It was an evening for recognizing former faculty members who made an impact, envisioning the future of production and film at Athena Studios and saluting bravery in defending the U.S. Capitol, as nearly 170 Grady College alumni, faculty, students and friends celebrated honorees at the 2023 Grady Salutes: A Celebration of Achievement, Leadership and Commitment.
The dinner gala took place April 28 thanks to a special arrangement at the new Athena Studios, a 14,000-square-foot creator space that the College shares with Georgia Film Academy for the purpose of teaching production classes to students in Entertainment and Media Studies and the MFA in Film, Television and Digital Media. The studio space is donated to Grady College for five years by Joel Harber, developer of the studio complex, who was also in attendance.
Perhaps the highlight of the evening the presentation of the Dean’s Medal for Leadership Excellence to Private First Class Officer Caroline Edwards (ABJ ’12). Edwards was the first police officer injured during the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. She testified to the Jan. 6 House Select Committee on June 9, 2022, where millions of television viewers were riveted by her bravery and calm under pressure.
“Her fearlessness, her courage and her devotion to duty embody the best of us,” Charles N. Davis, dean of Grady College, said in his introductory remarks.
She accepted her award to a rousing standing ovation.
“Bringing an unthinkable story to life, giving words to those who cannot speak for themselves and telling the truth, despite personal costs, is what Democracy’s Next Generation is all about,” Edwards said, tying together her testimony with the motto above the front door of Grady College. “It is what we are called to do every day as journalism majors, despite what career we end up in.”Set against the backdrop of house scene used for class productions, honorees accepted their awards. Those receiving awards included Alumni Award recipients:
- Maura Friedman (ABJ ‘13), John E. Drewry Young Alumni Award
- Yolanda Taylor Brignoni (ABJ ‘98), Mid-Career Award
- Doreen Gentzler (ABJ ’79, John Holliman, Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award
- George Daniels (MA ‘99, PhD ‘02), Distinguished Alumni Scholar Award
Fellowship inductees included:
Gentzler, as the Lifetime Achievement recipient, was also inducted into the Fellowship.
Brian PJ Cronin of The Highlands Current also accepted the McCommons Award for Distinguished Community Journalism, recognizing his work including a multi-story series on food insecurity, titled “Hunger in the Highlands.”
Each recipient shared brief personal narratives about how their education directed their professional life.
Friedman thanked those who bought a Georgia Lottery ticket and helped fund her education.
“I am very seriously a testament to loan-free, public, quality education and that is a cause and need of support across Georgia,” said Friedman, a senior photo editor at National Geographic.
Many honorees recognized faculty who encouraged them and gave them confidence while they were students. Emeritus professors Bill Lee and David Hazinski, who were in the audience, were mentioned several times, along with Bill Martin.
Hicks, who is a writer, executive producer and showrunner for “The Upshaws” on Netflix, talked about discovering her writing talent while a student at the College. She recalled a conversation with the late Barry Sherman after she turned in a project where she wrote the first 30 minutes of a film.
“’Did you write this?’” Hicks recalled Sherman asking her. “’Because, this is what you should be doing.’ I will forever be grateful for that moment in his office because he led me down this path. The foundation I got from this school has shaped who I am.”
Travis, an investigative reporter at Fox 5, talked about the lasting impact of his education.
“I thank Grady,” Travis said at the end of his acceptance speech. “As all the people who have walked up on this stage tonight can attest, you made our dreams come true. You really are the dream factory.”
See the UGAGrady Flickr album for the entire set of pictures.