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GMC Announces 2020 Alumni Awards Winners

Georgia Military College Presents Awards During Virtual Alumni Weekend 2020

Georgia Military College alumni and friends met online over the weekend to celebrate Virtual Alumni Weekend 2020. One of the highlights of the weekend was honoring a select group of individuals with Georgia Military College Alumni Awards. The recipients of these prestigious awards are selected annually from submitted nominations. 

The 2020 award recipients are as follows:

Military Service Award – COL (Ret.) Tom Hanley, Junior College Class of 1990
Community Service Award – Cliff Leonard, Junior College Class of 1965
GMC Service Award – Russ Walden, High School Class of 1959
Emerging Young Alumni Leader Award – KeShawn Harris, High School Class of 2013
Honorary Alumna Award – Karin Brandt Smith
Alumni Achievement Award – LTC (Ret.) Lawrence “LJ” Baker, Junior College Class of 1991
Distinguished Alumni Award – Randy New, High School Class of 1971, Junior College Class of 1973

These seven individuals are representative of the fine character and countless acts of excellence displayed by the alumni and friends of Georgia Military College. GMC is fortunate to have been a part of each of their lives. The contributions of the 2020 Alumni Award recipients have without a doubt made the world a better place.

Military Service Award
This is given to a GMC Corps of Cadets alumnus who has rendered unusual and conspicuous service, heroic effort and action or service to their city, state or nation while bringing honor to GMC and the Corps of Cadets.

COL (Ret.) Tom Hanley, Junior College Class of 1990
Kissimmee, FL

COL Thomas Hanley graduated from Georgia Military College in 1990 and was commissioned Second Lieutenant. He held primary leadership assignments at every rank from 2LT to COL, and served 30 years commissioned service as an Infantryman to achieve the Order of Saint Maurice. He participated in Operation Desert Shield, Operation Crested River, Operation Noble Eagle, and Operation Enduring Freedom and served in the Army Staff, U.S. Southern Command, U.S. Central Command, National Guard Bureau, Training and Doctrine Command, Joint Readiness Training Center, and the U.S. Army Infantry School. His primary troop leading experience was with the Georgia Army National Guard‘s 48th Infantry Brigade as a company grade officer. He then commanded at the Colonel level as a combat advisor under the Combined Joint Task Force 82 of the 82nd Airborne Division. He earned the Combat Infantrymen Badge with the 10th Mountain Division and was a member of the inceptual organization that would become “Task Force Phoenix” as a designer and planner. COL Hanley was responsible for coordinating the establishment of the Georgia National Guard state partnership with Argentina, while serving at U.S. Southern Command as Senior National Guard Advisor. He was a principle member of the U.S. Central Command Staff who planned the drawdown of forces in Afghanistan in 2013-2014. COL Hanley finished his career at the Joint Readiness Training Center preparing ARNG Brigades for Combat operations, while on jump status. Airborne All the Way!

COL Hanley’s extensive awards and decorations include: the Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Service Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon, Army Campaign Medal, Humanitarian Service Ribbon, Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal, Army Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Army Staff Identification Badge, and the Army Parachutist Badge.

COL Hanley has had an exemplary military career and credits GMC as being the foundation for that. “Since 18 years old, the work ethic, leadership, mental toughness, and drive to achieve started right here in Milledgeville. This pace never changed for the next 30 years,” he stated. One of the many lessons instilled in him from his time at GMC is the importance of the bonds formed with his classmates, brothers and sisters, “family” for life. Faith in the brotherhood is the guiding principle that, to this day, keeps him focused on purpose and relationships to accomplish team goals. This and the “unbridled enthusiasm and military energy that made you try hard, compete, help a buddy, and achieve” contributed to the successes he has enjoyed. In wanting to give back to the institution that has given him so much, Tom is currently working on a strategic plan to create an aviation course for GMC. He is also one of the founding members of the Opera Cum Fidelitate Endowed Scholarship.

COL Hanley and his wife, Damaris reside in Kissimmee, Florida. They have four children, Chelsea and Kaitlyn Hanley and Joseph and Gianna Celeste.

