Alumni Award Profile: George L. Daniels (MA ’99, PhD ’02)

The following is one installment of a series recognizing alumni and friends who will be honored at the 2023 Grady Salutes celebration on April 28, 2023. For more details, please see our posts about our Fellowship honorees, Alumni Award recipients and Dean’s Medalist.

  • Group picture from 2001 of the research assistants in the Cox International Center, where Daniels worked as a graduate research associate.

Congratulations to George L. Daniels (MA ’99, PhD ’02), recipient of the 2023 Distinguished Alumni Scholar Award. 

Daniels is an associate professor and Reese Phifer Fellow of Journalism and Creative Media at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. He is also currently the president of the Alabama Communication Association and serves as the Faculty Fellow for Diversity and Inclusion for the Broadcast Education Association.

Recently, he received the U.S./U.K. Fulbright Global Challenge Teaching Award for Racial Justice. He’s the co-editor of “Teaching Race: Struggles, Strategies and Scholarship for the Mass Communication Classroom.” 

Daniels is currently completing his first sole-authored book entitled “Barrier Breakers: Media Educators Meeting the Diversity Challenge Across the Decades.”

Previously, Daniels worked for eight years as a local television news producer in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia, and then in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Atlanta.

Following are answers from an interview with Daniels, which have been edited for length and clarity.

Grady College: What experience during your time at Grady College had the biggest influence on where you are today?

In March 2023, Daniels joined two of his students in his Spring 2023 service learning class in presenting a panel at the Discerning Diverse Voices Symposium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

George L. Daniels: By far, the experiences as a graduate research associate in two of Grady’s research projects have had the biggest influence on where I am today. As a master’s student, I was fortunate to be the research associate in the Michael J. Faherty Broadcast Management Laboratory.

When I arrived in 1997, the lab was just in its second year of operation. I learned how to do research projects by being directly involved in them. Additionally, the lab was tied to my teaching media management and programming course in what was then the Department of Telecommunications. 

After completing my master’s degree, as a Ph.D. student, I was given a graduate research assistant assignment in the Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research. Working for two years in the Cox International Center, I assisted with the Annual Surveys for Mass Communication Enrollments and Graduates. This placed me on the team to not only do data collection, but also participate in the presentations at national conferences. Even though the national surveys have moved to another institution, the reports we produced as a research team are still ones to which I refer in my research today. 

GC: What skills and/or values and/or circumstances do you attribute to your success?

GD: The three skills or values that I most attribute to my success are, one, research project development, two, team leadership and, three, understanding higher education. 

Thanks to the research assistant roles, I gained valuable knowledge as a Grady graduate student on how to put together a research project and use whatever method best answers my question. 

The second skill/value would be team leadership. Over the years, I’ve found myself in leadership roles and draw on the skills I learned in the television news industry and in graduate school to influence others to follow my direction. 

Last but not least, I developed skills in understanding the arena of academe. This is quite different from the television news industry, where I worked for eight years. Not all higher education institutions have the same mission, and the dynamics of committees and departments differ. 

GC: What advice do you have for today’s Grady College students?

GD: Take advantage of the Grady alumni network. There are so many of us everywhere.  We’re working in all areas of the mass media and journalism and mass communication education.  Don’t take for granted the top-notch learning facilities and world class faculty you find in Grady College. It’s second to none. Appreciate it and know that with that opportunity comes an expectation to excel when you graduate. There is nothing you can’t accomplish as a Grady graduate.   

GC: What advice do you have for today’s young professionals?

GD: Be flexible and teachable. Even though you have all of your training from Grady, our media workplaces are changing so rapidly, one has to be in a posture of readiness to adapt quickly to change. 

GC: What do you miss the most about being at UGA?

GDI miss many of the people with whom I worked and lived there in Athens. Except for my first year as a master’s student, I spent four of the five years in the master’s and Ph.D. programs living on campus. I was there around-the-clock and struck up so many informal conversations in the graduate student carrels of Grady or in the Main Library. I have fond memories of the Bible study groups on Friday night and the outreach to schools in the Clarke County School District. At UGA, we were truly a part of a much larger community than our own campus.

GC: What does this recognition mean to you?

