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University System Event Raises Funds for Student Scholarships

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Rosalynn Carter, Donald Leebern Honored

Atlanta — March 26, 2011

Former first lady Rosalynn Carter and Board of Regents member Donald M. Leebern Jr. were among the University System of Georgia (USG) faculty, alumni and supporters honored tonight at the Seventh Annual Regents’ Awards for Excellence in Education Celebration.

The event, held at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis Hotel, served as a fundraiser for need-based and merit-based scholarship programs for USG students. A project of the University System’s non-profit foundation, the Awards for Excellence attracted approximately 900 of Georgia’s higher education leaders and supporters and elected officials, including Gov. Nathan Deal.

“This event served two powerful purposes: one, to recognize and celebrate excellence in our students, faculty and alumni,” said tonight’s host Regent Kenneth Bernard. “And two, to raise much needed resources that help keep some of Georgia’s brightest in some of the nation’s best public colleges – all of Georgia’s 35 public higher education institutions. But in the end, this is really about people and ensuring a stronger and more prosperous future.”

Each of Georgia’s 35 public institutions receives up to $10,000 annually to fund the President’s Choice Scholarship, which is based on academic merit. The Regents’ Foundation Scholarships pay full tuition and fees for students who face financial obstacles to attend college. The number and amount of awards available in any given year is based upon the success of that year’s fundraising. The institution, through the president, determines the recipients for both types of awards.

Bernard announced that the USG Foundation has raised more than $1 million this year, and 73 students are attending USG institutions with the aid of foundation scholarships. Two of these students, Adam Jeb Dills of Gordon College and Jessica Hicks of Kennesaw State University, brought greetings during the celebration.

Leebern was selected as the 7th recipient of the Elridge McMillan Lifetime Achievement Award, named for the longest serving regent and USG Foundation trustee Elridge McMillan.

“Donald M. Leebern Jr. has spent much of his life serving the citizens of Georgia and the last 20 years devoting his time, energy and financial resources to support a cause he truly believes in–higher education,” said Bernard. “When institutions had unmet needs, Don brought his business acumen and concern for people to the table to meet the need. His passion led him to help establish this very foundation that benefits students and faculty. And his company has been a presenting sponsor of this celebration since the first in 2004. Don is humble, but that kind of devotion deserves recognition.”

This year, five faculty and four alumni were recognized for their contributions to Georgia public higher education. Each year, each System campus is asked to nominate faculty and alumni to be honored. A panel of University System officials evaluates the faculty nominations, and an external panel named by the Foundation evaluates alumni nominations. Each faculty recipient each receives a $5,000 award from the USG Foundation.

Earlier this year, Regent Felton Jenkins Jr. died, and to honor his educational service, the Regents’ Hall of Fame Faculty Award was renamed “The Felton Jenkins Jr. Hall of Fame Faculty Award.”
The following USG faculty members were honored with The Felton Jenkins Jr. Hall of Fame Faculty Award in two categories, the Regents’ Teaching Excellence Awards and the Regents’ Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award.

Regents’ Teaching Excellence Awards
Dr. Thomas Hugh Crawford, associate professor in the School of Literature, Communication, and Culture at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Crawford’s nomination noted his ability to design his courses to adapt to students. As one example, he and his students built a replica of Henry Thoreau’s house on campus, which resulted in many students volunteering to work on the house who weren’t even enrolled in his course. The nomination noted Crawfords’ lifelong impact on his students, who have given a legacy title of their own to his courses: “a Crawford course.”

Dr. Melanie A. Partlow, assistant professor of Mathematics at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC). Partlow’s colleagues praise her use of creative teaching techniques and technology to enhance her students’ learning. They note she is especially adept at reaching students with diverse learning styles and in helping students overcome math anxiety. ABAC also called upon her to lead its Quality Enhancement Plan, a campus-wide initiative to improve student success in college algebra. One of her students credited Partlow with helping her successfully complete her algebra requirement after she had repeatedly dropped several algebra courses.

Dr. Sabine Smith, associate professor of German at Kennesaw State University (KSU). The nomination for Smith noted that she provided impressive leadership and dedication to building a successful German Studies program at KSU. The nomination noted her talent in building not only a strong curriculum for students but also providing learning experiences outside the classroom and across disciplines. Smith’s abilities as a teacher are best measured by the growth in student enrollment in German Studies at KSU, especially given today’s typical student interest in more popular languages.

Regents’ Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award
Dr. Trent Maurer, associate professor of Family Science at Georgia Southern University. According to Georgia Southern officials, Maurer’s work clearly demonstrates his teaching approach and its impact on student learning using a systematic process to question, measure and improve his teaching. Maurer has a long and consistent record of professional presentations and publications that disseminate his findings broadly so that teachers well beyond Georgia Southern can benefit from his work.

Dr. Sheryne Southard, assistant professor of Legal/Paralegal Studies at Clayton State University. Southard’s colleagues note that she not only researches the effectiveness of her teaching techniques, but also has an excellent record of using her findings to enhance student learning. Southard then shares her results to improve and benefit teaching and learning in the field of legal studies on a national level, including the realm of online teaching.

The following USG alumni were acknowledged at tonight’s event:
Rosalynn Carter, an alumna of Georgia Southwestern University. Former First Lady Carter is an internationally renowned public servant who has worked to improve the quality of life of individuals worldwide. Currently, Carter works as an advocate for mental health, early childhood immunization, human rights and conflict resolution through The Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia, which was founded by the Carters in 1982 as a private, not-for-profit institution. Outside The Carter Center, she is president of the board of directors of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving (RCI), which is housed on the campus of Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus, Georgia, established in her honor in 1987.

Nancy Buntin, an alumna of Columbus State University. Buntin’s involvement and service to Columbus State University began as a student and have continued into her post-retirement years, the nomination form noted. She was educated and trained to be a teacher, but pursued a career in banking at Synovus Financial Corporation for more than 30 years. Now retired, Buntin is an extremely active volunteer for many civic, social and religious organizations. The nomination noted that Buntin has served both as an official and unofficial teacher, mentor, friend, career coach and confidante to a large number of women.

Anthony E. Parr, an alumnus of Darton College. An Albany native, Parr also received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia and served in the U.S. Navy before returning to live and work in Albany. Several years ago Parr returned to college to seek a Master’s degree in Education and today is a professor of mathematics at Darton College.

Parker H. “Pete” Petit, an alumnus of both Georgia Institute of Technology and Georgia State University. His nomination form noted that Petit is a leader in the healthcare and biomedical industries who has tirelessly served his community through volunteer leadership and philanthropy at his alma maters. Petit is the chairman, president and CEO of MiMedx Group, which develops biomaterial-based products for use in the musculoskeletal specialties. He is also president of The Petit Group, an investment management company. Petit’s volunteer service, leadership and philanthropic investments have been integral to the growth and success of Georgia Tech and Georgia State.

The University System of Georgia Foundation supports the primary goal of the University System of and its 35 colleges and universities to ensure access to academic excellence and educational opportunities for all Georgians.

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