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Betting on Bulldogs: John Shurley’s legacy of entrepreneurship at UGA

Each year, the University of Georgia Alumni Association unveils the Bulldog 100, a list of the 100 fastest-growing businesses owned or operated by UGA alumni. The 2021 Bulldog 100 celebrated organizations from over two dozen industries, including agriculture, construction, health care, nonprofits and software.

Powered by the expertise of Warren Averett CPAs and Advisors, the program celebrates Dawgs on top and demonstrates the incredible value of a degree from UGA.

There is one unforgettable member of the Bulldog 100 community: John Shurley. Without his early commitment to the program and dedicated leadership ever since, Bulldog 100 would not be possible. John has supported the program with his facts, figures and insights for over a decade.

Joining the Bulldog 100 community

John is a proud Bulldog, earning his bachelor’s degree in accounting from UGA in 1977. As a student, he was an active member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity.

John Shurley

John Shurley (third from right) with his fraternity brothers in 1977.

The UGA Office of Alumni Relations first approached John with the idea of starting a program to celebrate successful alumni entrepreneurs in 2007. John was an early backer of this startup idea. His love for UGA – and his support for hard-working business leaders – were invaluable in getting the Bulldog 100 off the ground.

John and his Atlanta office of Warren Averett have been Bulldog 100 partners since the program began in 2009. Warren Averett verifies financial information submitted by each company to determine the 100 fastest-growing, alumni-owned businesses. Bulldog 100 would not be possible without the generous sponsorship of John and his team.

Leaving his mark

From the beginning, John and the associates of Warren Averett provided pro bono accounting work, verified applications and finalized a ranked list with sound calculations. His leadership perfected the Bulldog 100 verification process and fostered development within the Office of Alumni Relations.

John values the Bulldog 100 mission to lead and serve. He appreciates the diverse backgrounds of alumni who make the list, from pharmacy to forestry resources, and always highlighted them at the annual Bulldog 100 ceremony.

“I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the trust he placed in our team and for helping us realize our vision. His dedication has touched the lives of so many and put wind in the sails of countless alumni,” said Meredith Johnson Gurley, executive director of the UGA Alumni Association.

John’s legacy

John announced his retirement from Warren Averett last year. Though this year was our last with John helping lead Bulldog 100, his voice and guidance will be evident in the legacy of the Bulldog 100 for years to come. As an alumnus, champion of students and mentor to staff, John remains an integral member of the UGA family.

David Crabtree (BBA ’04), a fellow UGA graduate and accounting professional, will be assuming John’s position as a leader of the Bulldog 100.

“We look forward to working with David Crabtree at Warren Averett, who has been mentored by John these last few years – and what better preparation could he have?” said Meredith.

Where is John now?

John retired with his wife in St. Simons Island, Georgia. But no matter where John calls home, he will never bark alone. From Sanford Stadium to St. Simons, we’re ringing the bell in celebration of John’s impact on UGA.

Isakson gift caps $4.5 million fundraising effort for Parkinson’s research chair

The University of Georgia’s campaign to create the John H. “Johnny” Isakson Chair for Parkinson’s Research and Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) Eminent Scholar position reached its goal of $4.5 million in private commitments, and the final contributor was the former U.S. Senator for whom the chair is named.

“We are deeply honored that Senator Isakson (BBA ’66) has made this commitment to the university. His decades of service to our state and nation and his support of UGA and higher education inspired this entire effort,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “We also are very grateful for the generous gifts from additional individuals and organizations that are supporting this endowed position.”

The Isakson Chair and GRA Eminent Scholar position will help UGA attract a leading authority on brain disorders—with an emphasis on Parkinson’s, with which Isakson was diagnosed in 2015—to engage in teaching, research and public service. Fundraising for the chair attracted a variety of donors including individuals, businesses, foundations and more.

“I’m very proud to play a part in this effort,” said Isakson. “Of course, I’m honored that this position would carry my name, but more than anything, I am glad to see so many willing to give so much for this important cause. My deepest gratitude goes out to everyone who gave.”

