Georgia Southern University holds a special place in the hearts of newlyweds and alumni Marc Snyder (‘07) and wife Erin (‘08).
Not only were they students at the University when they met in August 2006, but their experiences at Georgia Southern instilled a True Blue spirit in them so deep they didn’t leave for their destination wedding at Dunnottar Castle in Stonehaven, Scotland on May 24, without it. The Canton, Ga., residents have also adorned their new home with a Georgia Southern flag to boast their Eagle Spirit to passersby.
“I will forever bleed blue and white and I am constantly running into alumni who come up and say hello to me whenever they see me wearing Georgia Southern gear,” Erin said. “Georgia Southern was the best college experience that I never knew I could have. I am so glad I was able to get such a great education and experience where I made lifelong friends.”
Marc agreed, saying attending Georgia Southern “was by far the best experience and I wouldn’t trade it to go to any other school. GSU is a fast growing school, but you wouldn’t know it by the small feel of the campus and classes, and you can’t find the football game experience anywhere else like at Georgia Southern.”
Both Marc and Erin credit their experiences at the University for helping with their new careers, making lifelong friends and receiving a quality education.
“I think my education from Georgia Southern was top notch. I still use what I learned in my current job,” said Erin, who is a student nurse extern at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, Ga. “I also feel like I was so involved when I was at Georgia Southern and it has allowed me to have an ease with balancing tasks in everyday life now.”
While at Georgia Southern, Erin stayed involved with the athletic training program and was a student athletics trainer with the volleyball, softball and football teams. She was involved with Campus Recreation and Intramurals (CRI) and the Recreation Activities Center (RAC). Some of Erin’s best memories, though, were during her time as a SOAR leader during the summer of 2005.
“I made lifelong friends that summer and still keep in touch with them,” she said. “SOAR taught me so much about Georgia Southern history, present and future. That was when I really fell in love with Georgia Southern.”
Marc credits his involvement in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Georgia Southern chapter with his current role as a project engineer at the civil engineering company Paulson Mitchell Inc. in Roswell, Ga.
“Being a part of ASCE definitely helped me because it was a good way to teach me leadership that I used later on in my career where I helped coordinate projects and worked with city and county officials,” Marc said. “It also helped me by giving me connections within the engineering field when I began looking for my current job.”
Memories at Paulson Stadium are some that Marc will cherish forever.
“I had a group of friends that would all get together and tailgate before the games, and sit in the same seats every game, which we still do to this day and I’m looking forward to the season coming up,” he said.
And just what does the University mean to the Snyders?
“Georgia Southern means walking on Sweetheart Circle in the summer with Marc, working in the athletic training room with all the student athletes in Hanner Fieldhouse, working out at the RAC and seeing all your friends,” Erin said. “It means scorekeeping flag football games at the intramural fields and watching your friends play, going to football games to cheer on the greatest team on earth and teaching all of the freshman why Georgia Southern is the greatest time of your life at SOAR.”
“From the beautiful campus and small classrooms to the fun and huge football game days, Georgia Southern is an incredible place to be,” Marc added. “GATA EAGLES!”
Not only is Maj. Gen. Leslie “Les” Smith (’85) Army Strong, he also has a Red, White and True Blue spirit that he has carried proudly since his time as a student at Georgia Southern University.
As a student, Smith was actively involved in the ROTC and was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. He received his commission in 1983 as a Field Artillery Officer, and in 1985 was selected as a distinguished military graduate and branched as a Chemical Officer.
“The entire Georgia Southern experience helped me to see something broader than myself,” Smith said. “Being from Atlanta, I think the courtesies, customs and traditions that we learned at home were reinforced in college and still used today. I learned how to build coalitions with people I did not know, understand cultures and traditions that I had no appreciation for and basically spread my wings and fly.”
Smith is now the commanding general for the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., that trains between 80,000 and 90,000 soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen in in Engineer, Military Police and Chemical military occupational specialties. In addition, the Army base also trains the largest contingent of motor transport operators from across all military services, has the largest noncommissioned officer training academy and is home to the Army’s only live chemical agent training facility.
Smith also met his wife of 25 years, Vanedra, at Georgia Southern. The first time he saw her in the student center before a Kappa Alpha Psi party is perhaps one of his favorite memories during his time as a student, he said. But Smith is also thankful for the preparation he gained for his future at the University.
“I think that everything you do prepares you for what you will do next, even if you do not know what that next step is yet. For example, we had ROTC instructors who helped prepare us for an Army that we were not yet part of, but they knew what we were going to face in the future,” Smith said. “GSU played a significant role in the life that Vanedra and I have today. It helped us find our way and set us on a path to the blessings we enjoy today, and has no doubt prepared us for those we cannot see in the future.”
