Holmes and Hunter-Gault: They followed their dreams

Original article posted on Feb. 4, 2019 by Krista Richmond on UGA Today.

This story is part of a series, called Georgia Groundbreakers, that celebrates innovative and visionary faculty, students, alumni and leaders throughout the history of the University of Georgia—and their profound, enduring impact on our state, our nation and the world.

Hamilton Holmes simply wanted to become a doctor. Charlayne Hunter simply wanted to become a journalist. And in doing so, they also became inspirations.

Both agreed that the University of Georgia had the classes they needed to reach those goals. But when they graduated from Henry McNeal Turner High School in Atlanta in 1959—Holmes as valedictorian and Hunter (now Hunter-Gault) as third in their class—it wasn’t quite that simple.

“Pursue your dreams—whatever it takes. Don’t give up despite what might be in your way,” Hunter-Gault said in a recent interview. “It was our determination—mine and Hamilton’s—to follow our dreams at the place that was best suited to help us fulfill them.”

Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes walk up Broad Street in Athens on Jan. 9, 1961, to enter the UGA campus to become the first African Americans to attend the university.

Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes walk up Broad Street in Athens on Jan. 9, 1961, to enter the UGA campus to become the first African Americans to attend the university.

Eventually Hunter and Holmes became the first African American students to attend UGA, but that is just the beginning of their stories. Both went on to have a lasting impact in their chosen career fields and on generations of students.

Their latest legacy: a new endowment, launched by Hunter-Gault and her husband, that inspires UGA students to pursue a more just society.

Desegregating UGA

Both Hunter and Holmes applied to UGA for the fall 1959 quarter but were denied. Holmes was accepted to Morehouse College, and Hunter enrolled at Wayne State University in Detroit, but they continued to submit applications to UGA each quarter.

“You can’t ever take your eyes off the prizes of freedom, justice and equality,” she said.

In September 1960, their legal team filed for an injunction seeking to prohibit UGA from “refusing to consider [Holmes’ and Hunter’s] applications and those of other Negro residents of Georgia for admission to the University.” Their request was refused, but a full trial was later held in Athens in December 1960.

On Jan. 6, 1961, Judge William Bootle issued his ruling, stating that Holmes and Hunter “would have already been admitted had it not been for their race and color,” and they were immediately admitted to UGA. Three days later, they became the first African American students to enroll in classes.

Creating a legacy

Their first steps into the Academic Building left a lasting footprint on the UGA landscape.

That same building now bears their names. It was renamed the Holmes-Hunter Academic Building in their honor to mark the 40th anniversary of UGA’s desegregation. And as part of UGA’s bicentennial in 1985, the university created the annual Holmes-Hunter Lecture, which is sponsored by the Office of the President and focuses on race relations, civil rights and education.

Their influence was felt early on during their time in Athens. Mary Frances Early, a fellow Turner High alumna who knew both Holmes and Hunter, was so inspired by what she saw that she decided to transfer from the University of Michigan to UGA to help them integrate the university. In August 1962, Early became the first African American to graduate from UGA.

A year later, it was their turn to walk across the stage.

Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter after they received their diplomas from UGA.

Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter after they received their diplomas from UGA.

“He opened the doors not only for African Americans to attend UGA, but also for everyone who wanted to attend,” said Holmes’ son, Hamilton Holmes Jr., who graduated from UGA in 1990. “My father was an excellent student and graduated cum laude while dealing with all of the distractions related to being one of the first two black students to integrate the university. He wasn’t looking for fame. He simply wanted to get the best public education from the flagship university in Georgia.”

In the fall of 1963, Holmes became the first African American student admitted to the Emory University School of Medicine. After starting a residency at Detroit General Hospital and serving in the military, he returned to Emory to complete his residency. Later, he became an assistant professor of orthopedics and served as an associate dean at Emory.

In addition, Holmes also worked as chief of orthopedics at the Veterans Administration hospital in Atlanta, opened a private practice and became medical director and eventually head of orthopedic surgery at Grady Memorial Hospital.

