The first Fulfilling the Dream Award was presented to four recipients by President Michael F. Adams at the Freedom Breakfast, sponsored jointly by UGA and Athens-Clarke County government, on Jan. 16 at the Classic Center. The keynote speaker was Superior Court Judge Steve Jones.
The new award recognizes individuals who have made significant efforts to build bridges of unity and understanding among residents of Athens-Clarke County. Four citizens were cited for their contributions to the community.
“The nominating committee selected two individuals from the university and two from the community,” says Keith D. Parker, associate provost for institutional diversity. “It is our hope that this will be an annual award that recognizes not only the outstanding contributions of award recipients, but efforts of the university and city-county government to work cooperatively in meeting the needs of our citizenry.”
UGA award recipients were Robert A. Pratt, a history professor and author of the book We Shall Not Be Moved, and David C. Berle, an assistant professor in the horticulture department who is involved in preserving historically and culturally important sites in Athens.
Community award recipients were Trudy Bradley, director of the Clarke County Mentor Program, for her dedication to helping all students in the Clarke County School District achieve success, and Evelyn C. Neely, a community activist known as the “Mayor of East Athens.”
Pratt, in We Shall Not Be Moved, presents a historical account of students challenging segregation at UGA. It is a triumphant story of the search for equal opportunity and justice for all. A 17-year faculty member at UGA, Pratt has taught courses in Southern history, civil rights history, multicultural America and African-American cinema history. He was the first African-American professor in the history department and has risen through the ranks from assistant to full professor. Pratt is a distinguished teacher and scholar who receives high marks from both his students and colleagues. He has been invited to lecture on his book throughout the state of Georgia and some liken his articulate and enthusiastic lectures to the sermons of topnotch charismatic African-American ministers. His work infuses the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. into the course of daily instruction and his book serves to build bridges of unity and understanding among residents of Athens-Clarke County.
Berle volunteers as faculty adviser for the UGA Landscape Club. He was inspired to call the group into action after visiting the Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery with a friend. The site, a resting place for noted Athens African Americans since the early 1800s, was overgrown from years of neglect. Berle appealed to the landscape club and the UGA Horticulture Club to undertake a cleanup initiative.
After receiving proper clearance from the East Athens Development Corporation, the two groups began their preservation efforts with a cleanup day in October. A group of about 25 students and faculty tackled cleanup of the 10-acre property. They returned to the site in November and made a commitment to continue their efforts. Berle encourages students to volunteer, and this year promoted the spirit of the King holiday by staging another cleanup day at the cemetery on Jan. 19.
Bradley, director of the Clarke County Mentor Program for 12 years, has increased the number of mentors from 30 at its inception to 800 today, and she has done so with zest, zeal and an untiring commitment to help students succeed. Her dynamic leadership style and positive attitude inspire mentors to make short-term projects more long-ranged, as she holds high expectations of both mentors and mentees. She spends her days coordinating partnerships, serving as the program’s major fundraiser (securing grants from corporate and philanthropic sources) and coordinating training activities. Most important, as her board members attest, she provides leadership to hundreds of volunteers who follow her lead and embrace her passion for the success of youth in Athens-Clarke County regardless of ethnicity or economic background. She embodies the spirit of service and racial harmony for which Martin Luther King Jr. both lived and died.
Neely, a community activist for more than 40 years, began her activism with the Model Cities program of the late 1960s and early 1970s, bringing services and opportunities to low- and moderate-income families of the community. She became an advocate for quality education and justice for all citizens of Athens-Clarke County. Her esteemed career includes serving as the first African-American female member of the Clarke County Board of Education, being one of three African-American women to help implement the Model Cities program, and helping to establish the Athens Neighborhood Health Center. She also opened one of the first privately owned licensed childcare centers in Athens. Neely is admired by many for responsive and reliable leadership in the East Athens community. At age 78, she continues her activism by serving on numerous boards, including the East Athens Development Corporation, and serving as president of the deaconess boards at two local churches. Neely’s life and work are exemplary of Dr. King’s teachings about service.