A major supporter of the Isakson Chair and GRA Eminent Scholar position is the Georgia Research Alliance. GRA grows Georgia’s economy by expanding university research capacity and seeding and shaping startup companies around inventions and discoveries. UGA currently has 18 GRA Eminent Scholars on faculty, and a 19th is set to join the university in fall 2021.

The Isakson Chair and GRA Eminent Scholar will also be the director of UGA’s forthcoming Center for Brain Science and Neurological Disorders. Fundraising efforts are underway for the center, which will leverage UGA’s broad, comprehensive strengths to create an interdisciplinary program that will expand opportunities for collaborative and innovative solutions.

“I think the supporters of both the Isakson Chair and GRA Eminent Scholar and this new center understand the unique position UGA occupies and the potential for great work that comes with that,” said Kelly Kerner, vice president for development and alumni relations. “It’s very exciting, seeing these things come together and knowing that all the great work to come will honor a great man.”

Johnny Isakson

Isakson graduated from UGA in 1966 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in real estate. He met his future wife, Dianne, while both were UGA students, and they married in 1968. The year prior, he began working for Atlanta real estate firm Northside Realty, eventually serving as its president from 1979 to 1999.

His political career began in 1976, when he was elected to the first of seven terms in the Georgia House of Representatives. He was Republican minority leader in the Georgia House from 1983 to 1990. In 1993, he was elected to the Georgia State Senate, serving there until he was appointed chair of the state Board of Education by Gov. Zell Miller in 1996.

Isakson was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1999 and served as a U.S. representative until he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004. He was reelected to the U.S. Senate in 2010 and 2016. Among his duties in the U.S. Senate, he served as chair of the Committee on Veterans Affairs and chair of the Select Committee on Ethics.

After his 2015 diagnosis with Parkinson’s, Isakson continued to work in public service until his health compelled him to resign from the Senate on Dec. 31, 2019. In 2017, Isakson received the Fox Foundation’s Parkinson’s Advocacy Award for his work to improve the lives of people living with the disease and for his advocacy in funding new treatments.

National Weatherperson’s Day: Q&A with Alex Wallace (ABJ ’04)

Alex Wallace (ABJ ’04) is an on-camera meteorologist with The Weather Channel. After earning a degree in broadcast news from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, Alex earned a master’s degree in geosciences with an emphasis in broadcast meteorology from Mississippi State University. Since joining The Weather Channel on-camera in 2006, Alex has worked in both the studio and the field. He earned the 2012 John Drewry Award for Young Alumni Achievement from the Grady College.

In recognition of National Weatherperson’s Day (February 5), this weather-loving Bulldog shares what it’s like being an on-camera meteorologist and reflects on his time at the University of Georgia.

After studying broadcast news at UGA, what led you to pursue a career in meteorology?

I had a fascination with weather going back to when I was a little kid. Along with cartoons, I made sure to catch the local news and tune into the Weather Channel every day. So, I always knew I wanted to do something in broadcasting but wasn’t exactly sure what. Would it be behind the scenes or in front of the camera? At UGA, I combined my interest in broadcasting and weather to pursue a career in meteorology.

What lessons did the Grady College teach you that you still use today?

At Grady, I learned the different parts that come together to make a news broadcast. Before I did anything in front of the camera, I gained experience with everything from operating a teleprompter to directing. This was a great help for when I finally stepped in front of the camera. It allowed me to understand each person’s contribution to the show and how important they were. That understanding continues to this day. I appreciate all the people that come together to produce TV.

 

headshot of Alex

What is the most interesting weather event you have reported on?