Community Service Award
This is given to the GMC alumnus who has demonstrated exemplary community service through long-term volunteering, having an impact on the quality of life for others, providing leadership and creativity in dealing with societal problems and serving as an inspiration to others.

Cliff Leonard, Junior College Class of 1965
Jacksonville, FL

Cliff Leonard began his life of service as a member of the Georgia Military College Corps of Cadets in 1964. He left in 1965 and went on to join the U.S. Marine Corps in 1966. He served in the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion in Vietnam and retired at the rank of Lance Corporal in 1968. Mr. Leonard then attended Florida State University, earning both a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology and a Master of Science degree in School Psychology. He worked for the Hollywood Police Department, then the Florida Department of Health as a Counselor for delinquent minors, and next as a school psychologist for the Duval County School System. After he retired from his career as a real estate investor, Cliff devoted his time to serving others with his gift of sculpting.

Cliff is the embodiment of selfless love and dedication. For the past 12 years, Cliff has unwaveringly devoted countless hours and vast amounts of energy to sculpting life-size busts of fallen Marines and Navy Corpsmen from Florida killed in action in the Middle East and of fellow 3rd Recon Company members killed in Vietnam.  Thus far, he has sculpted and memorialized almost 50 Marines and Navy Corpsmen, including several of his brothers killed in Vietnam. He does all of this as a gift, free of charge, as a heartfelt thank you to each family. Through tears, dedication, and duty, he shapes the clay, bringing honor and remembrance with each face that he sculpts. He feels it is his call to duty to honor the dedication and sacrifice of each of these fine men and women. His strong passion and commitment to this cause is undoubtedly evident in the hours he pours into each memorial sculpture.

His respect and gratitude for fellow veterans is evident in just the simple, yet profound act of thanking every veteran who crosses his path. It was at GMC that he learned to take care of family, biological family, but also GMC family and military family. “You stick by those who have stuck by you. It is different than simply being on a team. It’s being on the same squad, same platoon, same company, the same battalion that’s only found at Military Colleges like GMC.” Cliff is a member of the Semper Fidelis Society supporting the military community in Jacksonville, Florida, as well as a lifetime member of the Montford Point Marines, which supports and honors the first black American in the Marine Corps.

Cliff devotes his time as a volunteer counselor at the Montanari Clinical School in Davie, Florida. He does volunteer work and research for Goodwill Industries and the Behavior Analysis Research Associates, both of Tallahassee, Florida. He is a “Big Brother” with Jacksonville, Florida Big Brothers, and a Guardian ad Litem advocating for children in the Duval County Court System. Cliff serves on the Board of Directors for the Yates YMCA in Jacksonville, Florida. He is a patient advocate for the Heart Transplant team at Shands Hospital and also assists with the Dean Ornish Heart Disease Reversal Program and lends support to transplant patients at the Gabriel House at the Jacksonville Mayo Clinic.

Of all the lessons learned at GMC, what resonated most for Cliff is the drive to take control of his life, to not just be a participant in life, but to actively engage. In helping those around him and giving back wherever he sees a need, Cliff is certainly living out this commitment to its fullest.

Cliff and his wife, Linda reside in Jacksonville, Florida and have a daughter, a son and two grandchildren.

GMC Service Award
This is given to GMC alumni or friends who have rendered special service to the school and their community through demonstrated involvement in campus and community organizations and activities. This is the highest recognition given for outstanding service and volunteerism.

Russ Walden, High School Class of 1959
Milledgeville, GA

Mr. Walden attended GMC Prep School graduating in 1959. Upon completing his Bachelor of Industrial Engineering and Senior ROTC at Georgia Tech, Mr. Walden was commissioned a 2nd Lt. at graduation and was assigned to Black Hills Army Depot where he worked in Post Engineers. During the two years there, he supervised the construction of a disposal facility for cyanogen chloride and mustard 500 and 1000-pound bombs. The bomb casings were saved and refilled with high explosives for use in Vietnam. He was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for his work.