The major general said it is important for him to try to visit Georgia Southern each year to talk with the ROTC students and leadership of the University.
“Basically, we have to take the time to invest in those who took the time to invest in us. If you step back and look at the blessings that you receive, you must know that we have the same responsibility to bless others,” Smith said.
While Smith began his journey as an Eagle when the University was home to only about 7,000 students, he still believes Georgia Southern is an ideal place to get an education. “If you are looking for a complete education with a small-town feel pick Southern,” he said. “There is something about learning how to treat others with dignity and respect, dealing with people who think differently than you to accomplish a stated goal and yet still have lots of fun.”
And despite future growth, Smith said it is important not to forget the University’s beginnings.
“It is important that people understand and appreciate what they have in Georgia Southern. It is not every day that you have a large university with a small-town family feel,” he said. “It is critical, regardless of how large we grow, that we do not forget that. Southern Pride and Southern Style are more than words, it is a way of life. EAGLES SOAR not squawk on the ground!”
Georgia Southern University alumna Donna Tydings (’04, ‘13) comes from a True Blue family.
Tydings and her husband, Spencer Tydings (’79), both hold degrees from Georgia Southern.
“Spencer graduated from Georgia Southern in 1979 and has been a practicing CPA for 34 years. His goal for me was to attain a college degree which I did not have at the time we were married,” Tydings said. “So I began my experience at Georgia Southern in 1999 at the age of 39. I completed my B.S. in 2004 at the age of 44. My master’s degree was acquired from Walden University at the age of 46. On May 10, I graduated from Georgia Southern with my Ed.S. degree.”
As a mother of three, Tydings continues to be involved with Georgia Southern by attending football games and on occasion, she and her husband attend play performances on campus.
In addition, Tydings stays involved with the University through her children, who have followed in her and her husband’s footsteps. Her son, Eric (‘11), daughter-in-law Amanda Bailey (‘08) and oldest daughter Christi (‘10) hold degrees from the University. Her youngest daughter, Nicole, will complete her degree in December 2014.
“My children are just very education oriented and they like change, they like learning, they like new experiences and I just felt like Georgia Southern played a huge role in all of those,” Tydings said. “My husband breathes Georgia Southern and we both love Georgia Southern football.”
Tydings is a third grade teacher for Dublin City Schools in Dublin, Ga., where she has worked for nine years. She said the experience she gained while at Georgia Southern has helped her career.
“I was so prepared for the classroom when I actually got in the classroom,” Tydings said. “With the amount of time you have to spend in the classroom with a practicum and student teaching, I found that when you get in the classroom, its like you already have two years under your belt. When I would have meetings with parents, they were amazed I had just started teaching.”
Tydings said her family will always “live and breathe Georgia Southern,” a place she considers near and dear to her heart.
“Georgia Southern has provided my family with the opportunity to be successful in our careers and maintain a wonderful lifestyle,” Tydings said. “It means opportunity. It means football, it means lifelong friendships, livelihood and a feeling of accomplishment. It is hard to put into words.”
Jody Middleton (’12) and Bradley Odom (’01) haven’t forgotten their days as students at Georgia Southern University when both were actively involved with the Recreation Activities Center (RAC) and various intramural sports and fitness clubs.
Even though Middleton and Odom are no longer students, the two are still involved with Georgia Southern and attend most athletic events on campus. They also use their business, Swim.Bike.Run.Boro to work hand in hand with the RAC and Southern Adventures, as well as the cycling, triathlon and running clubs.
The two opened the specialty store, which carries swimming apparel, running gear and bicycling equipment, not only to continue their passion for athleticism and fitness, but also to give back to the community they came to love during their time at the University.
“I like the growth and direction Georgia Southern is going, and somebody like Jody and I, who are Southern graduates, are trying to do something to help community … We’re in it to help the community get more active and get fit,” Odom said.
“We’re just doing our best to give back to the community and get people involved with riding, running and swimming and just getting active,” Middleton added.
Odom, who grew up in Richmond Hill, Ga., said he began attending football games at Georgia Southern at just 8 years old. He knew at a young age he would always attend Georgia Southern to obtain his degree in health and physical education.
“I like the college atmosphere—I’m 35, but I still feel like I’m college age, even though I’m not,” he said with a laugh.
Middleton fell in love with Statesboro when he came here to obtain his degree in business management.