Hurricane Florence in 2018. I was positioned in Fayetteville, North Carolina. It came in and decided it didn’t want to leave. It dumped a ton of rain on the region. I was out covering the storm for more than a week. It ended up knocking out power for several days so it was “fun” being in the dark and taking cold showers for a few days. The moment power came back was one of the greatest moments of my life. It was fascinating to see one of the rivers that flows through the city slowly rise while we were there. I’m talking about a 40-foot rise in a few days. Of course, that led to flooding, which made getting around impossible because so many roads were closed. More importantly, people’s homes were inundated and this was the sad part about the whole experience: knowing we are at the mercy of Mother Nature.

What is a part of your job that many people may not know about?

I think people might be surprised to know that 90% of everything I say on-air is ad-libbed. Sure, there are a few things that are scripted like introducing an interview or weather story, but otherwise it is mostly ad-libbed.

 

Alex Wallace and friend pose with Harry Dawg on a game day

Alex Wallace (ABJ ’04) and Thomas Goodhew (ABJ ’05) pose with Harry Dawg on a Saturday game day in Athens.

What is your favorite UGA tradition and why?

G-Day! Being out of school, Georgia football is a great excuse to get back to Athens and enjoy some time in the Classic City. I’m looking forward to when I can bring my son out to enjoy some time in Sanford Stadium.

Do you have any advice for students seeking a career in meteorology?

The best advice I have is to make sure you truly love it. That advice can be applied to any career choice. The No. 1 reason you should choose your career is because you have a passion for it. It’ll make going to work so much more enjoyable and engaging. This is especially true when it comes to being an on-camera meteorologist. You can’t fake it. People watching can tell if your heart is in it. When they see that it is, they feel they can trust you. Trust is super important when it comes to weather forecasting.

Your support today will help prepare tomorrow’s trustworthy news broadcasters and meteorologists.

UGA athletics director pledges $100K to need-based aid

Josh Brooks (MS ’14), the newly named J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics at the University of Georgia, recently pledged $100,000 to create a need-based scholarship that will support UGA students from Athens-Clarke County.

“This generous gift reaffirms Josh’s commitment to the success of University of Georgia students,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “I am very excited about the future of UGA Athletics with Josh at the helm, and this scholarship gift is a terrific start to his tenure. Need-based aid is a vital tool to improve our university, so we are grateful to Josh for his support in that area.”

Brooks’ pledge came less than a week after he became UGA’s 12th director of athletics, his seventh post in 11 years working for the university’s athletic association.

“I love this town, this community, and I want to help make a difference here locally,” said Brooks. “I have three children who go to school here in Athens-Clarke County, I live here in Athens, and I’m aware of how many kids are in need in this county, so it is important to me to help these students find a pathway to the University of Georgia.”

Brooks’ gift will create a Georgia Commitment Scholarship (GCS), adding to the more than 550 endowed, need-based scholarships created under the GCS program since its launch in January 2017. These scholarships will be awarded in perpetuity and provide recipients with support through special on-campus programming in partnership with the Division of Academic Enhancement.

“Our new director of athletics has only been in the role a week, and he’s already making a positive impact at UGA,” said Kelly Kerner, UGA vice president for development and alumni relations. “Josh’s belief in the power of a UGA education—and the support he’s demonstrated as a result—will open doors for generations of students.”

Marlise O. Harrell, 1969

The scholarship, which will be named the Marlise O. Harrell Georgia Commitment Scholarship, honors Brooks’ late mother-in-law.

“Education was always important to her, it was something she always stressed with my children, her grandchildren,” said Brooks. “She had a heart of gold, and she was someone who always put other people first in everything she did.”

This gift is the latest example of Brooks’ support for the Athens-Clarke County community. He was heavily involved in the creation and implementation of the “Dawgs for Pups” initiative benefitting Athens-Clarke County students. The initiative has, to date, provided Wi-Fi hotspots and organized food and coat drives for grade-school students.

“For me, charity starts locally,” said Brooks. “So, when I was blessed with the opportunity to become director of athletics, I felt the responsibility to give back. The University of Georgia has done so much for me, and I felt it was important that I give back in a way that supports the university and the community I love.”

