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UGA to honor Statesboro native Ivery Clifton
Ivery Clifton

The University of Georgia will bestow one of its highest honors on the late Ivery Clifton, a former faculty member and administrator in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and associate vice president for academic affairs in a virtual awards ceremony on Monday.

Clifton is a Statesboro native and the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. B.J. Clifton.

The President’s Medal recognizes extraordinary contributions of individuals who are not current employees of UGA and who have supported students and academic programs, advanced research and inspired community leaders to enhance the quality of life of citizens in Georgia. The honor is awarded in conjunction with UGA’s annual Founders Day celebration.

“I am pleased that the late Ivery Clifton will be honored for decades of outstanding service to this university and the state of Georgia,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “(He) made innumerable contributions to the institution during (his) career. This recognition is a well-deserved tribute to (his) significant support of our faculty, staff and students and (his) many professional accomplishments.”

Clifton was one of the first prominent Black faculty members and administrators at UGA. As such, he served as a valuable role model and mentor to students and faculty across campus. He provided visionary leadership in several positions at the university, always emphasizing the need for strategic planning and diversity.

Clifton came to the university in 1976 and served for 27 years before retiring in 2003. As assistant to the dean in 1987, he launched an initiative to recruit underrepresented minority faculty and students to CAES. 

From 1988 to 1992, he served as UGA’s associate vice president for academic affairs and helped develop the university’s environmental literacy requirement. He returned to CAES in 1992, where he served as assistant dean. In 1994, he became the first African-American at UGA to hold a position at the dean level, serving as interim dean and coordinator of CAES until 1995. He served as senior associate dean from 1995 until his retirement in 2003.

One of Clifton’s many lasting contributions was expanding the CAES Young Scholars Summer High School Research internship program, which encourages underrepresented minority high school students to apply to college and to gain experience in agricultural research. Each year since 2000, the program has brought approximately 65 minority high school students to UGA for paid research internship experiences over the summer. 

He also established the CAES Office of Diversity Affairs.

“He left an indelible legacy on our institution that inspires students and faculty to this day,” said Ron Walcott, vice provost for graduate education and dean of the graduate school, in his nomination letter. “I was privileged to know Dr. Clifton and to benefit from his mentorship as a Black graduate student and early-career professor in CAES. This is especially notable due to the relatively low representation of Black faculty in CAES at the time. More importantly, my personal career trajectory to university administration was bolstered by my exposure to Dr. Clifton as a role model.”

Clifton, who died in January 2020, will have his award accepted by his widow, Patricia D. Clifton.

“My family and I are proud and appreciative of this special recognition of my dad’s legacy and contributions to the university,” said Clifton’s daughter Nicole “Nikki” Clifton, a 1996 graduate of the UGA School of Law and president of Social Impact and The UPS Foundation. “He was devoted to the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and his commitment to diversity and inclusion in education touched so many students and faculty. I am honored as a UGA alumna, and especially as his daughter, to witness this moment.”

The President’s Medal ceremony is part of Founders Week, when UGA observes the date the university was established, Janunary 27. On this day in 1785, the Georgia General Assembly adopted a charter establishing the University of Georgia as the first institution of public higher education in America.

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