Six to Receive Columbus State Alumni Association Awards During Oct. 19 Homecoming Week Ceremony

Thursday, September 28th, 2023

The Columbus State University Alumni Association will bestow its top alumni awards during an awards dinner on Thursday, Oct. 19 as part of the university’s annual Homecoming Week celebration.

The awards dinner will include the Alumni Association’s marquee awards — the Thomas Y. Whitley Distinguished Alumni Award and the Frank D. Brown Achievement & Leadership Excellence Award. Other awards will be presented in the following categories: Alumni Service, Young Alumnus, Distinguished Alumnus in Military/Public Service, and Honorary Alumni Status.

Thomas Y. Whitley Distinguished Alumnus Award

Since 1980, the Thomas Y. Whitley Distinguished Alumnus Award has been presented to a graduate who has most lived up to the high standards set by the award’s namesake and Columbus State’s first president. It is considered the university’s most prestigious alumni award.

Following a 20-year career in the U.S. Army, which he concluded in 1996 as an E-8 master sergeant, Jerry “Pops” Barnes ‘01 began his service to the Columbus community. Soon after, he returned to the classroom and in 2001 completed his bachelor of nursing degree at Columbus State. He has continuously served residents of Columbus’ District 1 as their city councilor since he was first elected in 2006. He began serving on the CSU Alumni Association Board of Directors in 2021 and has been a dedicated board member ever since. He strives to bring Columbus State to the forefront of any conversation and project with which he’s involved. He often asks members of CSU’s Office of Alumni Engagement & Annual Giving to present at city council meetings and promotes university events and initiatives on his Columbus Consolidated Government TV show. 

Frank D. Brown Achievement & Leadership Excellence Award

The Frank D. Brown Achievement & Leadership Excellence Award is presented only when extraordinary achievement or service merits it. Named for Columbus State’s third president, it recognizes a graduate or member of the community who has made exceptional contributions to educational excellence at Columbus State or whose achievements have brought honor and distinction to the university. 

Teddie Ussery has tirelessly served Columbus State through a variety of roles — the most significant of which is her recent service as chair of the CSU Foundation Board of Trustees. She continues to influence CSU’s success as a member of the Foundation Board’s Investment Committee, which benefits from her extensive professional asset management and investment experience. An expert in multigenerational family wealth management, Ussery served as the family office director and senior vice president of Synovus Financial before retiring after 25 years with the company. During her tenure, she led its Family Asset Management Group that she founded and sustained growth to $4.5 billion in assets. In 2006, she established her private consulting business, Family Office Matters, LLC.  Aside from her advisory role, Ussery is a renowned national speaker and an authority in the family office management field.

Young Alumni Awards

The Young Alumni Award honors alumni who have graduated in the last 15 years and recognizes them for their commitment to excellence through their post-collegiate efforts and their significant or ongoing commitment to extraordinary work, research, volunteerism or service to their alma mater.

An actor since the age of 6, Evan McGill ‘14 recently won a Tony Award as part of a producing team for the Broadway production of “Parade,” which won in the Best Revival of a Musical category. McGill started his independent company Evan McGill Productions in 2021 and set to producing and investing in Broadway-aimed musicals. These have since included “Mr. Saturday Night,” which starred comedian Billy Crystal. He earned a master of business administration from Columbus State in 2014.

Beth Reeves ‘09, ‘17, a singer, actor, director and teaching artist who serves as an adjunct member of the Department of Theatre & Dance’s faculty. In addition to her teaching duties, she is involved extensively in local theatre and arts educational programs and youth organizations. Reeves holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in theatre education from Columbus State.

Alumni Service Award

The Alumni Service Award honors an alumnus who has rendered outstanding volunteer service to the CSU Alumni Association and/or the entire university.

Two-time graduate Dr. Kimberly M. Scott ‘01, ‘02 has been a longtime and unwavering Columbus State volunteer and supporter. The media specialist at Columbus High School, she recently established and led a grassroots fundraising campaign among friends and alumni to endow the Dr. Kimberly M. Scott Teacher Education Scholarship Endowment to help support aspiring educators and servant leaders in the College of Education & Health Professions. She previously served as president of the CSU Alumni Association and was a founding member of the Black Alumni Council. She holds a bachelor of education in middle grades mathematics and science and a master of education in special education and training from Columbus State.

Distinguished Alumnus in Military/Public Service

The award honors alumni who have brought distinction to our country, their community or the university through their current or former service in the military or as a first responder.

Since 2022, retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges ‘91 has served as a senior advisor to Human Rights First, a nonprofit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. His 40-year military career included command of the 101st Airborne’s 1st Brigade during Operation Iraqi Freedom and service as commanding general of United States Army Europe. He earned a master of public administration at Columbus State in 1991.

Special Recognitions

On occasion, the CSU Alumni Association will bestow honorary alumni status for significant and noteworthy support of the university. In 2021, that included members of the Columbus-area Ride for Miracles organization for their long-term efforts to support the School of Nursing’s pediatric nursing program.

New alumni honorary status will be granted to Miracle Riders Brett Ballard, Andrew Burnette, Randy Lepper, Kevin Raybourn, Andy Whatley, Mike Williams, and Rick Stinson.

Robbie Green ‘11, who first rode with the Miracle Riders in 2023, will receive an Alumni Service Award in conjunction with his fellow riders’ recognition.