CSU Alumni Recognized in Virtual Awards Program

Staff Report

Monday, October 26th, 2020

As part of Homecoming week, the Columbus State University Alumni Association held its 2020 Alumni Recognition Awards Program today. Eight awards were presented to the following honorees at the virtual event:

Gwen Ruff, M.S.A. '88, is the recipient of the Thomas Y. Whitley Distinguished Alumnus Award, presented each year to the graduate who has most lived up to the high standards set by the award's namesake, who served for 21 years as the university’s founding president. Ruff has over 30 years’ experience in both human resources and public administration, and combined active and reserve duty in the U.S. Army. She sits on numerous boards in the Chattahoochee Valley and is currently the chair of this year’s United Way campaign. Ruff also serves Columbus State University on its Alumni Association Board of Directors and co-chairs the CSU Black Alumni Council.

John (Johnny) W. Walden Jr. is the recipient of the Frank D. Brown Achievement & Leadership Excellence Award. Walden has supported Columbus State University for more than 40 years. A retired senior vice president of investments with Stifel serves Columbus State University as a member of its Athletic Fund Board and is a loyal supporter of our students and CSU Athletics. This award -- its namesake having served as CSU president for two decades -- is presented to an organization, active or retired CSU employee, a non-graduate alumnus, or CSU supporter who has made extraordinary contributions to the university’s educational excellence or whose achievement has brought honor and distinction to the university.

Mark Lott, B.S. '08 & M.P.A. '09 is the recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus in Military/Public Service, which recognizes CSU alumni who are active duty military, veterans, or have public service roles and who have brought distinction to the university through their service to our country or community. Lott most recently served as CSU’s police chief, and upon his retirement had amassed more than 30 years in law enforcement. Under his direction, the CSU Police Department expanded its drone program and obtained its first narcotics detection dog.

De'smond Henry, B.A. '10 is the recipient of the Young Alumni Award, presented to alumni who have graduated in the last 15 years. It recognizes a commitment to excellence in post-collegiate life and a significant or ongoing commitment to extraordinary work, research, volunteerism or service to CSU. Henry earned a degree in biology at CSU before going on to complete his M.D. at Mercer University School of Medicine and a residency at Morehouse School of Medicine. During his residency, Henry was the administrative chief resident in obstetrics and gynecology at Grady Hospital in Atlanta.

Jimbo Davis, B.S. '94 & M.P.A. '96 is the recipient of the Alumni Service Award, which honors an alumnus who has rendered outstanding voluntary service to the Columbus State University Alumni Association and/or the university. The two-time graduate serves as one of Columbus State’s assistant athletic directors as well as its head cheerleading coach. Davis has been leaving his unique mark on CSU since his student days in the 90s. He works tireless hours to ensure all CSU students have a positive experience and has been integral in maintaining our time-honored traditions.

Suzanne Maynard, B.B.A. '87 has received the Faculty/Staff Appreciation Award, which highlights contributions made to the Alumni Association by a current CSU employee. Maynard has worked as an accountant in CSU’s Advancement Services department since 1996. In this role, she has supported CSU’s Alumni Association, Athletic Fund, and CSU Foundation by ensuring the financial health of each organization.

Honorary Alumni status in the CSU Alumni Association is granted to individuals recognized for their extraordinary achievement or service to the university. Along with this honor, recipients receive all rights and privileges given to members of the CSU Alumni Association. This year’s ceremony included two Honorary Alumni recipients:

Honorary Alumni recipient Meri Robinson worked at Columbus State in the Office of University Advancement before her retirement in 2011. During her tenure, she was integral in growing and sustaining the Tower Society, CSU's giving society for donors gifting at least $1,000 annually. Additionally, Robinson grew CSU's Annual Fund from $1 million to $2 million. From 2012 to 2019, she worked part time in the Turner College of Business, where she helped grow its Financial Forecast Breakfast to more than 200 attendees.

Honorary Alumni recipient Lt. Gen. Gary Brito, who before his recent appointment as the U.S. Army’s 49th deputy chief of staff, served as the commanding general for the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning. During his time at Fort Benning, he was a great ally to CSU and helped form long-lasting community partnerships between the university and the Army installation.

A recording of the virtual event can be found on the university's YouTube channel. For more information on the award winners, visit the CSU Alumni Association website.