Upon completing two and half years in the Army and achieving the rank of 1st Lt., Mr. Walden joined Eli Lilly and Company, where he worked for 30 years. He served in a variety of positions and completed his career as International Systems Manager.  After retiring from Lilly, he joined Executive Service Corps (ESC) as a volunteer business consultant where he worked with non-profits and small businesses.  While there, he developed strategic planning and board development models that became key products in helping these groups.  After completing the volunteer work with ESC, he established his own consulting practice, Planning Concepts, which specialized in helping non-profit organizations.

Since returning to Milledgeville in 2002, Russell has been involved in several community and volunteer activities. He currently serves on the board of the GMC Foundation, Central State Hospital Redevelopment Authority, and the Old Capital Heritage Center, and previously served on the boards of the Milledgeville Christian Counseling Center and Georgia College and State University Foundation. He is also an officer in Sons of the American Revolution. He and his wife, Anne, are Meals on Wheels volunteers and active members of Milledgeville First United Methodist Church where he has served in several areas. Russ selflessly gives back to his community with competence and dedication and without need of recognition.

Mr. Walden credits his time at GMC to developing the work ethic, discipline and desire to achieve that formed the foundation for his success. He learned that to be a good leader, one also has to be a good listener and follower. These ideals of character and achievement have always been a part of the very core of who Russ is and are a true reflection of his time at GMC and the foundation he received at home. Russ’s father, Major Herschel Walden was a renowned member of the GMC faculty and the head of the mathematics department for 30 years. Russ and his wife established the Major Herschel Walden Endowed Scholarship Fund in his honor. 

Mr. Walden and his wife, Anne reside in Milledgeville. They have two sons, David Walden and Chris Walden, and seven grandchildren.

Emerging Young Alumni Leader Award
This is given to a GMC alumnus who has graduated in the last 10 years and is no more than 35 years old. This individual has made an impact in one of the following areas: support to GMC, outstanding contributions to their profession, achievements that bring honor and a demonstration of service and commitment to their community.

KeShawn Harris, High School Class of 2013
Washington, D.C.

KeShawn comes from a family of proud GMC Alumni. His mother and father graduated from the Prep School in 1994 and his sister just recently in 2020. KeShawn graduated from the Prep School in 2013 and went on to Georgia Southern where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations. After this, he attended George Washington University where he earned a Master’s Degree in Political Management. While attending GMC Prep, KeShawn realized that he wanted his life and career to reflect GMC’s core values of “duty, honor, and country” and his passion for service was ignited.  As stated by KeShawn, “GMC is a sacred place where I developed intellectually and also elevated my character to become a better citizen who can work to alter systems that offer a seat to all at the table and to carry that throughout the community.”

KeShawn’s career and volunteer work are intertwined and seamless, all with the common goal of making a difference in the community and improving the lives of others. While at Georgia Southern, KeShawn served on Georgia Southern SGA and worked to make the meetings accessible to all students, creating specific avenues for hearing impaired students, as well as passing a resolution directing the University to begin researching how to form a resource center to support equality for LGBTQ students. He is a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. where he is the Political Action Chair, serves on the Voteless People is a Hopeless People Committee and mentors young men through the Go to High School and Go to College national program. He worked as a field director for the Georgia NAACP where he strived to educate and register to vote disadvantaged Georgians and served as the campaign manager for the current Georgia NAACP President James Woodall. KeShawn is also a member of the Georgia Millennial Council.

KeShawn now resides in Washington D.C. where he originally moved to work for Howard University, and now works as Ward 4 Mayoral Liaison in the Executive Office of Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. He is a member of the Black Graduate Student Association at George Washington University where he serves as the Vice President of marketing and is actively involved in community clean up. Though no longer a resident of Milledgeville, KeShawn visits when he can and helps to mentor upcoming youth leaders in the community. As one of his foundations, GMC elevated community service as a way of life and instilled in him how to stand for a cause and in turn, encourage the youth of his community to stand for what they believe.

Honorary Alumna Award
This award is unique in that it is not given to an alumnus of GMC, but is given to an individual who has rendered exceptional and conspicuous service to GMC. This person is a model of integrity and stature and has demonstrated a continuing devotion to GMC and the values of the institution.