Holmes passed away at his home in Atlanta on Oct. 26, 1995.

As Holmes Jr. pointed out, the path toward their degrees wasn’t always smooth.

On Jan. 11, 1961, two days after they registered for classes, a crowd gathered outside Hunter’s dorm after a basketball game, smashing windows with bottles and bricks. Holmes and Hunter were suspended, and the Georgia State Patrol escorted them back to their homes in Atlanta that night. A new court order was issued, and they returned to campus and resumed their classes.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault in her office at the PBS “MacNeil/Lehrer Report” in 1983.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault in her office at the PBS “MacNeil/Lehrer Report” in 1983.

After Hunter’s graduation in 1963, she took a job as an editorial assistant at The New Yorker, where she eventually became the first African American staff writer. She then worked as a television reporter and evening anchor for the local NBC station in Washington, D.C. She returned to print media in 1968, establishing The New York Times’ Harlem bureau. From 1978 until 1997, she worked for the MacNeil/Lehrer Report, which became PBS NewsHour. In 1997, she became chief correspondent in Africa for National Public Radio. She left NPR in 1999 to join CNN, where she served as bureau chief and correspondent, based in Johannesburg, South Africa, until 2005.

During her career, Hunter received numerous awards, including two National News and Documentary Emmy Awards and two Peabody Awards.

“The view of the world that I developed and refined as a student at UGA helped me become a successful journalist and person,” Hunter-Gault said.

But for both Holmes and Hunter, their legacies go far beyond their time at UGA and their distinguished careers.

“I’m calling for a coalition of generations so that the things that were important achievements in my generation are looked at so that they can be built upon in the next generation,” Hunter-Gault said.

Giving Voice to the Voiceless

At the 2018 Holmes-Hunter Lecture, Hunter-Gault passed the proverbial baton to the next generation.

“It’s truly time for every citizen, no matter your age, to get woke,” she told the crowd. “And that means helping keep our democracy safe, and it means doing the hard work of digging for good information with a variety of sources.”

She spoke about her time at UGA and what students today can learn from it.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault meets with students from Cedar Shoals and Clarke Central high schools outside of the Chapel before delivering the Holmes-Hunter Lecture in February 2018. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

Alumna Charlayne Hunter-Gault meaning with a group of local high school students from Cedar Shoals and Clarke Central High School outside of the Chapel before delivering the Holmes-Hunter Lecture.

“I want to share a little of my life with you today in the hope that you will be inspired, or further inspired, to make sure that your armor is fitted and polished so that you can help bind wounds and defeat the kind of divisions that are tearing at the fabric of our nation,” she said to those in attendance, including members of Holmes’ family.

To that end, she and her husband, Ronald Gault, started the Giving Voice to the Voiceless endowment, which provides grants to university students to promote social justice and global understanding.

“I wanted to do something that would help inspire young people,” she said.

The first grant recipients were announced recently, and their projects reflect Hunter-Gault’s legacy of courage, bravery and fearlessness.

Abha Rai, a doctoral candidate in the School of Social Work, received a grant to study domestic violence within South Asian immigrant communities.

“I want to be that voice for my community. I want to understand domestic violence and maybe even someday help end domestic violence,” she said. “This project is the perfect opportunity for my own voice to be heard in an area of research where people are understudied and not much is known about them.”

Steve Armour, an archivist with the University Libraries, received a grant to create an oral history with African American alumni who attended the university in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The interviewer for the project will be a student who will conduct background research on what that time was like at UGA in order to develop the right questions.

“These are students who attended UGA in the years following the desegregation of the university,” Armour said. “We often hear about the experience of Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Hamilton Holmes, but there are generations of students who followed them that this project is going to focus on.”

For Armour, it’s about continuing the conversation.

“They [Holmes and Hunter-Gault] reached these amazing heights that I think in turn have inspired subsequent generations,” he said.

Kyla Brinkley, who graduated with degrees in public relations and English in May 2018, continues to feel Hunter-Gault’s impact.