“I grew up in South Carolina, so I came here for school and liked the whole small town feel and felt at home here,” Middleton said. “I love riding bikes here, and I love the community and people. Everybody has been so willing to help. There is a real personal approach here—that’s what I like most about Georgia Southern and the community.”
Now that Chris Brennaman (’02) has turned his passion for writing into a career, he is giving much of the credit to his collegiate experiences at Georgia Southern University.
“I’m doing something really cool that’s reaching a lot of people and I got the tools to make that happen from Georgia Southern,” he says.
The broadcasting major has found his niche writing children’s stories for interactive storybooks, animation and video games for alive Studios, an educational design company in suburban Atlanta, Ga.
“I’m involved from start to finish with the creation of a program called “Storybooks alive: Ima Iguana, Treasure Hunter,” Brennaman says. “I write the story, the script for the animation and the dialogue for the video games. I also voice most of the characters that appear in the story.”
The downloaded digital book serves multiple purposes. Kids can read it, watch the animated scene that appears at the end of each page and even play a mini-game that enhances the action in the story. Brennaman explains the app that comes with the digital storybook is what makes his job at alive Studios so unique. “So far no one has taken the storybook and made it interactive to the extent we have,” he says. “With our app, you get a storybook that morphs into a cartoon, that then morphs into a game and then back to a storybook.”
Brennaman was heavily involved with student media when he attended the University, and says everything he learned here has shaped his entire life and not just his professional one. “I was given such a firm, powerful foundation that I guarantee will take me through my entire life. The professors and faculty at Georgia Southern literally changed my life the moment I stepped onto campus.”
It might be hard to find someone with more True Blue spirit than Paula Tompkins, one of the guiding forces behind the organization that sponsors the “Aging Eagles” and the “Aging Eagles Club.” The club started as just a small group of friends and enthusiastic Georgia Southern University football fans. Later, they decided to support the Southern Pride Marching Band. Now with nearly 150 members, the “Aging Eagles Club” is a tax-deductible non-profit organization with a foundation account set up for the University athletic bands.
When band director Dr. Colin McKenzie took over Southern Pride last year, Tompkins said she began sharing some of her ideas with him. “Through my membership on the Music Advisory Board at the University, I heard that the band was requesting donations of food before each home game, so I volunteered to help. I went to several local restaurants, explained the need and was thrilled to get a ‘yes’ to feeding 250 hot and hungry kids on game day,” Tompkins explained. “As a thank you from the band, Colin let me conduct the band during the fight song at a home game. What a thrill! The band members were wonderful! They were so polite and appreciative of everything.”
Some of the “Aging Eagles Club” members are Georgia Southern graduates, but Tompkins, who majored in oboe at Ohio State University, said most are not. “Our connection with the University goes back to 1980 when our oldest son was a freshman here,” she said. “We feel strongly that the athletic programs at Georgia Southern benefit from having a strong band presence. We respect and admire the hard work and long, hot hours the band members put in and we want to show them that we’re here to support them.”
This is a whirlwind time for Georgia Southern University alumna Hollie Bonewit-Cron (’02) who is attending the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England as the head coach of the Grenadian Swim Team. She is also the head coach for the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and one of her swimmers, Esau Simpson, is competing for his home country of Grenada at the Summer Olympics.
“Esau came to me to ask me that if he were to make the team, if I wanted to be his coach,” she says. “I told him I would love the opportunity to coach him and I applied to the Grenadian Olympic Committee to allow me to be his coach. The committee accepted my proposal and through a series of checks and balances to make sure I would get accredited, I became the head swim coach for Grenada.”
Georgia Southern has played a big part in this momentous occasion for the veteran swimming coach. She started her collegiate coaching career at the University in 2000 as the assistant swim coach for the women’s team. Two years later Bonewit-Cron graduated from Georgia Southern with a master’s in kinesiology with an emphasis in sport psychology, and says she remains connected to the University through her connections with her graduate school classmates. “I still keep in touch with many of them, including two who were in my wedding five years ago,” she adds.
Bonewit-Cron says the experience as a head coach at the Olympics is one of the highest levels a coach could achieve. ”It takes a lot of hard work to get to this point, but it is an experience and opportunity like nothing else. It is hard to top the opportunity to be a head coach at the Olympics. The only other Olympic achievement that could be higher as a U.S. coach is to be on a U.S. Olympic Team.”
The swimming and diving coach has this advice for all True Blue fans: “When you have opportunities, do not hesitate to take them even if they appear to be quick decisions. Had I not made some quick decisions and well as some long thought over decisions in my career as an athlete and a coach, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I would also recommend staying true to yourself and never be misguided by naysayers or discouraged by disappointments.”