Karin Brandt Smith
Milledgeville, GA

GMC is woven into the very fabric of the lives of Mrs. Smith and her family. She is the wife, sister, daughter-in-law, mother-in-law, and grandmother to GMC graduates, and most importantly, the mother of three GMC graduates. Her story began far from Milledgeville. She was born in the Netherlands and, because her father worked for a Dutch Shipping Company, she lived all over the world, including Hong Kong and England for boarding school. As a teenager, Karin met her husband, Nathaniel, while he was touring Europe with his family. They stayed in touch, and six years later, while she was in London for her senior year of nursing school, Nathanial came to visit. They later married and moved to his hometown of Milledgeville in 1964 where he taught at GMC and managed the family businesses.

Karin owns and operates Sew K Designs and is the heart that goes into the uniform fitting and customizing for GMC Prep and the Corps of Cadets. For over 30 years, Karin has been the primary tailor and custom embroiderer for GMC Uniforms and has also designed and produced other GMC specific clothing and items as well. This all began when as a GMC mom, she would do the alterations for her own sons. Her friends asked her to do the alterations for their children’s uniforms, and her business was born. In 1988, Karin officially opened Sew K Designs. At one point, she set up her machines in the GMC book store and worked from there.

Her favorite part was getting to know the Cadets over the years. The impact she made on them is evident in the many who still stop by to say hello long after they have graduated. Karin also takes great pride in extending her services to the uniforms of the State Patrol as well as four deployed military units. It is the people she meets during the process that makes her work so meaningful.

Volunteer work is deeply important to Karin. Her dedication to her community is evident in the 20 years she diligently committed to the Civic Woman’s Club, of which she was President twice, Tenth District President, State Arts Department Chairman, and awarded the Georgia State Club Woman of the Year. Karin was President of the Town and Country Garden Club for two years. Karin is also a supporter of GMC Performing Arts and the expansion of the Prep School.

One of Karin’s favorite memories is a moment years ago when she looked up and noticed her husband and three sons walking down the sidewalk, unknowingly and naturally falling into cadence. GMC is a part of who they are, and this image embodies that. The values that GMC instills and that Karin values - respect, leadership, and self-confidence - are reflected in her children and grandchildren and every GMC cadet who walks through our gates.

Alumni Achievement Award
This is given to a GMC alumnus who recognizes the importance of their education at GMC and exemplifies the core values of "Duty, Honor, Country" and "Character Above All" in their professional and personal lives. Their interest and loyalty is evident through their contributions of time, talents, and/or philanthropic support to GMC.

LTC (Ret.) Lawrence “LJ” Baker, Junior College Class of 1991
Junction City, KS

LTC Baker began his illustrious military career in Milledgeville, Georgia when he was commissioned in the Infantry through the Early Commissioning Program at Georgia Military College in 1991. He then earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminal Justice from Fort Valley State University in 1994.

LTC Baker served in multiple leadership assignments early on in his career, including three company commands. Following his command tours, LTC Baker served as the Assistant Operations Officer of the 3rd Battlefield Coordination Detachment at Osan Air Base and then, as an OPFOR Planner for the Battle Command Training Program. Next, he was selected for assignment as the XO of the Combined Arms Center’s Special Troops Battalion at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, and then as an Operations Officer at the Center for Army Lessons Learned.

LTC Baker next served an assignment with Central Command (CENTCOM) where he deployed as a Ground Plans Officer in the Combined Air Operations Center, Doha, Qatar from 2007 to 2008, and shortly after deployed to Iraq as Brigade XO with 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Upon returning to Ft. Leavenworth, he received the distinction of being selected to command the 2-54th Infantry Battalion, 198th Infantry Brigade at Ft. Benning, Georgia. Following an exceptional two years of command, LTC Baker returned to Fort Riley, Kansas where, as the Deputy Brigade Commander of 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, he deployed to Kuwait in Support of Operation Spartan Shield. He was later selected to deploy forward to Northern Iraq where he established a Joint Headquarters and served as the Chief of Staff in support of Operations against ISIS militants. LTC Baker then returned to Ft. Riley to serve as the Team Lead of the Plans, Analysis, and Integration Office for the U.S. Army Garrison. After culminating a career of excellence spanning over 23 years of active service, LTC Baker retired from the Army and now serves as the Director of Human Resources and External Relations at Geary Community Hospital in Junction City, Kansas.