“Charlayne Hunter-Gault is a prime example of black excellence and what you can do to have an impact on people around you,” she said. “The fact that she still chooses to give back to students at UGA and continues to fuel minority students to pursue the things that she was able to pursue is really powerful.”

Brinkley was the first Charlayne Hunter-Gault Intern for Chess and Community, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering youth.

For their part, this generation of students and alumni have been an inspiration to Hunter-Gault.

“They are the giants, now, on whose shoulders the next generations will stand,” she said. “Even though they are quite young, they’ve demonstrated that they have a consciousness about the values in our democratic promise. Everywhere I look, I see them working to ensure that.”

Inspect-All Services: Most Years on Bulldog 100 List – 9th Straight Year

University of Georgia alumni and siblings Brian Lunsford (AB ’02) and Brandon Lunsford (AB ’02) both graduated with Political Science degrees and now own and run Inspect-All Services, the company with the most years on the Bulldog 100 list. Inspect-All Services provides high-quality termite, pest and wildlife control, as well as home inspection services for real estate transactions, and other home services. They offer their services in metro Atlanta and the surrounding region, as well as in the Jacksonville, FL area. Learn how the Lunsford brothers grew their company by a mind-boggling 4,000% in just over a decade and how Inspect-All Services continues to be one of the 100 fastest-growing businesses owned or operated by UGA alumni each year.

First, tell us a little bit about your UGA experience, what did you love about it?

Brian: I have so many wonderful memories at UGA.  From the fun college town of Athens itself, to the friendships, the football, Larry Munson, tailgating, downtown, Guthrie’s, my classes, The Red & Black—just to name a few!  The summer of 2001 when I studied at Oxford University in England with my fellow UGA students still stands as one of my favorite periods of time in college.  I gained perspective on life that only an experience like that affords.  I’ll always be grateful for my time at the University of Georgia!

Brandon:  My time at UGA and in Athens was unforgettable.  I’ll always cherish the memories including UGA football games, north campus, downtown nights, intramural sports, cramming for exams, concerts and hanging out with what would become lifelong friends.  My biggest regret is that I did it all in just four years instead of taking longer!

How did you get started with Inspect-All Services?

Brandon:  After graduating college, I decided to join our dad’s small pest control company part-time prior to jumping into a “real career”.  It started off as a way for me to take life easy for a bit, work a little, but mainly it gave me the flexibility to take time off to travel.  Once I was exposed to the business aspect of the industry, I began to take it more seriously and eventually realized I could possibly make a great career out of it.  Brian soon joined me full-time and we began the process of taking the reins and growing the business.

Brian: Before becoming an entrepreneur and while still attending UGA, I was a sports producer at FOX-5/WAGA-TV in Atlanta.  While television was fun, I decided to shift my career into the exciting world of business.  When Brandon and I acquired the company from our dad, we were the only two employees and wore a lot of hats.  We were our company’s techs, salesmen and office staff (answering forwarded phone calls from customers on a cell phone in the truck).  Good times!  We started to realize that showing up on time, treating people right and providing outstanding service, led to more business.  That part was simple for us because our mom and dad instilled those values in us as children.  Before we knew it, it was time to hire our first of many employees as business owners.  Doing things the “right way” made it easy for customers to trust us and want to continue to do business with our company.  Those early lessons learned in life and in business laid the foundation for our success and still has an important influence on our company to this day.  We now have around 100 dedicated team members who show up on time, treat folks with respect and provide excellent services to our loyal customers.

What steps did you take early on to begin the explosive growth?

Brian: When Brandon and I were able to leave the field and get in front of our computers, the growth really took off.  Our first major change was bringing technology to the company. We created a website and made sure we were on reputable consumer sites such as Angie’s List, Yelp and Groupon. We understood the importance of taking risks, especially early on as business owners.  For example, we aggressively implemented a “loss leader” approach by running discounted offers for our services on deal sites, then providing those customers with such a high level of service that they would decide to use our company long-term.  We were one of the first pest control companies to send emails to customers the day before service containing a photo of the technician scheduled to arrive. While our competitors were putting lots of energy into face-to-face meetings with other business owners, setting up company booths at local festivals and mailing out flyers, we opted for a more far-reaching strategy by making our online profile paramount.  We built that online presence by ensuring that our reputation was impeccable.

