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Renowned Speakers to Address Graduates at GMC Commencement Ceremonies

Renowned Speakers to Address Graduates at Georgia Military College Commencement Ceremonies

Despite a global pandemic, Georgia Military College was able to open fully to students in August 2020, offering in-seat classes across the state of Georgia. Through GMC’s Five Step Program, campuses were able to provide safe learning environments so that students were able to continue working towards earning their degree.

This year, GMC is on a glide path to have the largest number of graduates and degrees awarded in the history of the institution. This is largely attributed to the innovative thinking, hard work, and dedication of the entire GMC team, as well as the generosity and support from the GMC Foundation by providing additional scholarship funds to our students in need during the pandemic.

Beginning this week, GMC will celebrate graduates from across the state as they embark on a new chapter in life with an Associate’s or Bachelor of Applied Science degree. At Georgia Military College Prep School, graduates will walk across the stage to receive their high school diploma, and for some, they’ll receive an Associate’s degree from GMC as well. To prepare them for this new journey, GMC graduates will be encouraged and inspired by some of the top leaders in various fields at their commencement ceremonies.

Below are the speakers and commencement information for GMC’s campuses:

GMC ROTC Commissioning Ceremony: May 19, 2:00 p.m. in the Goldstein Center for Performing Arts on GMC’s Milledgeville Campus – 201 E. Greene Street, Milledgeville, GA 31061

Commencement Speaker: Major General John R. Evans, Jr.

Major General Evans is the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Cadet Command & Fort Knox, Kentucky. He was commissioned in 1988 as a Distinguished Military Graduate from Appalachian State University. He was assigned to the Aviation Branch and completed flight school in 1990. Major General Evans previously served as the commander of the United States Army Special Operations Aviation Command (Airborne).

He was first assigned as an Attack Platoon Leader in C / 1-82nd Aviation Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, NC where he served until 1995. He then served his first of three tours with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) which included duties as A Company Platoon Leader and Operations Officer, A Company Commander, Battalion Operations Officer, 1st Battalion; Regiment S3, Regiment Operational Assessment Element Commander, Regiment Deputy Commander; and Battalion Commander, 2nd Battalion; Fort Campbell, KY.

GMC-Milledgeville Campus: May 21, 10:00 a.m. at the GMC Activity Center – 249 Broad Street, Milledgeville, GA 31061

Commencement Speaker: Representative Wayne Howard

The Honorable Henry "Wayne" Howard is the State Representative for Georgia’s 124th District. Public service is a family tradition in the Howard Family, as his father also served as the 121st District Representative. Representative Howard is a member of the historic Tabernacle Baptist Church and has received numerous awards for his service. He is a member of the C. S. Hamilton Male Chorus and the Sanctuary 3 Choir and is an ordained Deacon. Representative Howard is a person who believes in the power of education and the power of a loving family. In addition to his duties as Representative for the 124th District, Representative Howard also runs a successful business and spends time with his loving wife.

GMC-Milledgeville Campus: May 21, 2:00 p.m. at the GMC Activity Center – 249 Broad Street, Milledgeville, GA 31061

Commencement Speaker: Representative Carl Gilliard

Carl Gilliard represents the citizens of District 162, which includes portions of Chatham County. The Savannah Native attended Morris Brown College in Atlanta before returning home to serve his community. He began his life and love of service to others while serving as the national youth coordinator for Presidential candidate, Rev. Jesse Jackson. Second, in his quest to stop violence in his city of Savannah, he was led to form the first positive rap group in the nation, Candylove. Additionally, Representative Gilliard answered the call to ministry and is ordained, he feeds the poor and homeless, all while serving the people of the state of Georgia.

GMC-Sandersville Campus: May 21, 4:00 p.m. at the Word of Life Church – 1209 S. Harris Street, Sandersville, GA 31082

Commencement Speaker: Mrs. Leah Clark

Mrs. Leah Clark has served various educational roles, including teaching at the GMC-Sandersville campus, but she currently serves as the Principal of Ridge Road Primary School. After earning an Associate’s degree from Georgia Military College, Clark when on to earn a Bachelor of Science in History, a Master of Educational Leadership and a Specialist degree in Educational Leadership from Georgia College and State University. She continues to be a life-long learner, participating in many professional development opportunities, often geared towards school improvement, mentoring others, and helping students to achieve success.

