Georgia Impact Society & Culture

UGA honors late judge at annual leadership conference

Melissa Roberts, executive director of Canopy Studio, a nonprofit aerial arts organization in Athens, is shown attending the virtual Community Leadership Conference presented by the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development. (Photo by Shannah Montgomery)

The Fanning Institute also unveiled two new leadership certificate programs

The University of Georgia J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development presented its 2021 Innovations in Community Leadership Award posthumously to Superior Court Judge Horace J. Johnson Jr. in honor of his commitment to developing leaders and strengthening his hometown of Newton County and communities across Georgia.

Johnson’s family poses together holding the award. (Photo by Charlie Bauder)

The award was presented to Johnson’s family and was announced at the UGA Fanning Institute’s 2021 virtual Community Leadership Conference on Feb. 18.

A record number of 450 individuals registered for this year’s conference, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Johnson, who died in July 2020 at age 61, led efforts to start a Boys’ and Girls’ Club in Newton County and helped to begin a mentoring program in the county’s school system. In addition, he took an active role in mentoring young people and supporting leadership efforts across the state through involvement in Leadership Georgia and as a member of the Fanning Institute Advisory Board.

“Horace truly embodied what it means to be a community leader and a public servant,” said Matt Bishop, director of the UGA Fanning Institute. “He committed his life to creating opportunities for tomorrow’s leaders and helping others reach their goals and aspirations. Horace left a legacy of servant leadership and giving back to his community and throughout this state.”

The presentation of the Innovations in Community Leadership Award highlighted the sixth annual Community Leadership Conference, which brings together community leaders from all walks of life each year to share ideas and insights for strengthening communities, organizations and individuals through leadership development.

Nina Johnson, a Fanning faculty member, helps facilitate the conference. (Photo by Shannah Montgomery)

During the conference, the institute unveiled two new certificate programs that will launch in 2021: an online leadership development certificate program for individuals and an online certificate program on inclusive leadership.

“These two certificate programs will provide individuals with opportunities for professional development and leadership development that can benefit them individually, in their workplaces and in their greater communities,” Bishop said. “The virtual delivery method provides the programs with flexibility while still creating an interactive, engaging experience for participants.”

This year’s conference, “Leading in Unprecedented Times,” began with a plenary address that focused on how the pandemic has affected leadership programs and community leaders and how leaders can adapt to these times.

“Developing emotional intelligence skills such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management are essential to effective collaboration and conflict management,” said Nina Johnson, a Fanning Institute public service faculty member. “They either make or break a good leader.”

Throughout the day, participants attended sessions on topics such as leading difficult conversations in your community; diversity, equity and inclusion; and leadership lessons learned during the pandemic.

The diversity, equity and inclusion session was very beneficial, said Melissa Roberts, executive director of Canopy Studio, an Athens-based nonprofit aerial arts organization.

“Sayge (Medlin, Fanning Institute public service faculty) was a great moderator and I found it very helpful to ask these vulnerable questions with a group of professionals who are working with boards in a similar environment,” Roberts said. “She offered some concrete ways to reassess and reevaluate board engagement to make sure that diversity and inclusion are genuinely part of the mission. It’s nice to know that UGA provides guidance and access to help as we look to make our boards more reflective of our mission.”

Col. Jolanda Walker, Army War College Fellow at UGA, also spoke during the conference about the importance of professional development and leadership development within organizations.

Each year, the Fanning Institute presents the Innovations in Community Leadership Award to a community or individual that has moved beyond traditional community leadership programming through innovative practices, partnerships and activities that better serve participants and their communities.

For more information on the certificate programs, click here.