Brandon:  We saw an opportunity and pounced on it, mainly by focusing on things that other companies in our industry were not doing at the time.  Many pest control and home inspection companies are pretty cookie-cutter, and we were naïve to all of that—which ultimately benefitted us because we used a new common-sense approach rather than traditional thinking. We asked questions like, “Why are they doing it like this?” “Doesn’t this other way make more sense?” We were fresh right out of college with an analytical mindset, and we were determined to find better ways to run our business.  I would say most of the technological advancements and digital marketing we did in the early years were self-taught, and in turn gave us a huge advantage over our competitors. We were at UGA in the late 1990s to early 2000s so we got really familiar with computers through our work in college. That technological knowledge gave us an advantage since most of our competitors were run by folks who were a generation older than us and who wouldn’t have had the exposure to computers and technology we had at UGA. We also believe being graduates of UGA gave us credibility to others and validated that we were going to run a legitimate business and provide a great value to our customers.

Inspect-All Services team

Inspect-All Services team

Inspect-All Services has been on the Bulldog 100 list every year since 2011, what do you attribute to your continued success?

Brian: Creating and then sustaining a climate of honesty met with highly efficient communication–both with our customers and internally with our team–has been very important to our success.  Also, implementing innovative ways to do things has reaped huge benefits for our customers and our team.  Technology’s role within our company is to create convenience and peace of mind for our customers, while at the same time making our team members’ jobs easier.  For instance, using infrared cameras to expose hidden pest issues behind walls, deploying drones to survey roofs during home inspections and emailing digital proposals and reminders to our customers.  In the end, it’s a win for both our customers and our team.

Brandon: Hard work and dedication for sure, but most importantly, our unwavering desire to provide our customers with outstanding service and value.  We haven’t tried to conquer the world in one swoop and have always taken good care of each and every customer.  We’ve grown very quickly without any acquisitions or mergers by building our business one customer at a time.

What has been the most surprising thing about owning your own company?

Brian: We are constantly amazed by the high volume of positive customer feedback our team receives.  According to our Angie’s List rep, we have more positive customer reviews than any other pest control and home inspection company on Angie’s List in the United States.  Across all platforms, we currently have thousands of A+ verified online customer reviews, which speaks to our company’s core value of integrity.  This continuous cycle of outstanding customer care met by glowing customer reviews, creates a wonderfully dynamic feedback loop that ties directly to our growth rate.  Prospective customers read these reviews and often attribute the positive customer feedback from their peers as the primary reason they decided to hire our company.

Brandon: I think owning our own company has been more gratifying than we thought since we have the ability to provide so many jobs and a good quality of life for our employees. We have close to 100 employees now, and are largely responsible for them owning cars and buying homes. Being a part of that is surprising, and we are grateful to help them achieve their dreams. We have grown 4,000% in about a 10-year span and averaged around 40% growth per year.

What has been the most challenging thing about owning your own company?

Brian: One of our biggest challenges in the early years was the hiring process.  Learning better ways to acquire and then properly vet candidates has been key to our company landing talented professionals.  Our management team has created an outstanding environment for new hires to flourish.  Therefore, we are fortunate to not have too much turnover.  Once folks are here, they typically do not want to leave.  We take pride in the fact that along with the growth, comes the opportunity to enrich the lives of our team and give back to our communities through volunteer work and charity.  Over the years, we have been fortunate to run a fast-growing company, and our people are the key to that success.

Brandon: I think keeping up with the growth has been the most challenging. We have the difficult job of maintaining a balance between a healthy company and a fast-paced company. Sometimes you can outgrow yourself, and if you don’t have the systems in place to handle the growth, it can be difficult.

Do you have any advice for future Bulldog entrepreneurs?

Brian: Adhere to your core values in everything that you do and make sure your team maintains that standard as well.