UGA helped Kaitlin Miller to “serve well and wholeheartedly”

Kaitlin Miller (AB ’13, AB ’13, ABJ ’13) is passionate about the people in her life. They inspire her, they guide her and they even helped her become a Bulldog.

“UGA was a natural choice for me for several reasons,” said Kaitlin. “It was close to home. My older sister went there, and I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. Some colleges are so specialized, but UGA had so much breadth that allowed me to test, try and experience.”

Kaitlin triple majored in International Affairs in the School of Public and International Affairs, Public Relations in Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and Economics in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, enjoying the variety of coursework offered by all three schools.

She also participated in the Honors Program and the Student Government Association, and she was a tour leader at the UGA Visitor’s Center and a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, Palladia, Sphinx Society, Dean William Tate Society and Blue Key. All along the way, she built friendships that she maintains and treasures to this day.

Kaitlin’s favorite memory at UGA is homecoming week of her senior year. She was on the homecoming court and remembers feeling that Bulldog spirit all over campus all week long: everywhere she went and in every meeting she attended. She was amazed to see generations of alumni coming home to Athens to attend the game.

As an official ending to her college career, she gave a speech at graduation. An avid runner, she recalls running through campus, weeks beforehand, with her speech on a loop in her head. She hoped to honor those who invested in her. She recalls it was one of those moments where God carried her through.

Kaitlin’s advice to current students, “Humble yourself enough to seek counsel from those wiser than you.”

Everything that the Triple Dawg learned in her studies, through balancing extracurriculars, classes and leadership roles and by surrounding herself with people she looks up to has paid off. Kaitlin has worked at Chick-fil-A since she graduated and has served in several roles along the way: Digital Marketing, Hospitality Trainer, International Learning Designer and, currently, the Menu Team.

“I get to work with phenomenal people who are wise and kind with a strong sense of purpose and significance,” said Kaitlin.

Today, she serves as leader of Chick-fil-A’s UGA Alumni Corporate Chapter. There are currently 300 UGA alumni either on staff or operating Chick-fil-A restaurants. They like to invest in students through the connect-hire-give initiative by both mentoring and giving to Let All the Big Dawgs Eat program, a need-based food scholarship program.

“We’re a restaurant; it makes perfect sense for us to feed hungry kids and let them focus on school and leadership,” said Kaitlin.

She just finished graduate school in May. When asked what’s next, she said, “I just try to make the most of each day; serve well and wholeheartedly.”

Isobel Mills (BFA ’12) made her passion her profession thanks to a UGA education

Isobel Mills (BFA ’12) is always eager to try new things. As a child, Mills was interested in puzzles, building with Legos and drawing. She was always drawn to texture and she found a way to bring texture to life through ceramics.

She knew she wanted to major in art, but once she was accepted into the Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia, she discovered the parallels between ceramics and fabrics. Once she learned to sew, there was no turning back.

“When I see a picture or a painting, I think of how to make it textural. I always see pleats,” said Mills.

She moved to New York a month after she graduated and spent the next eight years working and learning.

“My UGA degree prepared me to do many different things, and I tried many different things—from interior design to jewelry design—but I never worked as a fabric designer, so I continued to create my own fabric designs when I wasn’t working,” said Mills.

“I decided to quit my job at the end of 2016. I then made it my job to learn the business. Consequently, I made a pattern a day, learned new skills by watching YouTube videos, got certified in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop and met with everyone I knew to network and pick their brains. Turns out people really and truly want to help, so don’t ever be afraid to ask—that one took me a while to learn.”

She officially launched ISOBEL in May of 2018 in NYC because she lived up the block from her dream showroom, Studio Four NYC. She knew that was where her line belonged, and she wasn’t moving until that dream became a reality. Once she got accepted into that showroom, the first domino fell: Other showrooms began reaching out, and her line slowly grew. She moved back to Georgia nearly two years later once she felt that her line had a presence.

