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09.11.2013

40 Under 40 Spotlight: Logan Smalley (BS ’06)

Logan Smalley (BS ’06) is doing big things – and has been for quite some time.

The Athens native first put himself on the map as a future leader during his time as an undergraduate at UGA. Inspired by his experiences at the Cannes Film Festival, Smalley decided to create a feature-length film about his close friend and hero, Darius Weems. In 2005, he directed, edited and composed the soundtrack for Darius Goes West, which documents Weems and several friends on a cross-country quest to get Weem’s wheelchair customized on the MTV show “Pimp My Ride.”

Along the way, the film crew raises awareness about Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which led to Weems being in a wheelchair, and to test for wheelchair accessibility across the country.

Since that time, Darius Goes West has been shown in 1,000 venues and 30 film festivals. More than 100,000 DVDs are in circulation and the film has won more than 25 awards. Smalley even appeared on TV shows such as Ellen DeGeneres, The Today Show, and The CBS Early Show. He continues to serve as president of the Darius Goes West nonprofit organization, which has raised $2.3 million for Duchenne muscular dystrophy research since the film was launched. 2013 marks the ninth annual Darius Goes West Day.

Smalley has not slowed down, though, following those successes. He earned a master’s degree in technology, innovation and education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2008. That same year, he was one of 30 applicants selected to become a TED Fellow.

The alumnus capitalized on that experience and went on to create TED-Ed to push the popular TED Talks into K-12 education. Since 2010, he has served as the TED-Ed director, overseeing and managing the TED-ED team of teachers, animators and web specialists. TED-Ed recently won three Webby awards, including “Best Education Website,” and the first 150 TED-Ed lessons have been viewed more than 20 million times in the last year.

When asked about his advice for current UGA students, Smalley responded, saying, “Participate in making the world, by using every tool available to you to tell your story, and to help tell the story of others.”

Through his work with Darius Goes West and now, through TED-Ed, it’s clear that Smalley takes his own advice to heart. Thank you for continuing to inspire us, Logan, and welcome to the 40 Under 40 Class of 2013!

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04.15.2015

Alumni Spotlight: Josh Collins (BSEH '97, MS '99)

Josh Collins (BSEH '97, MS '99) is the proud owner of Athen's newest juke-joint style restaurant, Champy's Famous Fried Chicken. Located at 1120 Baxter Steet, Athen, GA, the restarunt stives to bring together traditional, southern-family recipes with an atmosphere that will attract a diverse crowd. 

The UGA Alumni Association’s Strategic Communications intern, Emilie Clarke ’15, had the opportunity to catch up with this outstanding alumnus. Read below to find out more about Josh’s entrpreneurial endeavors.

You recently opened Champy’s Famous Fried Chicken, tell me a little bit about the restaurant. What steps did you take to open your own business? What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Champy's was founded in Chattanooga in 2009 by a good friend of ours, Seth Champion, who was raised on the Mississippi Delta.  Although Champy's of Athens is the fifth ocation, which also includes Daphne, Alabaster and Muscle Shoals, AL, we are not a franchise. We refer to ourselves as a "friendchise" between buddies that enjoy great food in a fun atmosphere. The atmosphere is fun for all ages. 

My wife, Amy, and I have talked about moving to Athens for the past 10 years and I knew that Athens was a Champy's explosion waiting to happen. We worked on selling the idea of Athens to Seth for over two years then invested everything we had into opening, including having to go all the way to Mississippi to get a business loan because local banks wouldn't work with us. We cashed in our 401Ks, are still living in an RV and continue to invest all of the elbow grease we have every day.     

 

  

Interior of Chmapy's Famous Fried Chicken

Where do you see the company in five years?

For the Athens Champy's, I can see a destination spot that draws customers from all over Georgia and visiting sports rivals, a thriving catering business for everyone that wants good southern food, and a restaurant full of locals that are drawn to our bluesy atmosphere. As for expansion, I definitely see a second location in five years, maybe an hour or two from Athens. 

What chefs or types of cuisines are your biggest food influences?

Flavors from the Deep South - Mississippi Delta hot tamales, fresh fried chicken and homemade sides. Our recipes were handed down from Seth Champion's grandfather over 40 years ago.  

How did your time at UGA help you achieve your personal and professional goals? Did you have a favorite professor or class that really stuck with you? Favorite memory from your time at UGA?

My environmental health sciences degree kick-started my corporate career and provided me with 15 years of business experience that I lean on every day to run the restaurant.   

