When the inaugural Alumni Awards and Gala was held in May 2007, the Terry College wasn't sure it would be an annual event. But 560 alumni and friends showed up at the Westin Buckhead that night, and they had a rousing good time — thanks in part to the efforts of Gov. Sonny Perdue, who worked the auction floor as though he were prying votes out of delegates at a political convention.
Except in this case, he was looking for people who wanted to write a $15,000 check to spend a day with UGA football coach Mark Richt. Or $10,500 checks to have lunch with the Guv at the Capitol. As you might imagine, he found those check-writers — and many others. When the bookkeeping was done, the Alumni Board had raised $300,000 for the Terry College.
"The inaugural event was such a success," says Alumni Director Jill Walton, "that we added a band this year so people could continue having fun until midnight."
The dance band was one of several new wrinkles that made the 2008 event more enjoyable, more memorable, and, more importantly, a staple on the Terry College calendar. Attendance for the 2008 event again topped 500, and, despite spending more to put on the event in order to enhance the experience for attendees, the college still netted $215,000.
A date has already been set for the 2009 Alumni Awards and Gala — April 25 at the InterContinental Buckhead hotel in Atlanta — and it promises to be another alumni event to remember.
"We don't have anything like it in Charlotte, I can tell you that!" says Andy Barksdale (BBA 1989, MBA 1993), moderator of the event who is a senior vice president at UVEST Financial Services in Charlotte. "It's a black tie affair, everyone you went to school with is there — and in just two years I think we have established the Alumni Awards and Gala as the place to be on that Saturday night in Atlanta!"
Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Hill Feinberg (BBA 1969) has the perspective of someone who grew up in Columbus, Ga., but who now lives in Dallas, Texas, where he is chairman and CEO of First Southwest Co. Recently, Feinberg established a faculty support fund that will make it possible for Terry finance professors to attend national and international conferences. The Feinberg Family Support Fund will also expose Terry students to financial markets through speakers and site visits.
Working with Terry faculty and staff to set up the fund, Feinberg was reminded what a "diamond in the rough" the Terry College is.
"And we really need to leverage that," said Feinberg in accepting his award. "It's not about being the biggest...it's about being the best."
One of the people most responsible for the rising national stature of the Terry College is Mary Virginia Terry, who, along with her late husband, C. Herman Terry, made a landmark $6 million gift that funded five faculty chairs, established merit scholarships, and provided fellowships for faculty research. In October 1991, the college was named in honor of the Terrys, whose financial support had a transforming effect on the Terry College that is still felt today.
"Do you have about half an hour...I have a long speech," said Mrs. Terry in accepting the Dean's Distinguished Service Award. She was kidding, of course. "Thank you from the bottom of my heart," is all she said before blowing a kiss to the audience.
In accepting his Outstanding Young Alumni Award, Atlanta attorney J. Michael Barry Jr. (BBA 1993, JD 1996, EMBA 2005) paid tribute to both the undergraduate education he received and to Terry's Executive MBA program for "producing and delivering an outstanding intellectual challenge and opportunity, a terrific leadership development program, and an overall experience that is second to none."
"It's a great time to be a Terry alum," said Barry, referring to the capital campaign that's about to begin for a proposed Terry complex near the corner of Baxter and Lumpkin streets. "I'm excited, as I know all of you are, to see where the college goes in the coming years — not only for our current students, but for our alumni, our programs, and our state."