GD: While I have been blessed to receive many research and teaching awards over the years, this recognition by Grady College is the highest honor I’ve received as a scholar.   

Yes, I am the recipient most recently of an award from the U.S./U.K. Fulbright Commission. But, even a Fulbright award pales in comparison to one from my beloved Grady College. It means you view what I’ve become is worthy of recognition. It means what I’ve done so far in my research, teaching and professional leadership is on the right track—representing the highest standard of quality that comes with being a production of the Grady College.  

GC: What motivates you?

GD: Of course, first and foremost, my actions are directly by my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God put me on this earth to make a difference with every encounter, activity, project or accomplishment. Thus, I am motivated by the knowledge that I’m always fulfilling a God-given purpose.  

I’m using my spiritual gift of teaching in an awesome way. I know that God so ordained and directed my steps to the Atlanta Metro area where, in the late 1990s, I discovered Grady College while working in the television news arena. 

GC: Are there any books or podcasts that you would recommend to our students?

GD: Definitely every Grady student must read “In My Place” by Charlayne Hunter-Gault. As a master’s student in my first year, I read that 1992 book by the woman who was one of the two students to integrate the University of Georgia.

Tickets to Grady Salutes: Celebrating Achievement, Leadership and Commitment on April 28, 2023, are available for purchase. Register here.  

Fellowship Profile: Susan Percy

The following is one installment of a series recognizing alumni and friends who will be honored at the 2023 Grady Salutes celebration on April 28, 2023. For more details, please see our posts about our Fellowship honorees, Alumni Award recipients and Dean’s Medalist.

Congratulations to Susan Percy (ABJ ’66) who has been named to this year’s class of Grady Fellowship inductees.

Percy is a journalist based in Atlanta and although she is now retired, she spent several years at Georgia Trend Magazine, serving 12 years as executive editor and editor and eight years as editor-at-large. She wrote an award-winning monthly opinion column for more than 20 years and remains a regular contributor.

Her work has been honored by the Society of Professional Journalists, the Alliance of Area Business Publications, the Atlanta Press Club, and the Magazine Association of the Southeast. She was inducted into the MAGS Hall of Fame in 2008 for her contributions to magazine journalism.

Susan Percy interviews Jimmy Carter.
Susan Percy has interviewed many public figures throughout her career including President Jimmy Carter. (Photo: courtesy of Susan Percy)

Prior to Georgia Trend, she spent eight years at Atlanta Magazine as senior editor and managing editor and worked a brief time as managing editor of Arthritis Today. She has worked for newspapers in Louisiana and California, and her freelance work has appeared in numerous publications including USA Today, The Reader’s Digest and Georgia Magazine.

Percy has served on the Grady Alumni Board, and is a member of the Atlanta Press Club and the Emory University Ethics Center Media Advisory Council.

She was married to the late author Paul Hemphill who served as a Grady Journalist-in-Residence in the early 1970s. She lives in Decatur, conveniently close to her daughter, Martha Hemphill Barbieri, son-in-law, and two grandchildren.

Some of Percy’s writing can be found on her website.

Following are excerpts from an interview with Percy which have been minimally edited for length and clarity.

Grady College: What experience at Grady College did the most to prepare you for your career?

 Susan Percy: The whole package. The combination of classes and professors and opportunities, including working on the Red & Black, which was under Grady’s auspices when I was there, but is an independent publication now. I learned how to be a journalist, and even though the profession has changed in ways I could never have imagined, the basic writing, reporting, and interviewing skills I developed and refined taught me to think like a journalist and provided the foundation for accommodating and adapting to the changes—and, in many cases, welcoming them.

When I started college, the conventional wisdom was that young women, whatever their course of study, should get a teaching certificate, “just in case,” even if you weren’t interested in being a teacher. But I never heard that at Grady. I was treated as a serious journalist from Day One and encouraged and supported in my choice of a profession.

GC: What advice do you have for today’s Grady College students?

Susan Percy wrote a feature about the Peabody Awards for Georgia Trend in 2016 and covered the awards ceremony in New York. (Photo: Sarah E. Freeman)

SP: Take advantage of everything that is here. You may never again have such ready access to so many opportunities—publications, labs, technology, innovative projects, mentorships, internships, and dedicated faculty members and fellow students to advise and support you.