I would have to go with two professors, Dr. David MacIntosh and Dean Phil Williams of the Health Science Campus. You didn't ask, but I couldn't forget about Ms. Sandra McPeake who was the department's assistant in the late 1990s. She couldn't always keep me out of trouble, but she tried her best! 

Football Saturdays in Athens are my favorite memory.  All of them...

What advice would you give to future graduates or young alumni who aspire to own their own business?

Just do it.  No one is going to make it happen, but you. 

To learn more about Josh Collins (BSEH '97, MS '99) and Champy's Famous Fried Chicken visit ChampysChicken.com.

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04.14.2015

Alumnus Spotlight: Carlton Curtis (ABJ '72)

Former UGA Alumni Association President Carlton Curtis (ABJ '72) has been honored with the 2015 Thad and Alice Eure Ambassador of Hospitality Award. Presented by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF), this award goes to an individual who has shown extraordinary achievement and exemplary leadership in the restaurant and hospitality industry.

"It's a privilege to recognize Carlton and his lifetime of achievements with one of the NRAEF's and the industry's highest honors," said Rob Gifford, executive vice president of strategic operations and philanthropy of the National Restaurant Association and NRAEF. "During his tenure with Coca-Cola and as a member of the NRA and NRAEF boards, Carlton has been steadfastly passionate and committed to improving the industry. He is a tremendous industry advocate, and an exemplary role model within the nation's restaurant and foodservice sector."

Curtis spent the past 43 years with the Coca-Cola Company, while volunteering his time, resources and expertise to restaurant operators and retailers around the globe in an effort to raise the stature of the industry. He has served as chairman of the board of the NRAEF, serves on the Board of Directors of the International Franchise Association, is the current chair of IFA's Diversity Institute, and is a member of the Hall of Fame of the Distinguished Restaurants of North America. He serves his alma mater as an emeritus trustee of the UGA Foundation. He will be recognized today at the National Restaurant Association’s Public Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C.

Continue reading this news story

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04.08.2015

Shabbat 500 creates home for UGA students

Recently, Executive Director Meredith Gurley Johnson (BSFCS '00) had an opportunity to attend the Shabbat 500 dinner.

Thanks to generous Georgia Fund gifts, University of Georgia student organizations are able to apply for sponsorship dollars from the UGA Alumni Association. This is an important way for alumni to support the diverse student groups on campus, including UGA’s student Jewish center, The Rohr Chabad House.

Since 2011, the UGA Alumni Association has been a proud sponsor of the Shabbat 500, an annual free dinner for UGA’s Jewish community in celebration of Shabbat. As a sponsor of Shabbat 500, we help fund the 500-person event hosted by The Rohr Chabad House.

The Chabad House is located near the Spec Towns Track and is a home-away-from-home for Jewish students that offers fellowship and an opportunity to celebrate the holidays. Rabbi Refson and his wife, Chana, have five children, yet they are still able to provide unparalleled hospitality to UGA students through their work with The Chabad House. Every Friday evening, the couple welcomes approximately 60 students for a free dinner in their home. The UGA community is lucky to have individuals like Rabbi Refsen and Chana who provide such special moments for students to gather and celebrate Judaism.

I was able to attend this year’s Shabbat 500 with UGA Alumni Association Vice President Ruth Bartlett (BBA ’76). I witnessed a number of UGA’s student leaders participate, enjoyed seeing the special connections these students have with one another, and loved hearing the prayers, blessings and singing that took place! The students’ energy reminded me how wonderfully diverse the University of Georgia student body is and it made me proud that the UGA Alumni Association sponsors this program.

I greatly admire Rabbi Refson’s family and appreciate the role they play in building a welcoming community for students on campus. I am proud to call them my friends and hope the entire Athens community knows how lucky we are to have them as a resource for students. I invite students, parents and alumni to investigate Chabad of Georgia and The Chabad House to find their role in supporting Rabbi Refson and this special organization on campus.

  

Executive Director Meredith Gurley Johnson (BSFCS '00), Student Alumni Council Member Reed Turry '17 and Vice President Ruth Bartlett (BBA '76)

I look forward to our team sponsoring this event, which promotes campus diversity and inclusiveness, again in the future. Thank you to The Chabad House for hosting Ruth and me!

Meredith Gurley Johnson (BSFCS ’00) is the executive director of the UGA Alumni Association. 

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