Inaugural Alumni Awards Dinner Recognizes Outstanding Mercerians During Homecoming Festivities


MACON – More than a dozen Mercerians were recognized for their contributions to the University at the inaugural Alumni Awards Dinner, held on Oct. 23 during Homecoming.

Honorees included recipients of the Distinguished Alumnus Award, the Meritorious Service Award and the Thomas Sewell Plunkett Young Alumnus Award. The Mercer Alumni Association also recognized the newest class of Alumni by Choice honorees and presented alumni chapter awards. Winners of the first-ever Greek Challenge and this year's three inductees into the Mercer Athletic Hall of Fame were also recognized.

The Distinguished Alumnus 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 the University, was presented to Benjy Griffith III of Macon. 

Griffith, a 1977 graduate of the College of Liberal Arts, is president of Southern Pine Plantations and has contributed to the redevelopment of neighborhoods around Mercer. He also serves on the University's Board of Trustees and generously funds scholarships that allow economically disadvantaged students from Bibb County to attend Mercer.

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 Jerry S. Wilson of Ponta Vedra Beach, Florida.

Wilson, who earned a master's degree from the Stetson School of Business and Economics in 1986, recently completed a long career with The Coca-Cola Company, where he served as senior vice president and global chief customer and commercial officer. He currently serves on Mercer's Board of Trustees and is chairman of the board's marketing committee.

The Thomas Sewell Plunkett Young Alumnus Award, given to an alum who has graduated within the last 10 years and demonstrated continued support of the University, was presented to Keitaro Harada of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Harada, who earned both bachelor's and master's degrees from the Townsend School of Music, is associate conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra, associate conductor of the Arizona Opera and associate conductor of the Richmond Symphony. While a student, he founded the Macon Symphony Youth Orchestra, and as an alumnus, he has generously given of his time and talent by returning to Mercer to conduct current students and remain connected with faculty.

The Alumni by Choice awards were created to recognize individuals who did not graduate from Mercer but have demonstrated loyalty to the University over the years. This year's recipients were Joanne and Kevin Guta of Tampa, Florida; Joan Godsey of Macon; Carolyn McAfee of Macon; and Beverly Olson of Macon.

Alumni chapter awards included the Pioneer Chapter Award, which was accepted by leader David Neeley on behalf of the Charlotte (North Carolina) Chapter, the Chapter Leader of the Year Award, which was presented to Amy Griswold Martin of the Atlanta Chapter, and the Chapter of the Year Award, accepted by leader Jessica Layson Davis on behalf of the Washington, D.C. Chapter.

The Mercer Greek Challenge, designed to increase financial support to the University's Annual Fund and award prizes to Mercer's Greek chapters, presented awards in four competitions to Sigma Nu (Interfraternity Council Group A), Phi Delta Theta (Interfraternity Council Competition Group B), Phi Mu (Panhellenic Council) and Kappa Alpha Psi (National Panhellenic Council).

The newest class in Mercer's Athletic Hall of Fame was recognized, as well. Inductees included Tom Abbott (men's golf), Nancy Fallin Green (women's soccer) and Dr. Chuck Hawkins (Mercer Athletic Foundation).