(Simpson won the second heat in the men’s 100-meter freestyle time trials, but did not advance to further rounds.)
Skyler Andre Henry (’11) went from being one of the busiest students on the Georgia Southern University campus to an internship with Clear Channel Media, the biggest radio company in the country. He graduated in December 2011 and in January Henry was in Los Angeles, Calif. for a four-month internship at KIIS-FM where popular “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest broadcasts his syndicated radio show.
The multimedia communications major says a return visit by Seacrest to the high school they both graduated from — Dunwoody High near Atlanta, Ga. — helped seal his interest in broadcasting. “He talked to a few students right at the beginning of his career when I was going to ninth grade and ever since then I’ve been in love with broadcasting,” Henry said.
At KIIS-FM the Georgia Southern alumnus helped write blogs and edited audio for programs by popular disc jockey Rick Dees. Henry added, “It’s definitely surreal being able to work with icons of the business smack dab in the middle of Hollywood.”
Henry said his internship at one of the most listened to stations in the country would never have happened if not for his hands-on experiences at Georgia Southern which included his job as a student producer/host on “Inside Georgia Southern Football with Jeff Monken.” “I think there might have been a period in time where I was the busiest student on campus,” Henry said. “I had three jobs including the Coach’s show, I was a member of Eagle Entertainment, I held a position with 91.9, class of course and I was trying to brand myself in the process, besides being a 21-year-old.”
Now working as a production assistant with WSB-TV in Atlanta, his True Blue spirit is evident when the Georgia Southern alumnus talks about his professors in the University’s Communication Arts Department. “Had it not been for Tyson Davis, I would have never experienced any of this. Tyson, in a way, inspired me to be better than I could have ever imagined.” Henry added, “Susan DeBonis is another one. She’s the one who pushed me to even consider taking the chances of applying to internships in Los Angeles.”
Michelle Vegliante (’11) has a heart for helping those in need.
Whether it’s mixing cement by hand, painting sites for local nonprofits or working with orphans in Honduras, Vegliante’s undergraduate commitment to community service has led to a career that impacts the lives of people around the globe.
“I feel lucky every day. I get to spend my day raising money for a nonprofit that helps save lives and keeps people healthy,” said the event administrator for the American Heart Association in Washington, D.C. “I wouldn’t be in the career I am today or so happy in my job without the opportunities Georgia Southern’s Office of Student Leadership and Civic Engagement gave me. It is so hard to describe, but I feel a sense of goodness at my core for nonprofit work,” said the Marietta, Ga., native about her student training at the University.
As an undergraduate, Vegliante established close working relationships with more than 10 nonprofit organizations in the Statesboro community, and also launched her own organization called Painters for Nonprofits, created to lend a helping hand to nonprofits. Since her graduation, Painters for Nonprofits has continued to paint buildings and facilities, such as the Boys and Girls Club and the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fairgrounds.
Vegliante also traveled to Honduras during an Alternative Break trip, where she worked with other students to build schools and housing for impoverished villages. During the trip, she met Students Helping Honduras co-founder Shin Fujiyama, which led to a realization about her career path.
“I was really inspired and I knew that I wouldn’t be happy in a job if I couldn’t do something that would make a difference in the lives of others,” she said. Today, that includes raising an estimated $1.2 million dollars to make people healthier through the Heart’s Delight Wine Tasting and Auction, an epicurean four-day food and wine event benefiting the American Heart Association. The event features visiting winemakers from all over the world, auctions and dinners prepared by culinary greats in exclusive D.C. locations.
There’s no doubt that Vegliante will take this challenge and turn it into an opportunity to help others.
“I’ve always wanted to do something bigger than myself that goes beyond my lifetime,” she said.
Sometimes having a little spare time can lead to big ideas.
Just ask Paul Barkley (’90) the founder of the Web site gsufans.com. The site provides the latest information and coverage of Georgia Southern sports – whether it is football, basketball or baseball – and encourages interaction among fans. “I like to view it as a virtual watercooler,” said Barkley, “where people can say pretty much whatever they want. Lots of emotions come out on the Web site.”
The idea started in 1997, while Barkley was pulling double duty as a stay-at-home dad and working a midnight shift at a Macon, Ga., hospital. “I had a lot of idle time at home with a newborn, and this was the advent of the Internet. I met some Georgia Southern fans online through different Web sites and realized there was very little information about our sports programs out there,” he said. Barkley soon teamed up with his Pi Kappa Phi fraternity brother Lance Smith to launch the site that year. Smith’s involvement also brought an added benefit to gsufans.com: his brother.