Brandon: Think different to grow quickly.  Status quo is not the road to take if you want to stand apart from your competition.

UGA Founders Week: It started here.

The Abraham Baldwin statue dressed with an Alumni Association scarf and a wreath of magnolia branches around the base of the statue for Founder's Week with Old College in the background.

The Abraham Baldwin statue dressed for Founders Week with an Alumni Association scarf and a wreath of magnolia branches around his feet. Old College in the background.

Each January, we proudly celebrate UGA’s birthday – on the 27th of this month, we’ll be 234! More importantly, it marks our place in history as the birthplace of public higher education in America. To commemorate the occasion, the UGA Alumni Association and the Student Alumni Association will host a weeklong series of events:

Monday, Jan. 28

  • Founders Week T-shirt Giveaway
  • 17th annual Founders Day Lecture featuring Dr. Freda Scott Giles

Tuesday, Jan. 29

  • Tradition Tuesday

Wednesday, Jan. 30

  • State of the University Address in the UGA Chapel

Thursday, Jan. 31

  • 100 Days ‘Til Graduation Celebration in Memorial Hall

Friday, Feb. 1

  • Founders Day Celebration
Dr. Freda Scott Giles

Dr. Freda Scott Giles

The highlight of the week will be the annual Founders Day Lecture, hosted in partnership with the Office of the President, Provost’s Office and UGA Emeriti Scholars. The lecture is held in the UGA Chapel at 1:30 p.m. and is open to the public. We hope you’ll join us! The 2019 lecture, “W.E.B. Du Bois: Dramatist,” will be presented by Freda Scott Giles, Ph.D., associate professor emerita of theatre and film studies and African-American studies at UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

In 1785, we sparked a movement that continues to shape our nation – join us as we recognize our historic commitment to public higher education in America.

Be a part of the birthday celebrations! Learn more at alumni.uga.edu/foundersweek.

Q&A with UGA Alumna Ebonie Medious

Alumni Spotlight: Ebonie Medious (AB ’17, AB ’17)

My name is Ebonie Medious and I graduated from UGA in 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts in communications studies from Franklin College and a Bachelor of Arts in international affairs from SPIA. I also minored in global health. I’m originally from Hampton, Georgia, and almost attended LSU. However, I ultimately chose the University of Georgia after spending a weekend with Georgia Daze, an overnight campus visitation program. I loved every moment of being on campus so I had to come to UGA! I started getting involved with the Alumni Association while I was still a student by donating to the Student Alumni Association.

I currently live in San Francisco and work for LinkedIn as an associate program manager in inclusion recruiting. I’m thankful for UGA and the Alumni Association as it’s given me opportunities to stay connected and feel at home in a brand-new city. When I moved to California, I sought out the Bay Area Alumni Association as a way to meet new people who had something common with me.

 

Q&A with Ebonie

  1. What was your favorite class at Georgia?

Foreign Policy Decision Making

  1. What advice would you give to graduating seniors and recent graduates?

Be open to all opportunities that come your way and connect with your classmates on LinkedIn!

  1. Describe Athens in three words.

Southern, Hospitality, Charming

  1. Describe UGA in three words.

The Arch, Tailgates, Tate

  1. What is your favorite thing to do in your current city?

Visit the wineries in Napa Valley.  

  1. What did you think you would be when you grew up? Do you still have plans to become that?

I thought I was going to be a corporate attorney. But, I don’t think I have it in me to go through another round of school again.

  1. What is the most important lesson you learned in college?

Getting a C in a class is not the end of the world!

  1. What do you know for sure? What will you never understand?

The University of Georgia is by far the best institution to attend! I will never understand what makes other institutions’ alumni think that their school is better than UGA!

Sock Fancy: The Most Subscribable Bulldog 100 Company

The UGA Alumni Association interviewed Stefan Lewinger (AB ’11), CEO of Sock Fancy, the “Most Subscribable Bulldog 100 Company.” The Bulldog 100 celebrates Dawgs on top by recognizing the 100 fastest-growing businesses owned or operated by UGA alumni each year.