Mills stayed in close contact with some of her UGA professors who gave her invaluable advice along the way on how to get started. One of her professors, Clay McLaurin, was five years into his launching his own brand as well, and he happily shared his experience and wisdom with her.

Her hard work eventually paid off. In addition to her online presence, her fabrics are featured in seven showrooms across the country.

Mills’ favorite memories at UGA are the times she spent with classmates and friends. She recalled the many hours outside the classroom that she spent working on projects and the enduring friendships that were born out of those long hours. For years, she’s met up with friends she met through her sorority for one football game a year, even when she lived in New York.

Her advice for current students: “Listen to your internal voice. Always do what you love, don’t give up and you will find a way to make your passion your profession.”

These days, Mills serves on the Board of Visitors at Lamar Dodd. She feels honored to sit on a board with people who have so much experience and for whom she has so much respect. She feels called to give back to the school that gave so much to her.

Calculus tutoring, broken teeth and California: the Aikens have a one-of-a-kind UGA story

Andrew (BS ’97) and Ashley Aiken (BS ’97) are an impressive pair. Andrew is one of Atlanta’s top oral surgeons, with a private practice regularly named among the city’s best. Ashley is a nationally recognized educator and researcher in neuroradiology. But this power couple can trace their origin to an ecology course and calculus tutoring at UGA.

Ashley was always a very motivated student and knew early on that she wanted to go to medical school, so she pursued a biology degree at UGA while in the Honors Program.

Andrew’s undergraduate course was set after conversations with an advisor. He didn’t have Ashley’s singular purpose, but he did know that he liked sciences and the outdoors, so he became an ecology major.

Ashley and Andrew met each other through mutual friends early on in their time at UGA. They hit it off, but it wasn’t until their third year that someone made a move.

“I signed up for an ecology class he was in, which was… let’s say it wouldn’t have been a class I’d normally look into,” said Ashley.

It wasn’t long before Andrew reciprocated: “I asked her to tutor me in calculus, which, if I’m honest, was really more about spending time with her than the calculus.”

After some nudging from their friends, the pair finally started dating. They both graduated in 1997, and while Ashley was ready to head to medical school, Andrew took some time to figure out his next steps. A clear path forward wasn’t coming to him, but a need for new veneers on three teeth that were broken a decade earlier playing tennis led Andrew to a life-changing visit with his dentist.

“I started talking with my dentist about what I wanted to do, and he started telling me about dentistry,” said Andrew. “I had been going to him for about 20 years, so we knew each other pretty well, so based on that and everything we talked about during these visits, he said he thought I’d be a good fit for it.”

So, Ashley enrolled at the Medical College of Georgia in 1997, and Andrew followed suit two years later to attend dental school.

After two years in Augusta, Andrew and Ashley married, in 2001. The newlyweds faced a difficult decision soon after. Ashley finished her internship in 2002 and was ready to begin her residency, but Andrew was still in the process of completing his dental degree.

They both wanted to attend The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), which had highly ranked programs in both of their areas. But to stay on track, Ashley would have to go a year ahead of Andrew. Seeing this as a chance they had to take, the Aikens decided to spend a year apart after having been married for just one year.

Andrew and Ashley at Andrew’s dental school graduation in 2003

This sacrifice would prove worthwhile. At UCSF, Ashley found her calling and was able to work with mentors who helped her set the course of her career while she completed a residency and fellowship. Once Andrew joined her, he earned his medical degree and completed an oral & maxillofacial surgery residency program at UCSF.

The Aikens also welcomed twin daughters, Frances and Olivia, while in California. And even though they were on the other end of the country, on fall Saturdays, they would gather with other Bulldogs at a bar called The Bus Stop to cheer on the Dawgs.

As Ashley was finishing up her fellowship in 2007, she knew she wanted to stay in academia, and thanks to several UCSF connections, she was able to find an opportunity at Emory University. Over the next two years, Andrew finished his residency while Ashley worked as junior faculty at UCSF and kept her Emory connections open.

