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Alumni Luminaries

2016 Alumni Awards of Excellence winnersThe 2016 Alumni Awards of Excellence went to Charles Hubert Bronson Jr., former Florida commissioner of agriculture and consumer services; Beverly Sparks, former CAES associate dean for Extension; D. Wayne Akins Jr., chief retail banking officer of Synovus Bank; and Lowry Weyman Hunt Jr., sixth-generation Morgan County, Georgia, farmer. Photo by Blane Marable

The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and CAES Alumni Association recognized a former agriculture commissioner, bankers, a farmer and UGA Cooperative Extension leaders as part of its annual awards program.

“These awards not only allow us to recognize the accomplishments of our fellow alumni, but also the ways in which CAES has contributed to our collective success,” said Elliott Marsh, president of the alumni association.

The alumni association recognized its 2016 award winners, as well as the 2016 Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame inductees, at the annual CAES Alumni Awards Banquet on Nov. 11, 2016, in Athens, Georgia.

This year, the alumni association awarded four Alumni Awards of Excellence.

Charles Hubert Bronson Jr., former Florida commissioner of agriculture and consumer services: Over the course of his career, Bronson (BSA – Animal Science, ’73) taught agricultural science at Gainesville High School in Florida, worked as an agricultural supply salesman and was elected to the Florida Senate to represent Brevard and Osceola counties. In addition to serving on several authorities and advisory committees across Florida, Bronson served as state senator from 1994 to 2001, when he was named commissioner of agriculture and consumer services by then-Gov. Jeb Bush. He was subsequently re-elected to two more terms, serving in the post until he retired in 2011. Bronson was inducted into the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2013.

Beverly Sparks, former CAES associate dean for Extension: After a long career in UGA Extension, Sparks (BSA – Horticulture, ’78; MS – Entomology, ’80) was named associate dean for Extension within CAES in 2007. She was the first woman to lead UGA Extension, and she served as director of Extension until 2014. Her leadership is credited with helping UGA Extension weather the financial turmoil that accompanied the Great Recession. Sparks also received the 2016 Excellence in Leadership Award from the Association of Southern Region Extension Directors in April 2016.

D. Wayne Akins Jr., chief retail banking officer of Synovus Bank: From 1998 to 2011, Akins (BSA – Agricultural Economics, ’85) served as the CEO and president of Sea Island Bank in Statesboro, Georgia. In 2011, Akins assumed an expanded role for the bank’s parent company, Synovus Financial, headquartered in Columbus, Georgia. Currently, Akins serves as chief retail banking officer for the company, which operates 245 branch offices with 1,500 team members in five Southeastern states.

Lowry Weyman Hunt Jr., sixth-generation Morgan County, Georgia, farmer: Hunt (BSA – Animal Science, ’80) was the first in his family to seek a college degree in agriculture. He knew the knowledge he gained would help him run the family business, Godfrey’s Feed, and the family farm, Innisfail Farm. Innisfail, a 2,200-acre timber and cattle farm, has been in Hunt’s family for six generations. Hunt took over operations in 1972.

The alumni association also honored three young alumni through its CAES Young Alumni Achievement Awards. These awards recognize CAES alumni under 35 who have achieved excellence in their chosen fields or in their communities.

Cliff Riner, coordinator of the Vidalia Onion and Vegetable Research Center and Vidalia onion area Extension agent: Riner (BSA – Agricultural Education, ’06) started his career as the Agriculture and Natural Resources UGA Extension agent in Tattnall County, Georgia, and was promoted to his current position in 2013. He is pursuing his master’s degree in agricultural and environmental education.

Luke Lanier, assistant vice president of Metter Bank: After graduation, Lanier (BSA – Agricultural Economics, ’07) accepted a job at Durden Banking Company and moved back to his family farm in Candler County, Georgia. Lanier spent the last eight years coordinating agricultural lending to help local farmers.

Allison Perkins, UGA Extension 4-H Youth Development agent in Bartow County, Georgia: In her current position, Perkins (BSA – Animal Science, ’05; MAL – Agricultural Leadership, ’10) is responsible for implementing and carrying out educational programs, including equine programs, for 4-H youth in Bartow County.

Save the Date!

The 63rd annual CAES Alumni Association Awards Banquet is set for Friday, Sept. 22, at the Classic Center in Athens, Georgia. A reception will begin at 6 p.m., followed by the dinner and awards program at 7 p.m. Please register online by Sept. 15. Call 706-542-3390 for more information.

By Merritt Melancon


2016 Young Alumni Achievement Award recipientsThe 2016 Young Alumni Achievements Awards were given to (left to right) Cliff Riner, coordinator of the Vidalia Onion and Vegetable Research Center and Vidalia onion area Extension agent; Luke Lanier, assistant vice president of Metter Bank; and Allison Perkins, UGA Extension 4-H Youth Development agent in Bartow County, Georgia. Photo by Blane Marable