Lifetime Achievement: David Arnold

From time to time, the GEAC Board of Directors is privileged to honor longstanding excellence and notable achievement within Georgia’s higher education advancement community with the presentation of the GEAC Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2014, this honor was presented to David Arnold, a former GEAC president who distinguished himself during 24 years of service to the University System of Georgia, first at Georgia Tech and more recently Kennesaw State University.

Many GEAC friends can no doubt call to mind the mental image of David building comradery among the group by strumming his guitar and leading sing-alongs of Country Roads and other classics during the hospitality portion of our annual conferences. More important was his work behind the scenes as president, during which time the very existence of the organization was threatened by a severe economic downtown that forced institutions to curtail travel and professional development expenses, leading to the cancellation of the 2008 Annual Conference.

David’s steady leadership during this difficult period proved critical, and in 2009 the Annual Conference returned, beginning a period of steady growth for GEAC that continues to this day. The robust and growing organization that exists today is a testament to his commitment.

Retirement from Kennesaw State brings a new chapter in David’s life in which he’ll have more time for his family, including the apple of his eye, grandson Logan. As an organization, we thank him for his many contributions and wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors.

Amelia Gambino, David’s former colleague at Georgia Tech, summed it up best: “He gave us lots to laugh about, a legacy of media expertise, an occasional guitar serenade, and tenacious friendship.”

For that we are forever grateful.

Institutional Excellence: Berry College

The 2014 recipient of the GEAC Award for Overall Institutional Excellence in Advancement soared to great heights in both public relations and fundraising – on wings of eagles, if you will.

While some may have said their work was for the birds, the public relations professionals at Berry College took seriously the job of managing the national and international attention generated by the bald eagles that have taken up residence in a pine tree not far from the original site for the institution’s new athletic stadium. Football may king in South, but at Berry the eagles rule the roost, both in the eyes of administrators who made the decision to move the stadium and the millions of viewers who have made the college’s live Eagle Cam appointment viewing at all hours of the days and night.

As this audience has grown, so too has the glare of the media spotlight focused on the Rome, Ga., campus by the likes of the Weather Channel, CNN, USA Today, the New York Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education and countless other newspapers, television and radio stations across the country. The Berry PR team raced to keep pace with hundreds of media queries while also fielding questions from school children, teachers and nature enthusiasts from all around the globe who reached out via Facebook and other channels. The result was unprecedented exposure for Berry and countless new opportunities to tell the college’s unique story.

At the same time the eagles were taking flight, Berry’s advancement team was busy preparing for the launch of a new multi-year fundraising campaign promising to change the face of the institution’s 27,000-acre campus even as it enhances its ability to prepare students for life after college. Four years of hard work behind the scenes came to fruition in May 2014 with the public launch of LifeReady: The Berry College Campaign for Opportunity. Donors gasped and glasses were raised when it was revealed that gifts and pledges during the silent phase exceeded $73 million. That total has since exceeded $80 million, with a final goal somewhere north of $100 million. Already, this is the second most successful fundraising effort in Berry history. By the time it concludes in 2020, it will be No. 1.

Though this is a team honor, the GEAC Awards Committee wishes to commend one individual in particular – Karilon Rogers, Berry’s director of philanthropic communications – for her impressive accomplishments, which include spearheading communication efforts for the two most successful campaigns in Berry history and leading a revolution in alumni publications that helped to make those campaigns possible.

Educational Fundraising: Rebecca Roth

The 2014 recipient of the GEAC Award of Excellence in Educational Fundraising is Rebecca Roth, senior director of development at LaGrange College.

Skills honed during Rebecca's more than 10 years of service in the field of educational advancement are evident in the giving rates posted by LaGrange alumni, trustees, volunteers and faculty/staff. 

Under her direction, alumni participation increased to almost 16 percent for the last fiscal year. Her leadership resulted in 100 percent participation by the Board of Trustees for three years in a row; 100 percent participation of a core volunteer group for two years in a row; and an outstanding 93 percent participation in faculty/staff giving for the last fiscal year.

Colleagues praise Rebecca as “the professional’s professional,” “tirelessly supportive of others in the department,” “an eager learner,” and an “active community volunteer.”  In short, she is the kind of colleague we would all love to have.

Communications and Marketing: Norma Kennedy

The winner of the 2014 GEAC Award of Excellence for Communications and Marketing is Norma Kennedy, director of marketing and community relations for East Georgia State College.

Norma has been with her institution in various roles for more than 13 years and is an alumnus. During her employment, she has been active in all aspects of the college which has helped her to ensure that every message she creates is in alignment with East Georgia’s strategic plan and the Complete College Georgia initiative.

She is praised for telling “a motivational story of potential with advertisement design, story writing and campaign development. Her deliberate planning and execution continue to move the college forward, even in the unstable environment we face.”

Norma is the current chair of the East Georgia State College Art on Campus Committee, External Relations Committee and Conflict Resolution Committee. She also serves as the East Georgia State Service Excellence Ambassador, is a member of the University System Excellence Advisory Committee, recently chaired East Georgia’s 40th Anniversary Committee, and is the 2013 STAR staff award recipient.

Alumni Relations: Meredith Johnson

The 2014 recipient of GEAC’s Award of Excellence in Alumni Relations is Meredith Johnson, interim executive director of the University of Georgia’s Office of Alumni Relations. 
In 2001, Meredith moved to Atlanta to work for the college’s alumni association as its first Atlanta Program Coordinator based out of a new facility in Buckhead. Over the years, she has put various signature programs into place, from alumni gatherings to college tours. She oversees all alumni engagement activities, including student programs, young alumni outreach, regional programs, communications and collaborative projects around campus.

An “interim” status may seem like an unsettled place to be; however, with her level of understanding of the field and love for her alma mater, she has moved the shop forward through programs and events as well as her skillful leadership. In 2010, Meredith started a program called “programming with a purpose.” She recognized the need to identify ways that alumni programs could be purposeful, measurable and a tool for cultivation.

She sets clear expectations, empowers others, communicates directly, collaborates respectfully, and always keeps her eyes on the future with a positive approach. Thanks to these qualities, she has built a solid foundation of collaboration and purposeful engagement that will benefit the college for years to come.