LTC Baker’s awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Expert Infantryman Badge, the Pathfinder Badge, the Parachutist Badge, and the Air Assault Badge.     

LJ’s pride in his alma mater is evident in his continued investment of time, talent and treasure in current students. He served as a former member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors and is currently on the GMC Foundation Board of Trustees. He and his wife, CJ, have created the Old Capital Guard Drill Team Commanders Endowment. As former Commander of the Old Capital Guard Drill team, LJ especially values supporting current members of the team. He also gives back through speaking engagements, as well as the mentoring of GMC cadets. His commitment to GMC and the Corps of Cadets is immeasurable.

LJ and his wife, Clarinda “CJ,” reside in Junction City, Kansas. The Bakers are fervent believers in the positive impacts afforded through life-long education and are very proud of their four young adults, Shatracie, Sonjay, and twins Malika and Nashia.

Distinguished Alumnus Award
This is the highest honor given by the Alumni Association and recognizes an individual who has distinguished themselves in an outstanding manner and has brought honor to themselves and to GMC. It is presented for service to humanity and dedication that exemplifies the core values of "Duty, Honor, Country" and the regimental accolade of "Character Above All" in their personal and professional life.

Randy New, High School Class of 1971, Junior College Class of 1973
Milledgeville, GA

Randy New’s service to GMC exemplifies “Duty, Honor, Country” and “Character Above All” at the highest level. Mr. New is a proud alumnus of GMC, graduating from the GMC Prep School in 1971 and the Junior College in 1973. He was also commissioned with the GMC Corps of Cadets as a 2LT in the U.S. Army. He served on the GMC Foundation and then as a representative of District 2 on the GMC Board of Trustees from 1992 to 2020 and was Board Chairman from 1998 to 2020.

Mr. New holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Economics from Georgia College. He is the co-owner of Bayne’s Army Store, managing partner in VBRN Investments, and a partner in the Old Capitol Gun Club and BNS Properties. Mr. New has also given of his time to several other organizations including the Milledgeville/Baldwin Chamber of Commerce, Milledgeville Main Street, the Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited, the National Rifle Association, and the Empty Stocking Fund.

The astounding growth of GMC during his many years of leadership has been a testament to Mr. New’s steadfast commitment. The Prep School added 4th and 5th grade in 2018 and then 3rd grade in 2019 with enrollment increasing from 417 students in the 1998-1999 school year to 751 students in the 2019-2020 school year.

Enrollment at the Junior College increased as well, from 12,438 students in the 2014-2015 academic year to 16,351 students in the 2019-2020 academic year, this due to the addition of several campuses in Stone Mountain, Fayetteville, Dublin, Eastman, Albany, and Zebulon, as well as the GMC Global Online Campus. Several campuses also saw improvements by being relocated and/or opening new buildings. GMC Junior College added in 2015 its first-ever Bachelor of Applied Science degree program with a total of 108 program graduates by July 2020. GMC received the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges 10-year accreditation two times both in 2007 and 2017 without any follow-up recommendations during Mr. New’s tenure.

Many major facility projects were completed at GMC as well under Mr. New’s leadership. The Old Capitol Building restoration was completed in 2000. Craig Field was constructed in 2003 and Ruark Athletic Complex, Couch Field and Horace Ray Field House in 2005. Boylan Hall was also constructed in 2005 and Baugh Barracks the following year. Usery Hall opened in 2010. In 2014, the KIDD Health and Wellness Center and the Indoor Training Facility for baseball, softball and golf were constructed. The renovation of the Cordell Event Center also took place that year. In 2017, the Center for Ethics and Servant Leadership was built. Then, in 2019, the Prep School Annex was constructed and Jenkins Hall renovated. Mr. New’s mark on this institution is evident in the abundance of institution-wide accomplishments that were made during his tenure and will continue indefinitely.

Mr. New and his wife are life-long residents of Milledgeville. He and Cynthia, both graduates of GMC Prep School, met at the historic campus. Their daughter, Diana graduated from the Prep School in ’00 and son Corey from the Prep School in ’02 and the Junior College in ’04. They have four grandsons.