“At the time, Lance’s younger brother Giff (a former first team Associate Press All-American at Southern) was on the coaching staff with Paul Johnson, and we felt that the Web site could provide some additional insight into the program,” said Barkley, the operations manager of the laboratory at the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon.
From August to December, Barkley spends countless evening hours and entire weekends of his spare time providing coverage of football games and taking photos from the sidelines to post to gsufans.com. What started with 10 or 11 fans interacting on a daily basis has now grown to 1,000, and a staff of five volunteers works on the site. “Over the years, we’ve had more than a million posts from fans,” he said.
Barkley’s tireless dedication to gsufans.com and Georgia Southern is for one simple reason: supporting athletics. “We’re not trying to be a newsmaker, but a portal to the news and a resource. I want our forum to develop a sense of community that emphasizes the positive aspects and successes of Georgia Southern’s programs.”
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Call it fate, or call it perfect timing, but one opportunity launched a career for a Georgia Southern University alumnus.
During Beau Turpin’s (’09) sophomore year, he found himself at an academic crossroads, faced with indecision about his career path. “I really didn’t know what I wanted to do, except that I knew I loved working with people,” said the Albany, Ga., native.
That all changed when the versatile athlete was cast as a football player in the film “We Are Marshall,” in 2006. “It was a career opportunity – bigger than an internship. I was able to see how the whole behind-the-scenes filmmaking process works and I was sold. I knew this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” he said.
After working steadily in Georgia’s film industry in production and acting roles, the communication arts graduate recently moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dream on a bigger scale.
Turpin’s crew experiences from more than 11 film and TV productions include working as the assistant football coordinator on “The Blind Side,” as well as assistant to producer Craig Zadan during the remake of “Footloose.” He recently finished a job working with the creative producer on the Queen Latifah/Dolly Parton film called “Joyful Noise,” which will be released in January 2012.
While work in the film industry can be tiring and strenuous – “the hours are insane, and sometimes we work 12 to 18 hour days on set six days a week” – it does have its perks. Turpin recalled the experience of a lifetime, learning and working with a Hollywood veteran. “My first acting experience was directed by Robert Redford in ‘The Conspirator,’” he said, about his role as a boarding house guard in the film.
While he enjoys acting, the 25-year-old is currently hard at work on his second screenplay and also co-producing and acting in an independent film called “Counterpunch,” that will release after Christmas. “At the end of the day, acting, writing, directing and producing are what I want to do,” said Turpin, Georgia Southern’s newest celebrity to claim the spotlight.
Even though he retired at the end of the 2010 football season as the longtime director of Georgia Southern University’s Southern Pride Marching Band, the beat goes on for Dr. Matt Fallin, as the Department of Music’s principal percussion instructor.
In fact, the versatile percussionist can’t imagine music not being a part of his life. “It’s all I ever really wanted to do,” said the leader and inspirational force behind the marching band for the past 16 years.
The Claxton, Ga., native’s history with Southern Pride began in 1982, when he joined the marching band’s first football season as a percussionist. Since that time, he has been associated with the band for all but four years, when he left campus to earn master’s and doctorate degrees. Fallin joined the faculty in 1991, assuming the duties of percussion instructor, marching band director and director of the Hoop Troop basketball pep band. He is still an integral part of the University’s music community, continuing his role of conducting, writing and arranging for the University Percussion Ensemble and providing guidance for the Department’s percussion majors.
During his many years as band director, Fallin’s halftime shows were a sight to see, with more than 225 musicians marching in synchronicity across Paulson Stadium’s field, leading spectators to wonder how it all happened. Fallin says it’s a long process that includes the musical scores and a computer. “The first step is rehearsing the music. Once that is in place, it’s time to put the “marching” in the band,” he said.
Fallin’s work behind the scenes was also key to the band’s many years of success including writing all of the drum music and drills, selecting the music for the stands and halftime show, and even spending two hours in the freezing rain replacing the battery in the band’s equipment truck.
Recognizing Fallin’s contributions to the organization, the University presented him with a plaque during last fall’s halftime show at the Georgia Southern vs. Appalachian State match, his last home game as band director. Southern Pride alumni also showed their appreciation for his loyalty and dedication during a dinner held in his honor at the Georgia Music Educator Association’s (GMEA) annual conference in Savannah a few months ago.
For Fallin, Southern Pride has been a labor of love as it has been for the musicians, he said. “Within this group can be found some of the finest students Georgia Southern has to offer. It’s their hard work and dedication in support of Georgia Southern football that has earned them their reputation – the hardest working band in show business,” he said.
For Derek Sills (’97), the idea of honoring a Georgia Southern icon is a combination of college memories and current football games.
