Abney Award winner Austin Gibbons looks forward to a career in Washington, D.C. or Atlanta. "I was raised to believe that you should harness the power of politics and communications for good." (photo: provided)

Gibbons named Grady’s Abney Award recipient

Grady College is proud to announce Austin Gibbons, a senior from Stone Mountain, Georgia, is the recipient of the 2020 George M. Abney Honors Award. Gibbons will graduate in May with majors in public relations and political science.

The Abney award is presented by Grady College annually to the senior who has achieved the most impressive record in the Honors Program. It is named in honor of Professor Abney, who retired in 1993 after more than 40 years at University of Georgia, including 25 years as the Honors coordinator at Grady.

In addition to his two majors, Gibbons is also earning certificates in the Public Affairs Professional program and Personal and Organizational Leadership.

“Grady faculty, staff, and students have shown me that passion and community are integral to the world of work,” Gibbons said of his time at Grady College. “Thanks to Grady, I know I will find passion in each job I take down the road and never lose sight of forming community in professional relationships.”

Gibbons (far left) with Dean Charles Davis and some of the Grady Ambassadors at Dawgs with the Dean. Gibbons has clear advice for future Grady students: “Seize every opportunity and build relationships with everyone.”

There are few students who have packed as much into their time at the University of Georgia like Gibbons has. Keen observers will recognize his smile from camera pans of Arch Society students cheering on the football team, sharing his daily school life as a UGA Digital Dawg and working events around the college as a Grady Ambassador.

And, like many high-achieving students, Gibbons’ resume begs the question of when he had time to sleep and eat during college.

“I did not sleep in college,” Gibbons admitted. “Likewise, I know that my collegiate experience has given me a crash course in balancing the competing priorities of life such as work, school, family, faith and personal wellness.”

Gibbons credits his interest in politics and his outgoing, friendly nature to his parents. His parents had different political leanings, but always encouraged a healthy conversation of political views at the dinner table, respect for all sides and the opportunity to share your own story.

Gibbons has a good head start on his goals of landing a job in government relations and public affairs in Washington, D.C., or Atlanta. He has worked in several internship positions including time with retired Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson, the American Red Cross, the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government and currently with Governor Brian Kemp.

Gibbons (third from right) with Joe Watson (fourth from right) and other members of the Grady D.C. program. “Professor Joseph Watson has become a cornerstone of my college experience,” Gibbons said.

 

He also spent a summer in the Grady D.C. field study program, directed by Joe Watson, the Carolyn Caudell Tieger Professor of Public Affairs Communications.

Watson said that one of the things that sets Gibbons apart is his great work ethic.

“What makes Austin stand out is his addictively positive attitude and his willingness to get involved and serve others,” Watson said. “I often say that public affairs is not for bystanders; you have to participate in it. Austin does that every day as one of our finest and most engaged students.”

That positive attitude is evident even now despite the fact that COVID-19 has thrown chaos into his final semester at UGA. Gibbons looks at it as providing hands-on experience in coping with rapid change. He has been able to spend more time at home having conversations with family members and enjoying the simpler things in life.

“My Grandma always said, ‘the night is darkest just before the dawn,’ and I am looking forward to that dawn,” he said. “First stop: a much-needed haircut followed by senior pictures on North Campus!”

 

Date: April 16, 2020
Author:  Sarah Freeman,  freemans@uga.edu