Campus News

President’s Medal to be presented to Abit Massey, family of late Jane Willson

Abit Massey

UGA will bestow one of its highest honors on two influential Georgians this year as it presents the UGA President’s Medal to Francis “Abit” Massey and the family of the late Jane Seddon Willson during Founders Day activities on Jan. 27.

The President’s Medal recognizes extraordinary contributions of individuals who are not current employees of UGA who have supported students and academic programs, advanced research and inspired community leaders to enhance Georgians’ quality of life.

“We are honored to recognize two great Georgians for helping to improve our state and strengthen the university,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “Through their influential vision and tremendous generosity, both Abit Massey and the late Jane Willson have had a profound impact on UGA, and their contributions will continue to benefit the university for generations to come.”

Massey graduated from UGA in 1949 and received his Juris Doctor from Emory University. Known to many as the “dean of the poultry industry,” he became the executive director of the Georgia Poultry Federation in 1960. He served in this role until 2009 when he became president emeritus.

Prior to his work in the poultry industry, Massey was head of the Georgia Department of Commerce, now Economic Development, where he created the tourist division and built the first welcome center.

Massey and his wife, Kayanne, a former Miss Georgia, have more than 18 family members who attended UGA. The Massey family was named the UGA Alumni Association Family of the Year in 2014.

Willson died in November 2015 at the age of 92. Together with her late husband, Harry, she established a tradition of giving at the university that spanned more than six decades.

One of the most visible and direct results of her philanthropy is the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts, which was named in honor of an endowment established by Jane and Harry Willson in 2005. The couple also funded the Jane and Harry Willson Professorship in Humanities and the Jane Willson Professorship in the Arts.