“I stopped by the Maryland Sports Hall of Fame and saw the original statue of Testudo (the team’s turtle mascot), after attending the Georgia Southern vs. Delaware game last year. I got angry. If the turtle gets a statue, Erk was gonna get one too,” he said.
Sills, a Georgia Southern Athletic Foundation board member and a former high school football coach, is raising money to commission a seven-and-a-half foot bronzed statue of Erk Russell to be placed at the entrance of Allen E. Paulson Stadium. He believes that Russell epitomizes the pageantry of college football. “Our founder is considered one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game,” he said.
Sills has garnered support for his charitable cause through social media sites such as Facebook and www.gsufans.com as well as publicity through the sports section of The Los Angeles Times. Notable figures in the sports world have also jumped on the bandwagon to lend their monetary support to the project, such as sportswriter Tony Barnhart and former University of Georgia head football coach Vince Dooley who coached with Russell for 17 years.
“Coach Dooley told me that he was so glad that we were pushing forward to honor Erk Russell and he would help in any way he could. He said, ‘Erk would make one great statue with that big old bald head of his,’” laughed Sills.
At a cost of $80,000 to commission the statue, Sills and the Coastal Eagle Club of Midway, Ga., are hosting a creative fundraiser on May 27. To date, Sills noted that the Foundation is more than halfway toward its goal of funding the cost of the statue. Individual squares are being sold for the “Eagles for Erk” barbecue and pig patty party.
“We will have 1,000 squares marked off in a grid pattern, at a cost of $20 per square,” he said. “Whoever owns the square where the pig ‘drops the ball’ will win $5,000 dollars,” he explained, with the remainder of the proceeds earmarked for the statue fund.
“We owe everything we are to the legendary bald eagle. Erk Russell is our tradition – he is the spirit of who we are,” said Sills. “He took a Kmart football and ran with it to three titles, he took drainage ditch waters and made them magical, he took an old yellow school bus and rode that thing to glory. It is time we paid him back.”
Donations can be made through the Georgia Southern University Athletic Foundation.
Hadley Campbell (’76) is just one of the gang.
For the past dozen years, he has been a member of the chain gang, a dedicated team assisting the referees by handling the measuring chain and down indicator box during the Eagles’ football games. Campbell has a birds-eye view of every pass, fumble and interception right at the line of scrimmage, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’d rather be down there smelling the sweat and hearing the curses, part of the constant motion of cheerleaders, players and fans,” he said, talking about his preference for standing on the sidelines vs. stadium seating. However, the adrenaline of the sidelines can sometimes be offset by the dangers of the sport, says Campbell, acknowledging that he runs the risk of being banged up and bumped into by football players. “I usually get hit two or three times a year,” he said, “but there’s a great sense of camaraderie to being part of the entire Paulson football spectacle.”
Campbell’s passion for Georgia Southern is shared by his entire family. Many years ago, his mother, Audrey, was employed as a counselor at the University’s Counseling Center. She also managed orientation for new students, and is widely credited with the development of the present-day SOAR program. He and his wife Beverly (’76) began dating 40 years ago as high school students in Savannah, Ga., and enrolled together at Georgia Southern in 1972. Most importantly, the Campbells are the proud parents of graduates Jennifer and Jeff, with their youngest son Matthew currently an undergraduate.
With the spring semester drawing to a close, Campbell will soon begin gearing up for his 13th season on the sidelines with the chain gang. “This is our University and our town,” Campbell says excitedly, displaying his True Blue loyalty.
Georgia Southern students participated in the Alternative Spring Break trip “Students Helping Honduras.” Heather Jo Harralson, Coordinator of Civic Engagement at the University, accompanied students on the community service-oriented trip. During the trip, the group worked at a Habitat house, visited a local orphanage and recruited high school seniors for the University.
Strangers often ask Rick Bean (’81) if he is a University employee, because he regularly sports Georgia Southern apparel. “I normally wear my class ring, watch or some sort of logo item to work. If you think about it, I do work for the University when I wear the logo,” he said.
The Savannah, Ga.-based technology consultant has proudly supported his alma mater through the years in a variety of roles. For starters, Bean has served as the former president of the Savannah Eagle Club, an Eagle Fund donor representative, a member of the Georgia Southern Alumni Association Board of Directors, and a guest speaker for Georgia Southern’s ring ceremony. Bean acknowledges that his support of Georgia Southern has been made easier because of Julie, his wife of 27 years. “Even though Julie is an Armstrong State College graduate, she is an avid Georgia Southern fan as well,” he said.
