7th annual Alumni Awards Dinner recognizes outstanding Mercerians 

people stand holding awards in front of a mercer backdrop
Photo by Christopher Ian Smith

Seven Mercerians were recognized for their contributions to the University during the seventh annual Alumni Awards Dinner held Nov. 11 during Homecoming.

The Mercer Alumni Association honored recipients of the Alumni by Choice Awards, Distinguished Alumna Award, Meritorious Service Award and Thomas Sewell Plunkett Young Alumna Award. The Mercer Athletic Foundation also recognized the newest class of inductees into the Mercer Athletic Hall of Fame.

The Alumni by Choice awards were created to salute individuals who did not graduate from Mercer but have demonstrated loyalty to the University over the years. This year’s recipients were:

  • Suzanne Crum Harper, an avid supporter of Mercer for over 25 years, was instrumental in determining that the gift of Century Center in Atlanta was made to Mercer.
  • Dr. Ruth Anne Rich, a concertizing pianist who served as Mercer’s artist-in-residence, established two endowed professorships in memory of her parents, Helen and Arthur Rich, who were hired in 1944 to develop a music department at the University.
  • Patricia E. “Pat” Williams, a longtime supporter of Mercer, established — along with her husband, alumnus Charles D. Williams — an endowed scholarship at the University to support students from Colquitt County enrolled in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
  • Virginia “Ginny” Wilson, a devoted supporter, has had her life touched by Mercer alumni, including her mother, Mamie Mercer, who graduated from Georgia Baptist College of Nursing in 1944, and husband, Jerry Wilson, who completed his Master of Business Administration at Mercer and serves on the University’s Board of Trustees. The couple’s daughter holds a Doctor of Physical Therapy from Mercer.

The Thomas Sewell Plunkett Young Alumna Award, given to an alum who has graduated within the last 10 years and demonstrated continued support of the University, was presented to Kaitlynn Kressin of Macon.

Kaitlynn Kressin
Kaitlynn Kressin

Kressin, who earned her undergraduate degree from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 2015, discovered her passion for local community and downtown development while at Mercer. Kressin owns and operates four businesses in downtown Macon, including Fall Line Brewing Co., a craft beer brewery and taproom. She also serves on various boards and committees to help facilitate Macon’s growth.

The Meritorious Service Award, given to an individual who supports the Alumni Association and the University through contributions of time, talents and financial resources, was presented to Dr. James C. “Jimmy” Elder Jr. of Columbus.

Dr. James C. "Jimmy" Elder Jr.
Dr. James C. “Jimmy” Elder Jr.

Elder, a member of Mercer’s Board of Trustees, is a 1977 graduate of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He went on to earn a Master of Divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry from Princeton Theological Seminary and now serves as pastor of First Baptist Church in Columbus. In addition to his vast civic service, which includes serving as chair of the Board of Directors of St. Francis/Emory Healthcare, he previously served as chairman of the McAfee School of Theology Board of Visitors. He delights in connecting prospective students to the University and being closely involved with the School of Medicine.

The Distinguished Alumna Award, given to an individual who serves his or her profession in an outstanding manner and, in doing so, brings honor to the individual and University, was presented to Karen Lambert.

Karen Lambert
Karen Lambert

Lambert, a Macon native and 1977 graduate of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is passionate about helping lead Middle Georgia to a thriving, prosperous future. She has served as president and CEO of the Peyton Anderson Foundation in Macon since 2012. She also has served as president and CEO of Macon’s award-winning International Cherry Blossom Festival and executive director of Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful.

The Mercer Athletic Hall of Fame, which originated in 1971, welcomed two new members in women’s soccer player Meghan Castaldo and baseball player Jake Tanis.

Castaldo, a 2009 School of Business graduate, was a four-year member of the Bears women’s soccer team and appeared in 76 matches. She is tied for the sixth-most assists in a single season, having recorded seven as a senior, as well as tied for eighth-most career assists with 17. In addition, she helped engineer a remarkable turnaround in her final two seasons, helping the Bears finish as the regular season runners-up in 2007 and champions in 2008.

Tanis, a 2015 School of Business graduate, was a three-year member of the Bears baseball team. He was a two-time MLB draft selection, first drafted in the 26th round of the 2010 draft but chose to return to Mercer. The Oakland Athletics then drafted Tanis in the 13th round of the 2011 draft. Tanis holds the school record for a career slugging percentage of .669 over his three seasons. He also hit 48 home runs and 55 doubles, which are just shy of the career records at Mercer.

To view a photo gallery from the Alumni Awards Dinner, click here.


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