  1. Tell our readers a little bit about your story. How did you end up starting Sock Fancy?

Our story starts almost six years ago, 2013, in a house that my co-founder and I shared. We were each other’s springboards for ideas, and we were just a few years out of Georgia. We were navigating a challenging job market at the time, and we found it annoying that we couldn’t find durable and good-looking socks. Everything could be delivered to your door, but we were still traveling to department stores and waiting in lines to buy socks. We wanted to change the way people talked about socks. I built our first version of the website, and I cobbled a site together. We wanted to get to market as fast as possible and we knew it would take a while to develop our own line. We started as a curation service and that allowed us some time to learn what customers liked or didn’t like about different styles, etc. We did seven different factories and 20 fabrics before we found what worked. Everyday crew socks that didn’t have the compromises found in the market at the time. We knew we needed to have a really great product.

  1. We know you offer an innovative monthly subscription service; can you elaborate about what other services you provide?

Subscription is our main focus – we wanted to change people’s minds about socks. We get that there are people that won’t subscribe but want to buy in packs or customizable. We do also offer custom corporate boxes – we have created some for companies like Chick-fil-A and Coca-Cola. We really like dealing with different companies, their stories, and why they might be interested in this product to show off their brand. They can show off their personality which is really important to brands right now. We had people who were subscribers and asked if we could make a custom version for them. You could say we kind of got pushed into this world and started our own program.

  1. What has been the most surprising part of running your own company?

I think the most surprising part has been the fulfillment or satisfaction from employing really good people. For the first 2-3 years it was just me and my partner. We were nervous to start bringing on employees but it has been nothing but the greatest experience to be able to provide salaries, a great work place, and fun for others. We have seven full-time employees and eight part-time employees – helping them pay for their house and car is one of my proudest achievements.

  1. What’s the number one thing you learned at UGA that has prepared you for what you are doing now?

I really learned the idea of sharpening my networking skills; a lot of it has to do with my experience at Georgia and that it is such a large community. Georgia was a microcosm of the entrepreneurial world where people are all looking for their place and role in the world – it’s allowed me to connect and build community with other entrepreneurs.

  1. What’s your favorite pair of socks right now?

My favorite pair is planetariums; it has a bunch of stars and planets on it – so I am nerd at heart.

  1. What do you enjoy about being an entrepreneur?

I love being able to employ hard-working and talented people, and I love the idea of being able to create something that people love, use, and enjoy. That you can really shape your own future and brighten other peoples’ lives along the way is humbling and exciting.

  1. What do you think are some of the values that have made you successful or what do you value as a company?

Our motto and our words to live by are “elevate the everyday, every month.” We want both our members and our employees to have a great experience – we strive to make the everyday extraordinary. We aren’t saving the world, but we are making really great socks. And if we can make everything a little bit better, that’s our goal. We really strive to make the mundane a little more magical.

  1. Do you have any advice for future Bulldog entrepreneurs? 

Luckily, you have a leg up if you are going to the University of Georgia. I want to borrow from Nike and say “Just Do It.” There are risks and you’re going to have convince yourself, but you just have to start. Starting is the hardest part. Odds are you will fail, but you can’t let it stop your dreams. Focus on the bigger pictures and get going – if you’re smart and a savvy, hungry person, you will make it work.

Maria Taylor shares her experiences with future leaders

Maria Taylor (ABJ ’09, MBA ’13) is an alumna who models what it means to be committed to the University of Georgia. Most recently, Maria participated in the Terry Leadership Speaker Series where she shared her wisdom and experiences with UGA students 

A breakthrough reporter on the national stage, Maria became the first black female to co-host ESPN’s College Gameday, and she is currently in her second season. Maria has a passion for developing leaders–whether it is through her charity, The Winning Edge Leadership Academy, or by serving on the Grady Society Alumni Board 

As a double Dawg, Maria earned her bachelor’s degree in broadcast news in 2009, and her MBA in 2013. She was a student athlete in two sports: basketball and volleyball. During the Terry event in the UGA Chapel, Maria was interviewed by Kendall Kazor (BBA ’19), a fellow UGA volleyball alumna.

