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Bulldog sisters make mark on wedding industry

Sisters Ashley Steele (ABJ ’06), of Charlottesville, Va., and Cali Brutz (AB ’08), of Athens, Ga., own and operate two businesses that are modernizing the ever-growing wedding industry. Steele and Brutz began working together in 2008 at the ages of 24 and 22, respectively. At the time, Steele was planning her own wedding and Brutz was a photographer. During the wedding planning process, the pair identified a number of issues that arise in the photographer-bride relationship.

To foster a hassle-free experience for both parties, Steele and Brutz launched (once like a spark) photography. The company’s full-time staff of eight includes photo editors, wedding planners and art directors. These individuals work with more than 30 freelance photographers across the country to provide clients with a boutique experience for their special event.

Enjoying success from their (once like a spark) venture, the duo is now preparing to launch its latest venture, Borrowing Magnolia, in May. The concept is similar to Rent the Runway and Warby Parker in that soon-to-be brides will be able to rent wedding dresses for their big day via the Borrowing Magnolia website. The dresses available for rental will be provided by former brides who are interested in earning extra cash by lending their gown to another individual.

Steele and Brutz are currently seeking dresses for Borrowing Magnolia, so if you are interested in earning a little money from a wedding dress in your closet, visit and fill out a short form about you and your dress.

The sisters have obviously been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and show no signs of stopping. This year, (once like a spark) is expected to provide photography for more than 400 weddings; Borrowing Magnolia has garnered interest from the New York Times’ Style Section; and reality show producers are in talks of covering their business endeavors.

Congratulations to Ashley and Cali on their stellar success and best wishes for a successful launch of Borrowing Magnolia!

To learn more about (once like a spark) photography, click here.

To learn more about Borrowing Magnolia or how to offer your dress for inclusion in this service, click here.

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Alumnus Spotlight: Jack B. Hood (AB ’69, JD ’71)

Jack B. Hood (AB ’69, JD ’71) is a Georgia Bulldog fan, lawyer, author and banjo player.

Proud to be a Double Dawg, he received a degree in international law from the University of Cambridge (Darwin College) in 1972. Jack currently serves as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Alabama in Birmingham. He is currently a member of the Georgia, Alabama and District of Columbia bars. 

Recently, Jack returned from an American Bar Association (ABA) sponsored trip to Ireland and the United Kingdom to attend the celebration of the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta at Runnymede. Jack is descended from Saer de Quincey, the first Early of Winchester and one of the 25 barons that forced King John to seal the document in 1215. Saer de Quincey was also a Templar Knight who “took the Cross” and later died on November 3, 1219, while on the Fifth Crusade at the siege of Damietta in Egypt. 

The ceremonies at Runnymede on June 15, 2015, were attended by British royalty and dignitaries from around the world including: Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip; William, Duke of Cambridge, Princess Anne; Prime Minister David Cameron; the Archbishop of Canterbury; William Hubbard, President of the ABA; and Loretta Lynch, attorney general of the United States.

Jack and his grandson Walkin 

Jack, his daughter, and grandson attended exclusive events for ABA members at the U.S. Ambassador (Kevin O’Malley) to Ireland’s residence at Deerfield in Phoenix Park, Dublin, and at the U.S. Ambassador (David Barzun) to the UK’s residence at Winfield House in Regent’s Park, London.


England's Prince William 

They visited Darwin College at the University of Cambridge and attended formal dinners and Darwin’s annual formal ball. They also managed to tour Royal Air Force Bases at Duxford, Mildenhall, and Lakenheath with the assistance of a current USAF JAG officer living in Cambridge.

Jack's time at UGA opened many doors for his career as a lawyer, professor, and author. Several of his undergraduate and law professors took a personal interest in his education and motivated Jack to work hard as a member of the legal profession. This ultimately allowed him to make this trip a memorable family event. Those inspirational professors at Georgia included Ed Best in undergraduate school, and Perry Sentell and Dean Rusk at law school.

Learn more about Jack Hood

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Alumnus and longtime supporter brings NASA to campus

Roger Hunter’s (BS ’78, Mathematics) passion for UGA is unmatched by most, and despite living thousands of miles from Athens, his veins are still filled with red and black.

In 2014, the associate director for programs at NASA Ames Research Center in California gave the fall commencement address and a TEDxUGA Talk. This past summer, he hosted UGA President Jere W. Morehead (JD ’80) and other university representatives on a tour of Ames, even surprising them with an image of Uga IX on Mars – the first “earth-being” to visit the surface of the Red Planet.

His commitment to UGA continued this fall when Roger brought two of his NASA colleagues, Roberto Carlino and Jasper Wolfe, to campus to present to and mentor students and faculty on the Friday prior to the UGA vs. South Carolina football game.

(left to right): NASA scientists Jasper Wolfe from Australia, Roberto Carlino from Italy and UGA’s own Roger Hunter from California.

Malcolm Adams, a Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor of Math, arranged for an afternoon lecture in the Miller Learning Center that was open to all students and promoted in STEM classes on campus. The presentation focused on the history and future of the use of Cube-Sats (mini satellites used for space research) from the perspective of the NASA Ames Research Center.

Earlier that day, though, the NASA representatives participated in a seminar/workshop for a group of faculty and students who are planning to build the first UGA CubeSat to gather spectral data off the Georgia coast. The group includes faculty from geography, marine science, physics and math, and 25 to 30 undergraduate students.


Both the students and faculty in attendance were inspired by the exciting, breakthrough technology presented by the visitors, and were appreciative of the first-hand mentoring offered.

Roger Hunter continues to contribute to UGA through his time, expertise and financial support. His involvement is greatly appreciated and can be seen as a stellar example of alumni enriching the learning experience on campus through volunteerism.

If you are interested in mentoring on campus or bringing a special project to UGA students, please email and indicate your interest.

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Alumnus Spotlight: Joey Shonka (BS ’05)

Joey Shonka (BS ’05), a long distance hiker and mountaineer, is trying to become the first person to traverse the entire Andes mountain range on foot. He has completed the Triple Crown of Hiking, which refers to the three major U.S. long distance hiking trails: the Appalachian Trail (AT), the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). Joey has written the following books about his experiences hiking each of these trails.

"The Darkness in the Light" (about the AT)

"An American Nomad" (about the PCT)

"A Strong West Wind" (about the CDT)


In July 2013, Joey began his attempt to create the first unbroken chain of footsteps across the continent of South America. He started his trek at Cape Froward, the southernmost point on the mainland of South America. As part of his current journey, he has already hiked nearly 5,000 kilometers, crossed parts of the world's third-largest glacier network and summited seven of the highest peaks in the Americas. Joey checks in via a location tracker on his website to keep family, friends and fans updated. Recently, he was spotted near the Rio Vilcanota in Peru. Joey plans to culminate his hike in Columbia, political unrest permitting, around March 2016.

Learn more about Joey and follow his adventures around the world here.

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