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‘A Day for Southern’ helps create region’s story

‘A Day for Southern’ helps create region’s story

‘A Day for Southern’ helps create region’s story

Phyllis Thompson

When Phyllis Thompson's journey at Georgia Southern University began in 1977, she never imagined she would one day be asked to represent the university in any way, much less as the community chair for "A Day for Southern."

"It is an honor to represent Georgia Southern as the community chair for ‘A Day for Southern,'" Thompson said. "And from the perspective of someone who has received so much from both Georgia Southern and Bulloch County, it is daunting to presume that I could help by this service, but it is certainly an honor to do that."

Thompson, the president of the Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce, has volunteered with "A Day for Southern" since the 1980s. Her goal for this year's campaign, set for Tuesday, is for it to be the best to date.

"Georgia Southern strives to be the best, and I want this campaign to reflect that," she said. "I want it to be financially successful for Georgia Southern, and I want it to represent the message about the impact our university-community relationship has on economic development, job growth and inspiration of our future business leaders."

In her role as chairwoman, Thompson has taken the time to speak to businesses, individuals and several civic organizations, such as the Rotary Club of Downtown Statesboro and the Kiwanis Club of Statesboro, to remind the community of the campaign's importance. On Thursday, she visited with Kiwanians and reminded them that although not every student is a star scholar or athlete, they all play a role in Georgia Southern's story.

"Not every student has to overcome a significant cultural, physical or economic challenge. They are not all academic athletes or stars, but they are all a part of the mosaic that as citizens of Bulloch County we have the chance to witness," she said. "Faculty add another dimension to our quality of life here. We get to have daily encounters with people who are credited again and again for inspiring some of our youth to careers they never imagined they could have.

"Faculty are often surprised to learn they have been credited by a student they might hardly remember in class, but who became a Pulitzer Prize winner, physician, Nashville music star, press secretary to the vice president of the United States or the director of the Kennedy Space Center — all examples of Georgia Southern graduates," she added.

She went on to share that students like Tim Willis, an alumnus and cross country athlete in the early 1990s, who ran tethered to his cross country coach because he had lost his vision, were an inspiration to her and help make up part of her Georgia Southern story. Championship athletics and the availability of the arts in Statesboro are also things that continue to shape her Georgia Southern experience.

"Because we're neighbors, we can watch the success of students and get to know those who inspire them to reach new highs and we have the opportunity through ‘A Day for Southern' to fuel them both," Thompson said. "And if that is not fulfilling enough, we all know that Georgia Southern provides us far more amenities than most towns our size. It's all a part of that large scale, small feel."

Director of Annual Giving Alex Grovenstein said the university is proud to have active and involved alumni such as Thompson leading this year's "A Day for Southern" efforts.

"The job of leading ‘A Day for Southern' is a job for someone who is passionate about both the community and Georgia Southern, and for someone who is dedicated in furthering the partnership between the two," Grovenstein said. "Phyllis Thompson is certainly passionate about Statesboro, Bulloch County and Georgia Southern, and we couldn't have a better person leading this year's campaign."

Funds raised through "A Day for Southern" support scholarships, faculty development, championship athletics and the cultural programs that enrich the region such as the Museum, Center for Wildlife Education, the Garden of the Coastal Plain, the Performing Arts Center, the Symphony and other continuing education programs.

"A Day for Southern" is a joint effort between the Georgia Southern University Foundation and the Georgia Southern University Athletic Foundation. The first campaign raised more than $60,000, and since 1998 has raised more than $1 million annually.

This year, faculty, staff and students once again donated to the university during the on-campus phase of the campaign. In previous years, many campus departments have had 100 percent participation, a testament to their commitment to the continued growth and mission of Georgia Southern.

"By supporting ‘A Day for Southern,' you'll have the opportunity to make this economic engine even more powerful, attractive and influential. To contribute to another student's story and maybe along the way collect one for your own stash," Thompson said. "I thank you for understanding that you can contribute to another student's life even if he or she, like Tim Willis, never even catch us watching. If you've never participated, I invite you to tether yourself to this opportunity and, with the confidence shown by Tim Willis, stretch out for the next step."


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