In 2009, the family of four moved back to Georgia. Since then, Ashley has become director of Head and Neck Imaging at Emory and program director for the Neuroradiology Fellowship in the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences. Andrew is in private practice at Oral Surgery Specialists of Atlanta. The Aikens also added a son, Walker, shortly after moving back to Georgia.

With their return to Georgia, the Aikens were also able to return to the friendships they made while at UGA, and they found those connections were just as strong as they had left them.

“We still have so many close friends from UGA,” said Ashley. “Some that are in Albany, some in Athens, some in Texas, a lot that are in Atlanta, and those connections are some of the biggest reasons that I’m so thankful we made the choice to attend the University of Georgia.”

Their renewed connection to UGA includes the school itself, by way of a shadowing program Andrew participates in. UGA students interested in dentistry and oral surgery go to his office and follow him throughout the day to explore the work of an oral surgeon.

“I’m happy to give back and let people come back and see if they like oral surgery because it’s a really wonderful profession,” said Andrew.

The Aikens’ story begins at UGA. And though they have achieved so much beyond Athens and staked an impressive claim out in the world, it’s clear that the Classic City never left their hearts.

“My time at Georgia was the best four and a half years of my life,” said Andrew. “I met my wife, I met good friends, and I created shared experiences with people that I’m still in touch with 20 years later.”

Bob and Jalena (ABJ ’96) Bradley’s support for UGA is unshakable

Bob and Jalena Bradley’s support for UGA runs strong and deep. Even when COVID-19 turned the world on its head, that support never wavered. In fact, it increased.

For Jalena (ABJ ’96), a Georgia native and graduate of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, pride for UGA comes naturally. Her husband, Bob, had to grow into Georgia fandom: he grew up in Florida and attended Quincy University in Illinois, where he was a student-athlete on the baseball team.

Upon returning to Florida following graduation, Bob met Jalena, who had relocated there following her time at UGA. Bob began to discover the extent of Jalena’s fandom when, as he was trying to plan a date for the two of them at Epcot Park in Orlando, Jalena responded, “It’s Saturday. We’re watching the Dawgs!”

Now married with two daughters, Taylor and Abby, many Saturdays have passed for the Bradleys, all spent the same way: if the Dawgs are playing, they’re watching, without fail. Bob has even dubbed himself “the biggest die-hard non-UGA-graduate fan you’ll ever meet.”

That support extends beyond game day. In 2018, the Bradleys pledged $1 million to the Georgia Excellence Fund, which supports UGA Athletics Association facilities projects. That considerable investment in the improvement of student-athletes’ educational experiences was followed up by another gift in July 2020.

When many were re-evaluating so much in their lives—to say nothing of their charitable giving—the Bradleys’ support was unshaken.

“We just want to help UGA gain momentum during this very challenging time,” said Bob. “When we talked about giving back to the University, we felt compelled to give a gift that helps the rest of UGA’s supporters to jump in and help out, too. We want UGA to be able to continue in the direction that they are headed, and not have to stop anything or slow the momentum down.”

The Bradley’s passionate support comes from experiences that have impacted their personal lives. Now retired from his work in the human capital and staffing business, Bob claims that much of his professional success stems from lessons he learned while he was an athlete himself.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for athletics,” said Bob. “I can’t be more thankful for the experiences and opportunities baseball gave me.”

Bob and Jalena are also first-generation college graduates. As they express feelings of gratitude for their current position, they look back on their humble beginnings and consider how they can affect positive change in the lives of others.

“I came from a low-income family, and if I didn’t get a baseball scholarship – I wouldn’t have been able to go to college,” Bob said. “Being able to give back to a school that we are so passionate about, and being able to give back to something like sports that gave us so much is really important.”

Hannah Jones (AB ’12) helps Haitian communities with nonprofit Light from Light

Hannah Jones (AB ’12) planned to teach after graduating from UGA with a degree in French. However, her time as an executive board member with UGA Miracle, a student-run philanthropic organization, opened her eyes to the world of nonprofits and helped her decide to use her career to do social good.  

