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08.09.2013

40 Under 40 Spotlight: Kira Fonteneau (JD ’05)

Kira Fonteneau (JD ’05) remembers the day like it was yesterday.

“I was sitting in Professor Ron Ellington’s Civil Procedures class as a [first-year law student] at UGA when he called on several members of our class who were unprepared. When he reached the fifth unprepared student, he calmly put down his marker and dismissed the class, telling us that he could not continue unless we were prepared. The class was dumbfounded. The most intense feeling of embarrassment and shame filled the room as we realized how disappointed he was. I will never forget that day – it was the day that I learned the importance of being prepared as a lawyer.”

Fonteneau learned that lesson and hasn’t looked back. The alumna graduated in 2005 from the UGA School of Law and became a litigation associate with Constangy, Brooks and Smith, LLP, in Birmingham, Ala. In late 2006, she established The Fonteneau Firm, LLC.

According to Julie Jun, a colleague and friend of Fonteneau’s, “Kira left a comfortable job with a big law firm to open her own shop, which she ran for several years. She was not simply successful, but she made such an impression on her peers, that she was eventually nominated and appointed to the position of public defender for Jefferson County, Ala., where Birmingham is located.”

In January 2013, Fonteneau was appointed to open and run the state of Alabama’s largest public defender office. In this role, she is responsible for recruiting, managing and training 39 attorneys and 29 support staff members.

In her free time, Fonteneau gives back to the Birmingham community. She has served on the American Diabetes Association’s Board of Directors since 2007, the ACLU of Alabama Board of Directors since 2011, and the Holy Family Cristo Rey High School Junior Board of Directors since 2009. She has participated in the Birmingham Volunteer Lawyers Program since 2006.

When asked what advice she would give to UGA students today, the alumna said, “You never know how the detours in life will prepare you for the future, so don’t feel like you have to plan your life in great detail.”

As Birmingham’s first public defender, there was no way Kira Fonteneau could have envisioned her career path to this point. But, she has obviously followed her own advice and found great success in our neighbor state to the west. Congratulations, Kira!

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07.22.2014

2014 is Going to the Dawgs

The 2014 fiscal year was an incredible year for the University of Georgia for a variety of reasons. For students, each semester marks one step closer to graduation. For faculty, 2014 has brought national awards, advances in research and the promise of more excitement to come.

For instance, three of the Brazilian stadiums that were used during the World Cup were outfitted with TifGrand, a shade-tolerant, wear-tolerant bermudagrass hypbrid developed by UGA and the U.S. Departement of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service. Despite this (and many other) amazing accomplishments that have taken place since last July, one record-breaking event has created the possibility of an even more produtive upcoming year.

The 2014 fiscal year saw the largest number of gifts and donations in the history of the university. Between July 1, 2013, and June 30, 2014, UGA received a staggering $126.4 million from 56,897 different contributors. This amount reflects a 4 percent increase over 2013 and the second time in the university’s history that it received more than $120 million.

"This record year is a tribute to the faith our alumni and friends have in the future of our great university," said UGA President Jere W. Morehead (JD '80).

That faith has certainly not been poorly placed. These donations will help fund the projects and plans that UGA has for the coming years. From a renovated Veterinary Medical Learning Center to updating multiple residence halls across campus, these generous gifts are making it possible for UGA undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff to thrive in a well-designed and constantly improving environment.

Beyond these larger projects, donations to the university work daily for students and alumni through the UGA Alumni Association and Student Alumni Association, two organizations that connect students and alumni to each other, to the university and to the traditions and history that make UGA special.

This year has been record-breaking, but also record-setting. The bar has been raised to $126.4 million in donations. Now it’s time for the Bulldog Nation to make sure that 2015 is an even more incredible year for the University of Georgia. Make a pledge today for a better UGA tomorrow!

To learn more about this news, click here.

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07.18.2014

A Bulldog reunion 30 years in the making

With so many University of Georgia alumni and even former professors scattered around the world, you never know where two former Dawgs might run into each other, even after decades.

John Shearer (AB ’83) recently hooked up with his old Myers Hall faculty resident friend, Dr. Joe Snow, while traveling through Madrid, Spain, in a reunion that in some respects had been more than 30 years in the making. 


Dr. Joe Snow (left) and John Shearer in Madrid

The story of their friendship began when Shearer moved into Myers in January 1982 after two years of living in the now-razed McWhorter Hall as a walk-on football player and then four quarters in University Gardens Apartments off Baxter Street. In Myers, which was two-thirds male at the time, Shearer said he finally found the closely knit, small-college-like community of male and female students for which he had been longing.

Among the many people he befriended was Snow, a Spanish and Portuguese language instructor, who had an arrangement with university housing to live there at a greatly reduced rent. Snow's only job was to circulate among the students and help break down the barriers between students and faculty. 

Through Snow, Shearer found out about a 1983 spring break trip being planned to Russia, then called the Soviet Union, by then-University of Georgia Russian language professor Dr. Harold Schefski. Shearer ended up going on the trip with his mother, Dr. Snow, Dr. Snow’s sister and several other students. Upon their return to the United States in those pre-Internet days, they learned that Georgia had qualified for the Final Four in men’s and women’s basketball for the first time.

Shearer, who majored in geography, ended up keeping a journal about his trip, and that inspired him to pursue a journalism and writing career that continues 30 years later on a freelance basis from his home in Knoxville, Tenn.  In 2013, Shearer wrote a column on the 30th anniversary of his trip and through Dr. Schefski, who now teaches at California State University, Long Beach, he reconnected with Snow via email.

Snow, who became interested in Spanish while a high school student in New Jersey, had left UGA in the early 1990s to begin teaching at Michigan State University. Today, he spends most of his time in retirement in Madrid in a residence he was able to pay for in part due to his reduced rent while at Myers Hall.


Laura Shearer (ABJ '69) and Dr. Joe Snow

After realizing he would be traveling to Madrid in June with his wife, Laura Anderson Shearer (ABJ ’69), on the way to visit her son in Portugal, Shearer made plans to reconnect with Snow. And since it would be Shearer’s first overseas trip since the Russian excursion, he could say he had been with Snow on every international trip he had taken.

“It was neat reconnecting with him,” said Shearer, who had not seen Snow since the first year or two after he graduated. “He took us to an out-of-the way restaurant with which he was familiar, and it ended up being one of the best meals on our nearly two-week trip. But the conversation was even better. His engaging and warm manner that had endeared him to students became familiar again. 

“And most of all, it was neat comparing our memories of both the Russia trip and our experiences in Myers Hall, because my time in Myers was one of the happiest of my life.”

Written by freelance journalist John Shearer (AB ’83)

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07.17.2014

UGA alumnus named chairman of the Georgia Bankers Association

University of Georgia alumni continue to accomplish great fetes as they work their way into top positions across Georgia, the United States and the world. A few weeks ago another UGA alumnus did just that.

Remer Brinson III (BBA '82) was recently named the 125th chairman of the Georgia Bankers Association (GBA). As the president and CEO of Augusta-based First Bank of Georgia, Brinson was well prepared to take on this new position.

During his time at UGA, Brinson was a member of the Kappa Alpha Order and studied finance. He graduated in 1982 with a bachelor's degree in business administration.

Joe Brennen, president of the GBA, had this to say about Brinson's new position, "Our banks and our industry will be well-served by his experience and insightfulness about the critical issues facing our members, their customers and Georgia's communities."

Congratulations on this incredible achievement, Remer!

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