Savannah 2016: Bridging Ideas Into Action

The Savannah Skyline

The GEAC Annual Conference presented by Mauldin & Jenkins and SunTrust returned to Savannah in 2016, and once again the historic port city proved to be an ideal place for Georgia’s higher education advancement community to “bridge ideas into action.”

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More than 150 advancement professionals representing Georgia’s public and private colleges and universities as well as the state’s technical college system gathered Nov. 16-18 at the Hilton Savannah Desoto, connecting and – In many cases – rekindling old friendships while filling their toolboxes with useful tips in the areas of Advancement Services, Development, Alumni Relations and Marketing and Communications. Tim Earley, the CEO of Make-A-Wish Georgia, and David Snell, president of the Fuller Center for Housing, served as the conference keynote speakers.

Highlighting the event, as always, was the presentation of the annual GEAC Awards. the 2016 winners included:

• Outstanding Newcomer Award: Katelyn Moore, East Georgia State College
• Educational Fundraising: Elizabeth Hines, Georgia College
• Communications/Marketing: Kate Maine, University of North Georgia
• Advancement Services: Karen Eggers, Gwinnett Technical College
• Institutional Excellence: Georgia Highlands College

None of this would have been possible without our sponsors, many of whom have been loyal supporters of the organization for years. The GEAC Board of Directors offers special thanks to the following:

• Mauldin and Jenkin and SunTrust, presenting sponsors
 Nationwide Insurance, opening reception sponsor
• iModules and Wilson-Bennett Technology, keynote sponsors
• Synovus, awards dinner sponsor

In  November 2017, we will return to traditional mountain location, Brasstown Valley Resort. If you have questions or would like assist with planning, please contact Conference Chair Spence Sealy at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

LaGrange 2016: A story worth telling

Renowned fundraiser and author Jerold Panas (pictured) was the headliner July 21-22 as LaGrange College welcomed higher education professionals from throughout the state for the Georgia Education Advancement Council's 2016 Summer Conference.

Approximately 90 participants representing more than 30 different institutions of higher learning turned out for the event, which also featured a special workshop and lunch presentation by professional storyteller and LaGrange alumna Carol Cain.

Panas captivated conference attendees with personal insights and stories reflecting his more than 40 years as a professional fundraiser. Cane was equally successful in bringing the conference’s “storytelling” theme to life, sharing the basics of storytelling in her workshop and later entertaining lunch guests at the Hills and Dales Estate with an amusing and heartwarming tale from her youth.

In addition to the two keynotes, the conference also featured breakout sessions highlighting best practices in the areas of alumni and community relations, development, communications and marketing, and advancement services.

The GEAC Board of Directors wishes to thank the LaGrange staff and President Dan McAlexander for being such gracious hosts. The scene now shifts to Savannah for the GEAC Annual Conference, scheduled for Nov. 16-18 at the Desoto Hilton. Registration details and other conference information will be posted to the GEAC homepage as it become available.


Brasstown 2015: The sun sets on another great GEAC Conference!

The sun sets on another great GEAC Conference!

Inspirational and entertaining keynotes, provocative track sessions and special recognition for two longtime volunteers highlighted the 2015 GEAC Annual Conference, presented by SunTrust and Mauldin & Jenkins.

Nearly 150 advancement professionals – including 38 first-time attendees – gathered Nov. 18-20 at Brasstown Valley Resport & Spa for the three-day conference. Attendees represented a cross-section of higher education in Georgia, hailing from more than 40 different public and private colleges, universities and technical colleges.

The conference got off to a rousing start with a new welcome dinner and team trivia competition on Wednesday night. A full day of track sessions followed Thursday, punctuated by an inspirational keynote address by award-winning educator Kim Bearden, co-founder and executive director of Atlanta’s Ron Clark Academy.

Later Thursday, GEAC honored the best and brightest among Georgia’s higher education advancement community with presentation of the 2015 GEAC Awards. This year’s honorees included Dr. Tom Jackson, who was presented with GEAC’s Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his many years of distinguished service to his alma mater, the University of Georgia. Also notable are his contributions to GEAC, including the many years he served as treasurer on the volunteer Board of Directors.

“We do what we do because we make a difference,” said Jackson, recently appointed heritage communications executive for the University System of Georgia. "In a profession like this, you make a difference in other people's lives."

Other 2015 GEAC Award recipients included:

  • Outstanding Newcomer: Sarah Dunlap, University of North Georgia
  • Advancement Services: Bonnie Martin, Valdosta State University
  • Communications/Marketing: Stephen Snyder, Georgia Southwestern University
  • Institutional Excellence: Georgia Southern University

The awards banquet also provided the perfect opportunity to honor Frank Hook’s many years of steadfast service as GEAC’s sponsorship chair. Fittingly, the new Annual Conference Scholarship Program – awarded to two individuals in its inaugural year – has been named for the man whose tireless cultivation and stewardship of new and existing sponsors helped to make it possible. In honor of the occasion, Hook – who is lovingly known as “The Mayor” by his many GEAC friends – was presented with a special bobble-head doll bearing his unmistakable likeness.

