Athens, Ga. - A trio of alumni leaders and friends were awarded the Dean's Medals for Leadership Excellence in Communication from the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. A. Mark Smith, Gloria Ricks Taylor and Claude Williams were recognized at a reception and dinner honoring Grady College leadership held May 5 at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education.
The Dean's Medal is the highest honor the college bestows. Grady College Dean E. Culpepper "Cully" Clark recognized established the award on his arrival in 2006 in order to recognize exceptional leadership in communication.
Clark expressed appreciation to the communications leaders for their exemplary careers, expertise, friendship and extraordinary service to the college.
"On my arrival seven years ago as dean, I knew that my choice of living in Stone Mountain would require close support from Athens," Clark said Sunday evening at the reception. "I got it from many, but Mark, Gloria and Claude shouldered up in special ways. I not only could not, but I would not have done it without them."
A longtime Athens media leader and executive with Morris Communications, Smith is CEO of Smith Communications and its media properties. He lives in Eatonton.
Clark first met Smith at the Peabody Awards in New York before Clark was dean. Smith then chaired the college's advisory board and, by agreeing to stay on, became the longest serving chair during Clark's tenure.
"I took no important step for Grady without first having breakfast with Mark in Madison, [Ga.]," said Clark.
"And if you have Claude Williams for a friend, you don't need but one," Clark said. A 1947 graduate of Grady, Williams served in World War II before launching a career in communications and business. A self-described advertising salesman, Williams is one of Athens' most respected and loved citizens, Clark said.
"I can't begin to tell you what Claude meant to me, but it was everything," Clark said. "In the most difficult times, and every dean has them, Claude heard me out and always had his arm on my shoulder."
Clark noted that Smith and Williams have hosted a media luncheon in his honor every August for the past seven years to provide a venue to tell the story of the college and its initiatives to local media leaders and to invite their feedback.
"The fellowship and friendship that developed at these luncheons over shared ambitions and hopes for the future of journalism and mass communication and the role of the Grady College has been invaluable, and it is because of Mark and Claude," Clark said.
He then turned his attention to Taylor. "Had Gloria not existed, I would have had to invent her," he said.
Taylor was previously vice president over public affairs at Hearst Magazines and head of corporate communications at the Hearst Corporation. She continues as a consultant to Hearst.
"The strategic thinking she put in service of Hearst Corporation and its international properties, she makes available to the college and me as a friend," Clark said. "Gloria has been essential to the development mission of the college in ways that the college will benefit from forever."
"It is an honor to salute these friends of Grady's mission who have singularly helped me in my efforts to advance it during my tenure," he added. "They have guided me and thus the college in measurable ways."
Previous Grady College Dean's Medal winners include:
• Maxine Clark, founder and chief executive bear, Build-A-Bear Workshop
• Jody Danneman, executive producer and president, Atlanta Image Arts
• Glen Finland, journalist and author of "Next Stop"
• Tim Mapes, vice president of marketing, Delta Airlines
• Col. Bryan Salas, director of public affairs, U.S. Marine Corps
• Swann Seiler, manager of corporate support and external affairs, Georgia Power
UGA Grady College
Established in 1915, the UGA Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication offers undergraduate majors in journalism, advertising, public relations, digital and broadcast journalism and mass media arts. The college offers two graduate degrees and is home to the Knight Chair in Health and Medical Journalism and the Peabody Awards, internationally recognized as one of the most prestigious prizes for excellence in electronic media. For more information, see www.grady.uga.edu or follow @UGAGrady on Twitter.