Bean’s first True Blue experiences began as an undergraduate, when he recalled carpooling every day from Savannah with faculty, staff and students to complete his last few quarters in school. He also worked the night shift as an orderly at Brown’s Nursing Home. “I had a few very understanding professors who didn’t balk too much about my napping during 8 a.m. classes. I was always prepared for class, because there’s not a lot to do but study between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. in a nursing home. My GPA was probably highest during my employment there!” he said.
While Bean’s collegiate experiences shaped his future, he has also found that learning the inner workings of his alma mater through involvement with the Alumni Foundation has been an educational experience as well. “Watching the progress and plans for the school reaffirmed my confidence in allowing our two sons to attend Georgia Southern,” he said, mentioning Matthew (’10), and Scott, an upcoming graduate as well as co-founder and first president of the Student Eagle Club. “We are a two-generation Eagle family. Both of them are diehard Eagle fans and have been coming to games since they were able to walk. Neither was coerced into attending Georgia Southern, but I was proud and happy they did,” said Bean, speaking about the family’s shared heritage.
When Bean isn’t rounding up alumni, friends and Georgia Southern boosters for the Savannah Eagle Club’s monthly luncheon meetings, he can be found every fall observing game day rituals such as searching for his buddies in the Red Flag Gang (alumni tailgaters), watching the team arrive in the yellow buses and listening to the song “Statesboro Blues.”
Perhaps the most important objective to Bean is offering support to students through the True Blue network. “It’s important to me to give back to my school and support the current students in their efforts to better themselves in whatever field they have chosen.”
Living on the other side of the world, Carla Berry (’78) hasn’t lost touch with her True Blue heritage. The resident of North Queensland, Australia offers a simple explanation. “I guess it’s hard to get the ‘Statesboro blues’ out of your system!” she said.
The Atlanta, Ga., native hails from a family of Georgia Southern graduates including her brother Chuck (’76) and sister-in-law Mary (’76). Berry’s niece Rose, is a current student. As an undergraduate, Berry majored in printing management, and was the first female graphics art lab assistant on campus. Based on her academic experience, she completed two summer internships, working with the Government Printing Office’s regional printing procurement office in Dallas, Tex., and another with Eastman Kodak as a technical sales representative. Berry graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor of science degree in technology, and landed in Australia in 1987, when she moved to her former husband’s home country.
“Fifteen years later I became an Australian citizen on Australia Day (January 26), but I still hold American citizenship as well, so I call myself an ‘Ausmerican,’ ” she said.
While living there, Berry has worked for the Yellow Pages Australia and even owned a business that developed environmental screening systems which separate solids from liquids. Her colorful career also consists of a year-long experience as caretaker of a 3400-acre grazing property in New South Wales, and she even escaped the corporate world to take a nine-month long sailing sabbatical after building her own sailboat.
Although Berry’s corporate career has been full of challenges, in recent years, she has experienced several changes in her personal life as well. The Ausmerican was diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that is defined by the body’s inability to absorb nutrients. While others might have been daunted by such a diagnosis, Berry instead viewed this medical challenge as a way to help others. Based upon her own experiences, she has become an area contact for the Australian Coeliac Society, leading support groups and generally raising awareness of the disease in her country. Berry has quietly become another great example of a Georgia Southern alumna transforming a challenge into a simple act of goodwill around the globe.
Not many people in coastal Georgia can claim that they have scaled the world’s highest and most dangerous mountain. However, one Georgia Southern alumnus showed his True Blue spirit where few have ever traveled.
Last November, Eric Landon (’99, ’00) left his cell phone at home, hopped on a plane from Jacksonville, Fla., and traveled by himself to the Himalayas to tackle Mount Everest on the Nepal-China border. Rising 29,029 above sea level, Landon’s ambition was to trek to base camp at 17,500 feet, but he surpassed that goal by traveling one day farther to a summit called Kalapathar, at 18,300 feet.
Landon’s method to planning such a monumental task required discipline and careful attention to detail, much like his job as a county planner in Brunswick, Ga. In preparation for the physically demanding climb, his six-month training regimen included two hours of weightlifting or yoga every day after work. “It took a long time to prepare to travel to rural Asia, not only to get into shape, but it required a lot of vaccinations. Since you’re traveling hundreds of miles from nowhere, you need to get shots for everything possible, because if something goes wrong there is no place to go for help,” he said.