Opportunities are nearly endless for graduates to return to campus–like Maria–and share their advice and experiences with fellow students. Interested? The UGA Alumni Association can help connect you with the right person on campus.

UGA named No. 13 Best Public University by U.S. News & World Report

As University of Georgia alumni and friends strengthen their commitment to UGA year over year, the world is taking notice—U.S. News & World Report named UGA No. 13 on its list of 2019 Best Public Universities.

This ranking (up three spots from last year’s ranking) represents the power of the ever-increasing support UGA has received in the last several years, particularly from alumni—in fact, a “loyal alumni participation number” factors into the U.S. News & World Report ranking.

Our alumni’s support is critical to UGA’s success, and the stronger UGA becomes, the more accomplished and engaged our alumni become. Yvette Dupree (BBA ’03, MAT ’07, PHD ’12), a member of the Young Alumni Council, is an example of our motivated alumni who understand this well.

“The Young Alumni Council wants alumni to realize that their gifts are vitally important to the university’s ranking and our reputation around the world,” said Yvette. “The better the ranking, the better it is for alumni. It’s a win-win.”

“The Young Alumni Council wants alumni to realize that their gifts are vitally important to the university’s ranking and our reputation around the world. The better the ranking, the better it is for alumni. It’s a win-win.”

Alumni organizations like these empower our alumni and, in turn, empower the university. Our alumni chapters are ready to welcome Georgia Bulldogs all over the world, help them stay connected to UGA, and make sure they never bark alone.

To those who have made a gift to UGA in the last year, thank you for your continued commitment to your alma mater. If you have not already made a gift, please learn more about the Commit to Georgia Campaign and consider making a gift today to count in upcoming rankings.

Alumni spotlight: Chuck McCarthy

We caught up with Chuck McCarthy (AB ’03), artist, actor and founder of The People Walker, to talk about how his UGA experience led him to an unexpected, but satisfying, career path. McCarthy’s one-of-a-kind business is a combination of the services provided by a personal trainer and a dog walker. The People Walker’s mission is to connect people who want to go on a walk with walking partners.

Chuck McCarthy, The People Walker

What did you want to be when you grew up?                      

I wanted to go into medicine because my grandfather was a doctor. I originally started school as a pre-med major but then went into the art school. I didn’t know what I specifically wanted to be, but I knew I had to do something creative. Art school prepared me for life because it was so subjective. There was no right or wrong answer for most things in the art world. That’s true for a lot of things when you graduate.

Walk me through the foundation of your business, The People Walker. Tell me about the very first moment this brilliant idea came about.

At first, the idea came up as a joke. I was looking for a way to make money while getting more exercise, so I thought about being a dog walker. But I didn’t want to pick up dog poop. There’s a lot of personal trainers and dog walkers in Los Angeles, so I thought maybe I’ll just start walking with people.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there were people who would want or need this service. People could use my company for two services: motivation and safety. We know that we need exercise but it can be hard to motivate ourselves to walk. Even the most motivated people need someone to hold themselves accountable. Then, safety was also an essential service. A few years ago, my mom went on a walk alone in the woods and fell. She broke her leg in about seven different places. People need safety from falling down, being alone, being cat-called or being bothered by others.

Chuck McCarthy, The People Walker

What is your favorite thing to do in Los Angeles?

I love to go on hikes. Even with all the walking I do, I still find myself finding new paths in the park that I live next to. You feel like an explorer when you find new places by yourself. There’s a book about a lot of the secret stairs here in L.A. but I’ve been reluctant to read it because I want to find them myself.

What advice would you give to graduating seniors and recent graduates?

Find a job and don’t be scared to do something that isn’t exactly what you want to do. But, don’t feel like you have to stay in that job. A lot of times, people discover that they are working at a job that can lead to other opportunities. Get your foot in the door, but don’t get your foot stuck in the door. That sounds like a good saying, right?

What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken that resulted in the most rewarding outcome?

Moving to California was a pretty big risk. It led to the life that I live today.

