W. Homer Drake, Jr., CLA '54, LAW '56, was awarded the Distinguished Alumnus Award during Mercer's Homecoming. This award is given to an alumnus/alumna of Mercer University who has served his/her profession in an outstanding manner, and in so doing, has brought honor to his/her person and the University. This award is presented for service to humanity and dedication, which have fostered the ideals of Mercer University.
Judge Drake is a past president of the Mercer Law School Alumni Association and a past chairman of the Mercer Law School Board of Visitors. He is a Life Member of Mercer's Board of Trustees. In 2002, he was presented the Monroe F. Swilley Award for Christian Statesmanship by Mercer University, and he received the Mercer Law School Alumni Association's Outstanding Alumnus Award in 2003. Mercer's 2010 decision to resume competition in intercollegiate football took place during Judge Drake's tenure as chair of the Board of Trustees.
He and his late wife, Ruth Bridges Drake, CLA '59, made a lead gift to help construct a new football stadium complex. In recognition of their significant gift, the Homer and Ruth Drake Field House was named in their honor and dedicated during Homecoming 2012. Judge Drake continues to be a vital part of the Mercer community both in the board room and on the balcony of the field house while cheering on the Bears. His contributions to Mercer, too numerous to name, include serving as a mentor and friend to Mercerians far and wide.
Rizza Palmares O'Connor, BUS '07, LAW '10, was awarded the Thomas Sewell Plunkett Young Alumnus Award. This award is given to an alumnus/alumna of Mercer University who has graduated within the past 10 years, is no more than 35 years of age, and has accomplished one or more of the following: Has demonstrated continuous support of the Alumni Association and the University through contributions of time and/or gifts; has made outstanding contributions to a chosen profession; has achieved in such a way that he/she has brought great honor to the individual and the University; has demonstrated service and a commitment to the community; has fostered the ideals, goals and values of the University.
Rizza currently serves as the President-Elect of the Young Lawyers Division (YLD) of the State Bar of Georgia. The Georgia YLD is comprised of approximately 10,000 lawyers admitted to the State Bar of Georgia who are 36 years or younger or have been admitted to their first bar within no more than five years. In keeping with its motto of “working for the profession and the public”, the YLD has more than 30 hard-working committees that produce an array of projects and programs. She will be installed as the 72nd President of the YLD in June 2018. Rizza has been a speaker for continuing legal education for magistrate judges and is a contributor to the Georgia Magistrate Courts Benchbook. At Mercer Law, Rizza has been a speaker for the “Inside the Legal Profession” series and a panelist for the “Women in the Legal Field” program and the Diverse Student Organization Orientation.