Embrace the diversity and inclusion that is now part of Grady and will continue to be; it is enriching the offerings and areas of study available to you as well as the journalism profession itself.

Take a risk. Try something that intimidates you a little and draw on all the people who are ready to help you.

GC: What would you tell your 20-year-old self?

SP: Breathe. Benefit from and learn from all your professional experiences, but try to take the long view, as well. Throughout your career, you will have some disappointments and setbacks. That’s part of it. Even your dream job will have some tough days, but don’t give up and don’t doubt yourself. If you need to make a change, in your job or your career trajectory or even the way you approach your work, do it thoughtfully and gracefully.

GC: What does this recognition mean to you?

SP: It is the most significant—and surprising—professional honor I have ever had.

I have been a working journalist, with a couple of brief detours, for more than 50 years; and I am happy to say I am not done yet. I am still working. I have had an interesting and varied career, with ups and downs and some successes. But I am not a big name. I’ve never won a Pulitzer. I’ve never owned a publication or a media company. I’ve always answered to someone else.

I think there are a lot of working journalists like me—we work hard, but we don’t call all the shots. We care about what we are doing. We do it with dedication and resolve and integrity; we believe our work is important. Yet there are times when we wonder if it matters, if anyone notices.  This recognition from Grady tells me that it does matter, that people notice the effort that so many journalists make. That every fact you triple-check, every word choice you agonize over, every extra effort you make is important. And it does count.

I am very grateful to Grady College for this honor.

GC: What motivates you?

SP: I’ve reached the age where I should probably be knitting afghans or baking cookies for my grandchildren, but I value the opportunity to continue to do the work I love—at a slower pace, perhaps.

I believe the work of journalists and communicators is more important than ever. The changes that have come to our profession have been both challenging and exciting; but the work we do is crucial. And it is so important for us to do it well, to use all the resources we have to communicate with accuracy, honesty, intelligence, and integrity. And to enjoy doing it.

Susan Percy shows her College spirit for the Grady College Centennial celebration in 2015, while Dean John Drewry looks on from a framed portrait. (Photo: Sarah E. Freeman)

Tickets to Grady Salutes: Celebrating Achievement, Leadership and Commitment on April 28, 2023, are available for purchase. Register here.  


New Grady Fellowship inductees announced; Dean’s Medal to be awarded

Grady College proudly announces four honorees who will be inducted into the Grady Fellowship this year.

Grady Fellowship honorees for 2023 include:

  • Regina Hicks (ABJ ’85, MFA ’90)
  • Robin Hommel (ABJ ’96)
  • Susan Percy (ABJ ’66)
  • Randy Travis (ABJ ’82)

The Grady Fellowship honors friends of the college whose accomplishments, friendship and service to the industries they serve have made a positive impact on Grady College.

The 2023 recipient of the John Holliman Lifetime Achievement Alumni Award, Doreen Gentzler (ABJ ’79), will be inducted into the Fellowship, as well.

Caroline Edwards (ABJ ’12), a U.S. Capitol police officer who responded to the Jan. 6 attacks, has been named the Dean’s Medal for Leadership Excellence recipient, the College’s highest honor.

Private First Class Officer Caroline Edwards, a public relations major and current U.S. Capitol Police Officer, will be awarded the Dean’s Medal at Grady Salutes.

The induction of Fellows and recognition of Edwards takes place along with the presentation of 2023 Alumni Awards on April 28 at Grady Salutes.

Grady College looks forward to celebrating the Fellowship inductees:

Regina Hicks has spent her career writing for television. She is currently an executive producer and showrunner for “The Upshaws,” a sitcom on Netflix that she created. She is also a writer and co-executive producer of “The LWord – Next Generation” on Showtime, and “Insecure,” on HBO. Other writing credits include “The Mayor,” “Marlon,” Girlfriends,” and several made-for-TV movies including Jump In and Camp Rock for the Disney Channel.