Hannah had been in the nonprofit space for seven years before becoming the executive director of Light from Light in 2019, a role in which both her French major and background in the nonprofit sector are fully utilized. Hannah had made a trip to Haiti in 2016 with her husband Tram Jones (BBA ’10), an internal medicine physician, and saw an opportunity to improve lives through the outpatient clinic Lespwa Timoun (“Hope for Children” in Haitian Creole). The couple fell in love with the clinic and with Haiti and made the move after Hannah was appointed executive director.  

Light from Light is a nonprofit organization focused on supporting health care, nourishing children, empowering local leaders and strengthening infrastructure in Haitian communities. The seeds of this work were planted in 1987 when Haitian priest Rev. Fritz Valdema and Episcopalian church volunteer TJ Johnston discovered that they had a common call to alleviate suffering for the poor. Light from Light continues this important work today; last year alone, the organization provided 1,293 infants and children life-sustaining care through an intensive nutrition program at the Lewspa Timoun clinic.  

Light from Light serves Haitian communities, especially women and children.

“Women and children are the heart and soul of the clinic,” Hannah said. “We provide care to everybody, but women and children are the pillars of our work.  Especially when food imports/exports have been affected due to COVID-19 and, thus, the price of food has nearly doubled, the ripple effects of the virus are most felt in the communities where we work. We see an increased number of cases of malnutrition on a daily basis.”  

In Haiti, and more specifically in the communities where Lespwa Timoun works, Hannah said “63 percent of mothers have lost at least one child and nearly 20 percent of children die before their fifth birthday.” These statistics display the harrowing reality of Haitian children and families. But miracles happen within the clinic. Through the malnutrition program, Jones and her husband watch children recover and rebuild their health.  

“The world isn’t fair. You see that so clearly in Haiti. By moving to Haiti, we wanted to step outside of our comfort zones to help make the world a better place,” Jones said. “What can we do to make the world a more just place for people?”  

Lespwa Timoun employs approximately 50 staff members and 12 community health workers. The clinic is completely Haitian-led; Hannah and Tram are the first Americans to be there full time. 

Mobile clinics, which are the core of Tram’s work in Haiti, are provided twice a month to mountain communities. He directs all of Light from Light’s medical efforts and leads mobile health work in some of the most rural and underserved communities in Haiti.  

Building trust within the communities in which Light from Light works can be difficult. For Hannah and Tram, it took about eight months for people to accept that they were in Haiti to stay.   

At a meeting in September 2020, a community health worker told Tram, “I don’t think of you as a foreigner anymore. You’re Haitian.” It was a beautiful moment for the couple who now feel embraced by the local community.  

“In order to be effective in our roles, you have to be able to walk in both worlds comfortably. You have to be okay in the U.S. and you have to be okay in the rural mountains of Haiti,” Hannah said.  

Light from Light seeks to improve health care offerings to children in Haitian communities.

With the trust they have built over time, Light from Light uses its resources and community health workers to train and educate mothers on identifying the warning signs of malnutrition—especially as the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic take hold. Today, about half of the children that the clinic sees are malnourished, and food prices have nearly doubled. 

Starting this fall, UGA students can participate in Light from Light’s mission as well. The nonprofit established its first collegiate chapter to engage more young people in its mission and to spread awareness about the work that it’s doing in Haiti. Light from Light College will help students to recognize and educate themselves about their personal health needs in order to understand the health needs of women and children in Haiti. 

“My experiences in Athens as a student were formational for me,” Hannah said. “Getting real-world experience with nonprofits as a student was what ignited my career trajectory. I can only hope that I might have a similar impact on students who get involved with Light from Light College. 

To learn more about Light from Light, email em.thgilmorfthgil@ofni or follow Light from Light on social media.

