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01.14.2014

UGA alumnus Tom Okie (PHD ‘12) explains the history behind “The Peach State”

The Garden State. The Big Apple. The Magnolia State - there's no question as to which states these terms relate. And the Peach State? That should be an easy one!

In his award-winning dissertation and upcoming book, Everything is Peaches Down in Georgia: Culture and Agriculture in the American South, UGA graduate Tom Okie (PHD ’12) explains why "Peach State" became synonymous with our beloved Georgia. Okie’s interest in peaches is far from random; his father was a U.S. Department of Agriculture peach breeder based in Byron, Georgia.

In his book, Okie explains that the peach represented progress 100 years ago. At the dawn of the 20th century, cotton suddenly represented poverty and carried a negative connotation, relating to the “benighted vassalage” of the South’s cotton planters. The adoption of the peach as representation of change was carried out in order to give the the agricultural economy a face-lift. In his book, Okie says “the cultural footprint of the peach is much larger than its economic impact.” Despite the fact that blueberry sales significantly surpassed the annual value of peaches, the peach icon lives on because of its historical value to Georgia.

According to the alumnus, “Growing up [in Byron], I took for granted that middle Georgia was common, even ugly. But reading the glowing descriptions of these early horticulturists gave me a new appreciation of the nuanced beauty of my home. Wendell Berry has a line in his poem How to be a Poet that captures this feeling. He wrote, ‘there are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.'”

I encourage you to read more about Okie and his dissertation, which was described as “a beautifully written, elegantly rendered tale full of surprises and profound implications for understanding America’s past” by the Society of American Historians. He even received the 2013 Allan Nevins Prize for best-written history doctoral dissertation on an American topic. The UGA Office of the Vice President for Research covered Okie's work beginning on page 27 of the Fall 2013 issue of "UGA Research."

Great work, Tom! The meaning behind "Peach State" is something that most of us should probably learn - thank you!

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02.03.2016

Alumnus Spotlight: Peter Conlon (BBA '75)

One of the biggest attractions to the Atlanta music scene is its annual music festival, Music Midtown. From mainstream pop artists to rising rock bands, Music Midtown offers the crowds that gather performances from a wide variety of artists. For Peter Conlon (BBA '75), one of two founders of the festival and president of Peter Conlon Presents, this was the overall goal: to create an event fit for attendees of all music tastes and genres.

Conlon graduated from Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in international business in 1975. During his four years as an undergraduate student, he was a member of University Union where he first began booking rock concerts that featured artists such as Jethro Tull and the Allman Brothers. He attended law school for a short period of time after graduation, but then took a risk and dropped out to work as an intern for the Carter presidential campaign, a risk that ended up paying off through a victory.

Peter continued to work for Jimmy Carter throughout his presidential term. His position required that he help set up benefit concerts for the president. In 1982, Conlon partnered with Alex Cooley to begin his career in the music industry.

Music Midtown at Piedmont Park

After working many years booking concerts, the pair founded Music Midtown in 1994, inspired by the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. After having to pull the plug on the event in 2005 due to low sales, the festival was reintroduced in 2011 and now takes up several stages across Piedmont Park, hosts more than 30 different artists, and attracts attendees from all over the nation. Moreover, since the festival’s relaunch, it has generated $50 million for the local economy each year.

Congratulations to Peter and best wishes for the continued success of Music Midtown! 

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02.01.2016

Alumna Spotlight: Devin Clower (BFA ’08)

Anyone family with downtown Athens and its eclectic variety of shops is surely familiar with Frontier. Since opening nearly 20 years ago, the store has connected local artists with community members by providing a venue for them to showcase and sell their work. 

UGA alumna Devin Clower (BFA '08) took ownership of the store three years ago. Her background in interior design helped her with the introduction of custom framing and redesigning the store layout.

The store’s motto, “All for the heart and home,” is reflected in the unique gifts that you can find at the store. Devin has worked hard to fulfill the motto, and through her leadership, the store has grown into a local favorite.

Congratulations on your hard work, Devin!

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01.29.2016

UGA awards the President’s Medal

On January 27, the UGA President’s Medal was awarded to Francis “Abit” Massey (BBA ’49) and the late Jane Seddon Willson. This honor recognizes extraordinary support and contributions to individuals that have made a tremendous impact in the lives of students and staff. Through them, the university is able to continue to push forward to greater heights in the realm of academia.

Francis "Abit" Massey (BBA '49)

Abit served as the president of the UGA Alumni Association’s Board of Directors from 1991-1993. Throughout his career, he served in the roles of head of the Georgia Department of Economic Development and executive director of the Georgia Poultry Federation. Currently, he is serving on the board of the UGA Real Estate Foundation, Georgia Research Foundation, and is an emeritus trustee of the UGA Foundation. Moreover, Abit has received numerous medals throughout his lifetime that include the 1986 UGA Alumni Merit Award and the Harold E. Ford Lifetime Achievement Award from the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association.

During her lifetime, Jane served as a member of on the Arts and Sciences Advisory Board, the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Council, the Franklin College Advisory Board, the UGA Research Foundation, the Honors Program and Advisory Board, the Georgia Museum of Art Board of Advisors, and she served as an emerita trustee of the UGA Research Foundation. In 2004, she endowed the William Harry Willson Distinguished Chair of Business in honor of her husband and later on, she created the Willson International Honors Scholars Program for students in the university’s Honors Program. Jane was honored with a Doctor of Laws degree in 2006, one of the highest accolades granted to any individual that is a part of the Bulldog community, and in 2008, she was inducted into the Crystal Arch Society in recognition of her passion for giving back to the university.


 

The late Jane Willson 

 “We are honored to recognize two great Georgians for helping to improve our state and strengthen the university,” said President Morehead. “Through their influential vision and tremendous generosity, both Abit Massey and the late Jane Willson have had a profound impact on UGA, and their contributions will continue to benefit the university for generations to come.”

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