GMC-Augusta Campus: May 22, 9:00 a.m. at Lady A Pavillion – 7016 Evans Town Center Blvd, Evans, GA 30809

Commencement Speaker: COL Shaw Pick

COL Shaw S. Pick is a native of Kirkland, Washington, and a 1993 graduate of the University of Washington. He was commissioned as a Signal Corps Officer in 1997 and began his career as a Paratrooper at FT Bragg, NC. He served as a Platoon Leader in the 1st BN/321st ABN Field Artillery Regiment, Executive Officer in D/51st Signal Battalion (ABN), and the 35th Signal Brigade (ABN). From 2002-2004, he commanded A/29th Signal Battalion at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. His post-command assignment was with 10th Special Forces Group (ABN) where he served in multiple positions to include Group S6 and Joint SOF Task Force J6. COL Pick served as a Strategic Planner for NATO Training Mission Afghanistan from 2011-2012. Subsequent assignments in Army Special Operations included G6, Army Special Operations Aviation Command, Commander’s Initiatives Group, HQ USASOC, and Commander, 112th Signal Battalion (SO)(A). COL Pick’s most recent assignment was as the CIO/G6, U.S. Army Special Operations Command. He is currently assigned as the Garrison Commander at Fort Gordon, Georgia. His deployments include 4 tours in Iraq and 1 tour in Afghanistan.

Georgia Military Global Online College: May 28, 10:00 a.m. in the Goldstein Center for Performing Arts on GMC’s Milledgeville campus – 201 E. Greene Street, Milledgeville, GA 31061

Commencement Speaker: Senator Michael Rhett

Senator Dr. Michael Rhett was first elected to the state Senate in 2014 to represent a portion of Cobb County. He is the first African American Resident from Cobb County Georgia to be elected to the Georgia State Senate. He was recently honored by the Cobb County Democratic Party as the Democratic Legislator of the year and Environmental Georgia's Legislator of the year in Cobb County Georgia. Senator Rhett is member of the senate Higher Education committee, Finance committee, Judiciary Committee, regulated industries committee, voting redistricting committee, and Veterans, Military and Homeland.

GMC-Madison Campus: May 28, 2:00 p.m. in the Goldstein Center for Performing Arts on GMC’s Milledgeville campus – 201 E. Greene Street, Milledgeville, GA 31061

Commencement Speaker: Mr. Bob Mackey

Bob Mackey is the idealist and the founding inventor behind the product, Yono Clip, which was featured on the hit television show in 2021, Shark Tank, where he and his business partner walked away with a deal with Daymon John for $150,000 in exchange for 30% of their company. Mackey touts an impressive record of service to youth dating back to 2005-2010 when he worked as a Juvenile Probation Officer for the Department of Juvenile Justice and the State of Georgia. For the past 15 years, Mackey has held many leadership positions, including the Regional Director of Education, Senior Club Director, and Director of Training for the Boys & Girls Clubs of North Central Georgia/Metro Atlanta, where he has been credited for providing a record number of academic scholarships to underprivileged youth, increasing graduation rates for students by 87%, decreasing school discipline referrals by 50% and decreasing juvenile delinquency rates by 30%. In 2017, Mackey was unanimously named the President & CEO for the Boys & Girls Clubs of North Central Georgia (Budget size – $2.7 million).