“My life is better because of the people in this room,” said Hook, perfectly expressing the essence of the organization to which he has devoted so much time and energy. “And I’ve developed friendships that will be with me for a lifetime.”

Friday brought another round of track sessions followed by an entertaining closing keynote by Jason Rollins, manager of corporate communications for Arby’s Restaurant Group.

The GEAC Board of Directors offers special thanks to Conference Planning Chair Amy Lancaster, Awards Committee Chair Frank Pritchett, 2015 GEAC President Wendell Tompkins and the many volunteers who made this year's conference such a tremendous success. We’re also grateful for the friendship and support provided by our generous sponsors.

Mark your calendars now for the 2016 GEAC Summer Conference, to be held July 21-22 at LaGrange College, and the 2016 Annual Conference, which will return to Savannah on Nov. 16-18. If you're interested in serving on the planning committee for the Annual Conference, please contact GEAC President-Elect Stephen Snyder at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

2015 GEAC Award Recipients (from left): Stephen Snyder, Bonnie Martin, Tom Jackson, Sarah Dunlap and Salinda Arthur (representing Georgia Southern University).

Savannah 2014: Reaching new heights

GEAC members were all smiles at the 2014 Annual Conference, and it wasn't just because of the Savannah-themed Christmas ornaments distributed to all attendees. This year's event, presented by SunTrust and Mauldin & Jenkins, broke records for both participation and sponsorships, with more than 190 advancement professionals representing public and private colleges, universities and technical colleges all across Georgia gathering at the historic Desoto Hilton for three days of insightful speakers, content-rich track sessions and unmatched networking opportunities.

Conference Photo Gallery

Georgia Historical Society Senior Historian Dr. Stan Heaton set the tone for the conference with his opening keynote, which focused on Abraham Baldwin's role in framing the U.S. Constitution and establishing Georgia's higher education system. Bethesda Academy President Dr. David Tribble was similarly inspiring as the closing speaker, sharing the fascinating history of his institution, which got its start as an orphanage during the Colonial era.

Another highlight was the presentation of the 2014 GEAC Awards of Excellence, which honor high achievement among Georgia's higher education advancement community. This year's winners were:

Outstanding Newcomer: Carol So, Emory University
Alumni Relations: Meredith Gurley Johnson, University of Georgia
Communications/Marketing: Norma Kennedy, East Georgia State College
Educational Fundraising: Rebecca Roth, LaGrange College
Overall Institutional Excellence in Advancement: Berry College
Lifetime Achievement: David Arnold, Kennesaw State University

This event would not have been possible without the generous support of our sponsors. They make possible our mission of providing affordable professional development opportunities for those working to further the cause of higher education in Georgia, and we are deeply appreciative of their loyalty and friendship.

The GEAC Board of Directors offers special thanks to Wendell Tompkins, who excelled in his role as planning chair, and Frank Pritchett, who once again provided sound leadership for the awards committee. We are also indebted to the many volunteers and presenters who offered their time and expertise to make this conference a success.

Summer 2014: Making waves in Columbus

Representatives of 25 public and private colleges, universities and technical colleges gathered in Columbus for the 2014 GEAC Summer Conference, July 24-25.

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More than 80 alumni relations, development and communication/marketing professionals took part in the event, which was hosted by Columbus State University. The conference got off to a rousing start Thursday afternoon with a rafting trip through downtown Columbus and continued that evening with an opening reception in the lobby of the Corn Center for Visual Arts on CSU’s RiverPark Campus.

Friday, the scene shifted to the Cunningham Center on CSU’s main campus for an impressive lineup of sessions and speakers focusing on a variety of advancement-related topics.

In his opening, Synovus Chairman/CEO and University System of Georgia board member Kessel D. Stelling Jr. challenged attendees with the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, “A mind stretched to a new idea never goes back to its original dimensions."

Other presenters included University of Central Missouri President Chuck Ambrose, who shared his considerable insight into the world of intercollegiate athletics, and Gonser Gerber’s Jason McNeal, who provided a fresh perspective on fundraising in his closing keynote.

GEAC is indebted to all conference presenters for sharing their knowledge and expertise, as well as CSU President Tim Mescon and the CSU staff for hosting a first-class event. We offer special thanks to Spence Sealy, CSU’s associate vice president for development and GEAC board member, for his leadership role in conference planning.