What do you know for sure?

There are always gonna be problems in life. But life is really about trying to deal with those problems. It’s always easier to deal with those problems if you have the help and support from other people.

What will you never understand? 

Why someone would go anywhere other than UGA.

Is there anything you wish you could change when looking back at your career decisions? 

No, because I think that everything you do leads to the next part of your life. You can’t be in this moment right now in your life without having made the mistakes that you’ve made, the wins that you’ve had and the right decisions you’ve made – you went to the high school, you went to and played whatever sports you did as a kid. Whether or not you won or lost a game, passed or failed the test, or lost money or made money that has led up to where you are in your life. You can’t really get rid of one thing without getting rid of everything else.

Brandon Stewart (BBA ’06) dishes on becoming a Jimmy John’s franchisee

Written by Liz Powell (BS ’06, ABJ ’06), a member of the Young Alumni Leadership Council.

Brandon Stewart had big plans of becoming a pilot before starting school at UGA, but after arriving in Athens he decided to become a lawyer instead. However, a critical piece of advice from Earl Leonard, the namesake of the Terry College of Business Leonard Leadership Fellows program, changed everything.

He asked Leonard about his tips for success after law school even though Stewart wasn’t sure he wanted to be a lawyer. Leonard replied, “Brandon, if you don’t want to be a lawyer, for goodness sakes, don’t go to law school.”

From that moment on, Stewart stopped following the path he felt he should take and instead, created his own. That path originally led him to pursue a career in finance, but after several years of working in investment banking and private equity, Stewart determined that he wanted to work more closely with people.

This led him to Jimmy John’s, where he became a franchisee, and opened his first store in Birmingham, Alabama in 2011. Today, he owns 52 Jimmy John’s locations across the Southeast. He credits his success to this mantra: “My employees are the most important part of my business and I will always treat them with respect and fairness.”

Brandon with his wife, Elizabeth, and son, George.

Stewart resides in Birmingham, and when he’s not traveling for work, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Elizabeth, and his 2-year old son, George. He also makes time to give back to the local community by volunteering with the Phoenix Club of Birmingham, Boys and Girls Club of Central Alabama and Birmingham Zoo.

We caught up with him and asked a few questions about his time at UGA and how he’s making an impact in his community, today.

Favorite class at UGA
“Lessons in Leadership,” taught by Pat Pittard, executive-in-residence at Terry College. He taught me to read the Wall Street Journal every day. He also showed me that I want to, and should, teach to inspire others after retirement.

Most memorable college experience
The first time I walked out of my dorm on football Saturday. I had no idea.

Athens in three words
Southern, nostalgic and easygoing.

The importance of UGA
UGA means so much for me and completely changed my life. I’ve reinvested about every single dollar I have made in my business and employees, but giving back to UGA is on my mind all of the time. I cannot wait for my business to reach a mature point to enable additional giving.

Advice to graduating seniors and recent graduates
Build a network, read often and never stop learning.

UGA gardens recognized as some of Georgia’s most charming landscapes

One of the finest things about UGA is its breathtaking landscapes. The book “Seeking Eden: A Collection of Georgia’s Historic Gardens” features three of UGA’s most recognized green spaces — the President’s House and Garden, the Founders Memorial Garden and North Campus.

Seeking Eden Authors

“Seeking Eden,” written by Staci L. Catron and Mary Ann Eaddy, takes readers through the rich history and current appearance of 30 Georgia gardens in detail and alongside beautiful imagery, photographed by James R. Lockhart. The highlighted landscapes were first recognized in the early 20th century publication, “Historic Gardens of Georgia, 1733-1933,” published by Peachtree Garden Club.

Seeking Eden book cover

The publishing of “Seeking Eden” was supported by a $75,000 gift from the Mildred Miller Fort Foundation in Columbus, Georgia. All proceeds from the book sales will benefit the Garden Club of Georgia’s Historic Landscape Preservation grants and scholarship program.

Order your copy of “Seeking Eden: A Collection of Georgia’s Historic Gardens” on UGA Press today.