 

Vivian Greentree (ABJ ’00, AB ’01) leads through service

The University of Georgia has a rich tradition of public service and outreach. As the state’s land- and sea-grant institution, UGA has established outreach programs in almost every Georgia county and provides numerous service programs that benefit the region. It is this mission and the university’s pillar of service that attracted Vivian Greentree (ABJ ’00, AB ’01) to help cultivate a relationship between her employer, Fiserv, and UGA.

As an alumna, Vivian credits the university for instilling a service-oriented mentality in her everyday life, as well as in her career. As Fiserv’s Senior Vice President of Global Corporate Citizenship and President of the Fiserv Cares Foundation, Vivian is charged with cultivating a high performing, culture of belonging while building meaningful community partnerships. By leveraging Fiserv’s resources as a private sector business, she creates purposeful opportunities for the betterment of the community—and the world—in which Fiserv interacts.

Vivian recalls that her time as a student made her realize the amount of resources the state and its citizens were investing in Georgia students. She understood the importance of the HOPE Scholarship in affording her the opportunity to attend UGA with financial assistance and valued the state’s ability to provide Georgia students with scholarships. By interning with Georgia Governor Roy Barnes’ administration, her appreciation for public service grew. After graduating from UGA, she demonstrated her passion for service by joining the U.S. Navy and serving in the Supply Corps.

Vivian served as a Naval Supply Corps Officer on both active duty and in the Reserves before founding Blue Star Families, a network of volunteer-based chapters committed to strengthening military families by connecting them with their neighbors – individuals and organizations – to create vibrant communities of mutual support and advocacy. At the same time Vivian worked to help this network support, connect, and empower military families, she utilized her GI Bill to earn a doctorate in public administration and urban policy from Old Dominion University while her husband was stationed out of Naval Station Norfolk.

Vivian was leading Research and Policy for Blue Star Families when she was recruited to First Data Corporation. She was tasked with creating a comprehensive military community engagement program that would eventually be named First Data Salutes. It focused on helping transitioning service members find meaningful careers within fintech or as entrepreneurs.

As the head of Military and Veteran Affairs at First Data Corporation, Vivian worked with the University of Georgia to establish a lounge in the UGA Student Veterans Resource Center and support the UGA chapter of Student Veterans of America. The First Data Student Veterans Lounge provides a place for veterans at UGA to network, study, relax, and access valuable resources to help them succeed at the university and in their careers afterwards.

Vivian’s success with First Data Salutes garnered national recognition and awards for First Data. They were ranked at the top of the Military Times’ Best For Vets: Employers list for 2017, 2018, and 2019 and created an Office of Corporate Citizenship, coordinating associate and community engagement, diversity and inclusion, and strategic philanthropy across the enterprise. And, when Fiserv and First Data merged in July 2019, she was given a larger platform to carry out the mission of doing good while doing well.

Service remains at the heart of her commitment to her alma mater—she knows both Fiserv and UGA’s missions are committed to excellence in service. In the fall of 2020, Vivian and Fiserv will be supporting UGA’s Entrepreneurship Program, working to provide resources and opportunities for the university’s next generation of Bulldog leaders that will make an impact in the state of Georgia long after graduation.

Vivian is an exemplary Bulldog: She served on the UGA Alumni Association Board of Directors from 2013-2019; she is currently serving on the School of Public and International Affairs Alumni Board of Directions; and she approaches every interaction through the lens of service and models her work on Georgia’s three pillars of wisdom, justice, and moderation.

As she reflects fondly on her time at UGA, she encourages students to be consciously inclusive and to go out of their way to be an includer. She strongly believes higher education is a place for diversity to take root and provide opportunities for people to learn from one another.

“Business should be and can be a force for good and we have the opportunity and the obligation to use our space and place to create and expand access, so we can be better together,” said Vivian. “I’m so proud of my UGA affiliation and will continue to earn the opportunity that was afforded to me through the HOPE scholarship by paying it forward to today’s students in every way I can!”