham’s “On the Street” column, to Vogue France. Smilovic graduated from UGA in 1989.

During the event, the UGA Alumni Association presented the inaugural Michael J. Bryan Award to 1983 graduate Mark Mahoney, the owner of Jackrabbit Technologies Inc. in Huntersville, North Carolina. It also unveiled the Michael J. Bryan Scholarship Fund, which will support students who have financial need and demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit.

L-R: Meredith Gurley Johnson, the family of Michael J. Bryan, and Mark Mahoney

Bryan, the co-founder and managing partner of Vino Venue and Atlanta Wine School in Dunwoody, Georgia, passed away in 2017 after a long battle with cancer. His business was recognized during the 2017 Bulldog 100 Celebration as the only company to make the list since the program’s inception in 2010. The award recognizes entrepreneurial spirit and sustained business growth.

“The UGA Alumni Association is excited to honor our graduates who are founding and leading these prosperous enterprises,” said Bonney Shuman, president of the UGA Alumni Association. “It is even more inspiring to see the impact that these businesses have on our students. Many of our Bulldog 100 honorees provide students with scholarships and internships that prepare them for success after graduation. It’s invaluable for students to network with these accomplished business leaders, and for the honorees to remain connected to campus by investing in student success.”

Ethan King Allen (AB ’99) and Monica Allen (BBA ’96), the owners of Zeus’ Closet, with their family at the 2018 Bulldog 100 Celebration

To view the complete list of 2018 Bulldog 100 businesses, or nominate a business for the 2019 Bulldog 100, see the website. Nominations are being accepted through May 31, 2018.

Relive the Bulldog 100 excitement and check out our Twitter Moment!

UGA Alumni Association Launches The 1961 Club

The date was January 9, 1961. Amidst a crowd of National Guardsmen, the figures of Hamilton E. Homes and Charlayne Hunter appeared on the University of Georgia’s North Campus. They were two students registering for their spring classes and simultaneously making history. Holmes and Hunter became the first African-American students to register at UGA, but it didn’t happen easily. After almost three years working to desegregate the nation’s first state-chartered public university in court, the young man and woman joined a population of 7,000 all-white students.

A young graduate student named Mary Frances Early, who had received her bachelor’s degree from Clark College in Atlanta, saw the crowds surrounding Holmes and Hunter on that winter day, and she decided she wanted to join them. Four months later, Early enrolled at UGA in the music education master’s degree program, and in 1962, became the first African-American student to graduate from the University of Georgia. Holmes and Hunter graduated the following year. They  faced hardships that led to riots and suspensions, but they remained resilient through it all. Thanks to Hamilton E. Holmes, Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Mary Frances Early, the University of Georgia was forever integrated for the better.

To commemorate their strength and bravery, the UGA Alumni Association launched The 1961 Club, a new giving society for donors who support the Black Alumni Scholarship Fund. The 1961 Club was created to raise engagement for the more than 14,000 living African-American alumni from UGA. The name of the society comes from that momentous year when Holmes and Hunter-Gault arrived on campus.

The 1961 club officially launched on Jan. 9 during a networking event for alumni and students at Paschal’s Restaurant in Atlanta.

The Black Alumni Scholarship Fund was created in 1981 by professor James Simmons, Jr. and Horatio Lanier; and the fund provides renewable scholarships to undergraduate students who demonstrate promising leadership qualities and a commitment to advancing racial equality.

In accordance with the year and the name of the giving society, The 1961 Club asks UGA alumni, donors and friends to give a gift of $19.61, $196.10 or $1,961, to support the Black Alumni Scholarship Fund. Members of The 1961 Club will also receive donor recognition from other UGA giving societies that correspond with their giving level.

“It is imperative for black alumni to donate to the scholarship because it provides students with a community of support and opportunities to grow,” said Raymond Phillips, president of the Black Alumni Leadership Council. “Students are the future. Our students are at the precipice of achieving their dreams, and it is important for alumni to reconnect, guide and support them, so they can continue the legacy that was started in 1961.”

Join The 1961 Club by supporting the Black Alumni Scholarship Fund at give.uga.edu/the1961Club.