Robin Hommel is a three-time Emmy Award-winning producer and showrunner whose career spans network news, daytime talk and primetime programming. She currently serves as the executive broadcast producer of the ABC News daytime talk show, “The View,” where she has worked since 2015. Prior to “The View,” Robin served as co-executive producer of VH1’s “Big Morning Buzz Live.” Hommel was the creator and executive producer of “Grady Greats,” a panel series in collaboration with ABC News featuring Grady College alumni, ABC talent and media leaders offering insight and analysis into and decisions made behind the scenes.

Susan Percy is a Metro Atlanta-based journalist who has spent most of her career in magazine journalism. She was executive editor and editor of Georgia Trend Magazine from 2001 through 2013 and editor-at-large from 2014 through 2022. She wrote an award-winning monthly opinion column for more than 20 years and remains a regular contributor.

Randy Travis is a Peabody Award-winning investigative reporter for FOX 5 Atlanta. Randy joined WAGA in 1990. In 1994 he moved to the station’s distinguished investigative unit, the FOX 5 I-Team.  In addition to the Peabody Award, Randy’s investigative work has earned him two national Edward R. Murrow awards, plus more than 20 regional Emmy awards.  Travis is also the recipient of the 2005 Mid-Career Alumni Award from Grady College.

Dean Charles Davis is also pleased to recognize Caroline Edwards as a Dean’s Medalist. The last Dean’s Medal was presented to Loran Smith (ABJ ’62) in 2017.

Caroline Edwards is a Private First Class Officer with the U.S. Capitol Police. Her law enforcement career started in 2017 and she has served for six years on the Department’s First Responders Unit. On January 6, 2021, Officer Edwards was the first police officer injured by the rioters while stationed on the West Front of the Capitol. She was knocked unconscious and suffered a traumatic brain injury. On June 9, 2022, Officer Edwards testified to the January 6th House Select Committee. She graduated from Grady College with a degree in public relations.

More information about the Grady Fellowship and a list of past inductees can be viewed on the Grady Fellowship webpage.

The registration link for the Grady Salutes celebration on April 28, 2023, will be available in early March. 

Grady College announces 2023 Alumni Award recipients

Grady College is proud to announce honorees for its annual Alumni Awards, recognizing alumni who have established a tradition of service and achievement in their careers.

Alumni Award recipients will be recognized at the College’s annual recognition event, Grady Salutes: A Celebration of Achievement, Leadership and Commitment, on Friday, April 28, 2023. Inductees into the Grady Fellowship also will be recognized at Grady Salutes.

The 2023 Alumni Award recipients include: 

Maura Friedman (ABJ ‘13), a senior photo editor at National Geographic, will receive the John E. Drewry Young Alumni Award. Friedman previously worked as the lead photo editor and projects photographer at the Urban Institute, a multimedia reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press and an independent visual journalist producing photo and video stories across the Southeast United States. The Young Alumni Award recognizes a graduate of the last decade who has experienced a successful early career.

Yolanda Taylor Brignoni (ABJ ‘98), the vice president of external affairs and communications at the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), will receive the Mid-Career Award. Prior to joining EGPAF, she was the head of communications for Axios Media. The Mid-Career Award is presented to a graduate for professional achievements, influence and success.

Doreen Gentzler (ABJ ‘79), who retired in November 2022 after a career spanning four decades, will receive the John Holliman, Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award for sustained contributions to the profession throughout a career. Gentzler anchored the news on WRC/NBC4 in Washington, D.C. for 33 years. She spent several years honing her journalism skills in Chattanooga, Charlotte and Cleveland, then Philadelphia, before joining NBC4 in 1989. Doreen also filled in on “The Today Show” and “NBC at Sunrise.” Grady College has recognized its Lifetime Achievement recipient for more than 45 years.

George Daniels (MA ‘99, PhD ‘02), an associate professor and Reese Phifer Fellow of journalism and creative media at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, will receive the Distinguished Alumni Scholar Award. Daniels previously served as assistant dean for administration in UA’s College of Communication and Information Sciences. The Distinguished Alumni Scholar Award honors a graduate for excellence and sustained contributions to scholarship in journalism and mass communication education. 

More information about the Alumni Awards and a list of past recipients can be viewed on the Alumni Awards webpage.

Register here for the for the Grady Salutes celebration on April 28, 2023. Sponsorship opportunities are also available.