GMC-Columbus Campus: June 4, 3:00 p.m. at the Columbus Convention & Trade Center – 801 Front Avenue, Columbus, GA 31901

Commencement Speaker: Dr. Stephen Barber

Dr. Stephen Barber is an Adjunct Professor of History and Chair of the Social and Behavioral Science Department at the Columbus Campus of Georgia Military College. He previously served as Professor of History and Chair of the Social and Behavioral Science Department at the Columbus Campus. He has also served as Chair of the Ethics Committee, faculty advisor to the Student Honor Council, and coach of the Ethics Bowl team. In these positions, he was deeply involved in promoting the GMC mission to develop the intellect and character of its students. In an institution-wide capacity, Dr. Barber served on the Curriculum Committee, the President’s Faculty Advisory Committee, and the Professional Development Faculty Advisory Committee. He received his MA in 2007 and PhD in 2011 from Auburn University and a BA in History from Columbus State University in 2001.

GMC-Valdosta Campus: June 4, 7:00 p.m. at Valdosta High School Gymnasium – 4590 Inner Perimeter Road, Valdosta, GA 31602

Commencement Speaker: Ms. Myrna Ballard

Myrna Ballard retired as President/CEO of the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce at the end of 2020, a position she had held since January 1997. She was formerly Vice President for Economic Development for the Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber, Economic Developer for Quitman-Brooks County (Georgia), and Director of Economic Development for the Brazos Valley Development Council (Texas).  She has more than 35 years of experience in community and economic development. Ballard is active in several community and professional organizations. She is immediate past chairman of the 18-county South Georgia Workforce Development Board, is a former member of the Valdosta Early College Academy Board, the VSU STEAM Center Advisory Board, and the Georgia Innovation Fund Foundation. She is a current member and past president of the Valdosta Rotary Club, past president of the Valdosta Civic Roundtable, former member of the Valdosta Technical College Board of Directors, and past chairman of the board of the Georgia Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.

GMC-Dublin, GMC-Eastman, GMC-Warner Robins Campuses: June 12, 10:00 a.m. at Homer J. Walker Civic Center – 700 Watson Blvd, Warner Robins, GA 31093

Commencement Speaker: Mayor Phil Best

Phil Best Sr. was elected Mayor of Dublin in November 1999.  Since his election, he has served as Chair on the Economic Development Committee, President of the Georgia Municipal Association’s 13th District, and appointed to the Governor’s board of work force initiative.  He has served on Laurens County Board of Health, the Board of Trustees of the Georgia Municipal Employees Benefit System, the Military Affairs Committee in Warner Robins, and the Board of Directors of the Georgia Municipal Association. He has also served as Director of the Dublin Rotary Club, the Dublin-Laurens County Chamber of Commerce, and the Dublin Country Club.

GMC-Fairburn, GMC-Fayetteville, GMC-Stone Mountain, GMC-Zebulon Campuses: June 12, 6:00 p.m. at Southern Ground Amphitheater – 301 LaFayette Avenue, Fayetteville, GA 30214

Commencement Speaker: Michelle Taylor Willis

Michelle Taylor Willis is the founder of Gagnant Media. A Florida native, she is married with four sons and resides in Atlanta, Georgia. She is a proud graduate of the University of Florida, and an award-winning entrepreneur, author, speaker, and master strategist. Michelle recently launched her first book, “Raising Significance: A Guide to Well-Rounded, Independent, and Confident Kids.” She has appeared on the nationally syndicated Tamron Hall Show on ABC to discuss the book and on the Fox affiliate in Atlanta, as well as being featured in several publications. Additionally, Michelle is the host of the “According to Michelle '' television show, which is featured weekly via The AIB Network. Several episodes of the television show have surpassed one million views and can be viewed in Atlanta and Northern Georgia through Comcast Cable channel 295 and ATT channel 6, as well as through AIB’s YouTube Channel. She also broadcasts a radio version of “According to Michelle'' weekly through Mixx106radio.com. Michelle is the brainchild of the Moms All In® Conference, a conference centered on instructing entrepreneurial and executive-level women on how to build businesses without sacrificing themselves and their families in the process. Michelle coined and trademarked SoFu®, a term that represents the eight cities of South Fulton County in Atlanta, created with an effort to re-energize the predominantly Black area.

Georgia Military College is excited for the next step in these graduates' lives. Congratulations to the Class of 2021!