A traditional Himalayan Mountain guide, called a Sherpa, led Landon and a group of 11 other hikers on the 25-day trek followed by yaks carrying their heavy gear. Gone were the comforts of home such as showers, toilets and food (the hikers’ daily diets consisted of peanut butter, ramen noodles, protein bars and potatoes). Even with Landon’s rigorous physical training, he said a hiker can’t train for the high elevation during the climb. “The higher you go, you start to break down. It is hard to catch your breath, eat and digest food, and it’s also difficult to sleep,” he added, saying that every few days the group would have to stay at camp to acclimate to the altitude changes. Despite these hardships, the group was surrounded by unbelievable landscape. “Mountain peaks five and six miles high are all around you . . . an incredible feeling,” Landon said.
Landon returned home from Mount Everest with a great sense of accomplishment. “After experiencing no phone, no family and no friends other than the people you meet along the way, you have the feeling that you can be dropped into any situation and you will find a way for it to work out,” he said. Although Landon can’t rule out a return to Mount Everest, he admitted that it would take some persuasive convincing to make that happen. “Your body takes such punishment, it’s hard to imagine wanting to go back. I think the next trip will be someplace warm, oxygen rich and with a more hospitable climate. Australia sounds nice!”
The True Blue spirit has taken a leap from Statesboro to the glamorous world of opera after a recent graduate captured top honors at a national singing competition held in Houston, Tx. Mark Diamond (’10) won first place among 700 other singers at the Houston Grand Opera’s Eleanor McCollum Competition for Young Singers, catapulting his career to the next level.
Not bad for a 23-year-old baritone who originally aspired to become a chorus teacher for students in grades K-12, and didn’t even begin formal voice lessons until he arrived at Georgia Southern.
As an undergraduate, Diamond won performance slots in such prestigious summer programs as the Aspen Music Festival and Glimmerglass Opera, which gave him the opportunity to work with renowned singers and voice coaches from the Juilliard School and the Metropolitan Opera. Along the way, he has astonished audiences and received rave reviews from The New York Times and Opera News for his performances across the United States.
Realizing his true calling, the Augusta, Ga., native is currently studying to earn a master of music in vocal performance at the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, touted as one of the top opera programs in the country. He also accepted a coveted invitation to sing with the San Francisco Opera’s Merola Opera Program this summer to perform a lead role in “The Barber of Seville.”
Allen Henderson, one of Diamond’s former professors, believes that we can expect even greater accomplishments from this gifted young artist in the years to come. “When I talk to those who hear Mark in auditions, they are quite impressed with his command of voice, his stage presence, and his interpretation of the arias he performs. The world will be hearing from Mark for a long time.”
For some Georgia Southern fans, their True Blue spirit runs so deep that their children share the same name as their beloved University. Southern Britt, the 12-year-old daughter of former Eagle defensive back and outside linebacker Danny Britt, has a special name that not many of her sixth-grade classmates can claim.
“My wife Stephanie and I met as students at Georgia Southern. We are really Southern people, and we like tradition and unique names,” said Britt, talking about their daughter’s distinctive name. Britt explained that his fondness for the University was rooted in many special experiences on campus. “Some of my best memories are at Georgia Southern, and some of my best friends to this day, played football with me,” he recalled.
The Camilla, Ga., native enjoyed a successful career with the Eagles, and the glory days included playing on both the 1990 National Championship team and the 1993 Southern Conference championship team. Incredibly, Britt was a walk-on to the team. “I walked on the football team, and earned a full scholarship two years later,” he said, lettering all four years in the sport and serving as defensive captain his senior year.
After enjoying his success on the football field with the Eagles, Britt has served as an inspirational mentor to many Savannah, Ga., youth as an educator. Currently, he is the athletic director and head football coach at Benedictine Military School, an all-boys Catholic high school in Savannah, Ga. Prior to this position, he worked for 13 years at Calvary Day School serving in such capacities as head football coach and upper school assistant principal.
Although these valuable experiences were important to both Britt and the youth in his community, none could match a new member joining his family. In 2005, it wasn’t the birth of a new baby, but a teenaged sibling for the Britts’ daughters (including daughter Saylor, age 9).
The Britt family opened their home and hearts to 18-year-old Demarcus Dobbs, a resident of Bethesda Home for Boys. Dobbs’ story is much like the successful Sandra Bullock film, “The Blind Side.” The film details the story of a homeless black child adopted by the white Tuohy family, and even though the Britts never adopted Dobbs, they consider him their son and brother. After a standout career as a defensive end for the University of Georgia Bulldogs, Dobbs was invited to compete in the NFL Combine.
For now, Britt continues his involvement on campus with a determination to give back to the University that he treasures, by volunteering with the Eagle Athletic Association. “I loved my experiences at Georgia Southern. It’s a University with a big-time feel in a small town environment,” he said.
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