These weren't his exact words, but 2016 Rotary Citizen of the Year David Ball said he got a degree in caring.
The plainspoken, tie-eschewing former restaurateur who has made a career of volunteerism and fundraising for charitable causes came to Statesboro from Atlanta in 1974 as a student at what was then Georgia Southern College. Admittedly not a great student and admitted under a special studies program, he never completed a degree but decided to remain in Statesboro.
"I got out of special studies, I went to school for about four or five more years. No, I didn't graduate, but I think I got a degree in 'I give a damn,' " Ball said, emotion in his voice, "and I like to say that because a lot of people in this room do give a damn about this community that we live in. We have a wonderful community. It's the best community in Georgia and maybe the United States of America."
Among the community's qualifications for that status he listed were "a great hospice ..., a great recreation department ..., a great school system ..., great private schools."
"We've just got so many great things going on this community, I don't know if some of us really realize what we've got," Ball continued. "I realize what we've got, and that's why I stayed."
His audience packed the banquet room at Forest Heights Country Club, where the Rotary Club of Downtown Statesboro and the Rotary Club of Statesboro hold a joint meeting annually to present their award. Ball is the 46th recipient, and the 21st since the downtown club became part of it in 1995.
Giving the introduction for the 2016 recipient, 1991 Citizen of the Year honoree Ellis Wood said most people would realize who he was talking about long before he got to the name.
"In fact, many of you will wonder why this person has not been recognized and applauded more appropriately before now," Wood said. "Those who know him will understand why."
Ball has served as named leader of a number of organizations, but he has also often worked behind the scenes.
Ball's first volunteer work was as a Blue Boy, a sort of young male equivalent of a pink lady, at the old Bulloch County Hospital, around the time it changed names to Bulloch Memorial Hospital.
"We'd take people up to their rooms in a wheelchair and that kind of thing. It was pretty good. I got free lunch," he said in an interview.
Determined to be in business, he opened Archibald's restaurant in 1982, but has been out of the restaurant business since 2002.
"None of us will ever be able to measure the positive impact he has had on the youth of our community by his direct involvement in the Boys & Girls Club," Wood said. "He was instrumental in his family's decision to be involved in the development of the Lamar Q Ball Raptor Center at Georgia Southern. The number of lives that this facility has touched through the years is immeasurable."
Boys & Girls Club
Ball has sometimes been credited as the founder of the Boys & Girls Club of Bulloch County.
As he recounted in an interview, in 1999 he brought representatives of the Boys & Girls Clubs and the YMCA to meetings with local people interested in starting an organization for children and youth. About 60 people attended and overwhelmingly chose the Boys & Girls Club, he said.
The Raptor Center, now included with the Center for Wildlife Education at Georgia Southern University, was named for Ball's father, the late Lamar Q Ball Jr. After David Ball and Steve Hein, still the wildlife center's director, raised a portion of the money, they went to the Woodruff Foundation, which gave $1 million but wanted the center to be named for someone else, Ball said. It opened in 1990.
Ball and his wife, Fayebeth, headed the capital fundraising campaign for the second phase of the Ogeechee Area Hospice building. He has served on the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Ogeechee Technical College Board, the Development Authority of Bulloch County, the board of Joseph's Home for Boys and the Bulloch County Board of Education, "in addition to many more," Wood said.
Ball has been a Rotary Club member since 1986 and is a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow and Rotary Will Watt Fellow for donations made by him or in his honor.
He has been recognized in past years as a Deen Day Smith Humanitarian of the Year, a Sam Walton Business Leader of the Year and a Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce Business Leader of the Year.
"I can assure you that he does not have on a tie today," Wood said before asking the audience to join in congratulating Ball.
Arriving at the lectern, Ball said, "I thought this was over with." Afterwards, he explained this comment by saying that he has been less active in recent years and is a member of fewer boards than he once was.
In business, Ball, now 60, remains a member of the Sea Island Bank Board and an investor in Statesboro-based manufacturer Brodie International.
In volunteer service, he is CEO of the nonprofit Outreach Center Inc. The agency maintains a large building on Denmark Street that houses about 15 other community service organizations, from the Alzheimer's Association to the United Way. Ball purchased the building, fixed it up and helped start the foundation.
Ball quoted advice he heard from Sen. Johnny Isakson in a speech he gave years ago, to "love people" but only to "like" things.
Ball has three grown children, Lauren Whitfield, David Ball II and Kenneth Candler Ball, and two young granddaughters, Harper and Emery Whitfield. David II and Candler are now GSU students.
New Georgia Southern Eagles head football coach Tyson Summers was guest speaker for the luncheon. He talked about his life, the work he has done in hiring assistant coaches and signing new players, and his hopes for the team and his future here.
Summers grew up in Tifton, where his father, a football, baseball and wrestling coach at Tift County High School, died when Summers was 2 years old. So his mother, also a teacher, was his guiding influence, assisted by other teachers and coaches at the school, he said.
"I say to our players, there's somebody that got you here," Summers said. "You know, there's somebody. I say to them all the time, there's somebody that got you to this point, and that doesn't always mean that it's your parents. ... But it's somebody who cared about you enough and believed in you enough."
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.