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Watson-Brown Foundation honors top students from Augusta area

The lawn of Hickory Hill was filled with happy families last Saturday as the Watson-Brown Foundation awarded scholarships to rising college freshmen from 16 area counties of Georgia and South Carolina.

"This scholarship is going to benefit me very much," said Thomson High School graduate Anthoney Brown. "The recession has hit my family very hard, and this money will really be a big help. I wish to thank the Watson-Brown Foundation. It's great what they're doing to help common people like me."

Mr. Brown is going to Georgia Southern University in Statesboro to study computer engineering for two years. He then plans to finish his degree at Georgia Tech. Mr. Brown was one of 232 recipients of the scholarship from Watson-Brown this year, according to Sarah Katherine McNeil, the WBF director of scholarships and alumni relations. Ms. McNeil said by the end of the year, the Foundation will have over 800 scholars studying at 125 colleges and universities.

"Today, the Watson-Brown Foundation provides more scholarship aide than any other private organization in Georgia," President Tad Brown said as he addressed the crowd. "We are proud of our heritage and we take it seriously. And we are proud of you and we take you seriously."

The Foundation is a nonprofit corporation that was established in 1970 to provide college opportunities for underprivileged boys and girls. Named for Thomas E. Watson and J.J. Brown, the foundation awards $2.5 million annually in merit and need-based scholarships. The individual scholarships are $3,000 to $5,000 each, and are renewable each year based on continued academic success, according to Ms. McNeil.

Approximately 400 attended Saturday's event, which was to recognize the new recipients and honor the current recipients and alumni. The auditorium consisted of chairs set up under a large canopy on the front lawn of Hickory Hill, which is the historic home of the late Sen. Watson. A separate canopy covered the refreshments of fresh melons and berries, fresh salsa and crackers, fried chicken wings, cheese straws and bacon, all catered by Poppy Seeds of Augusta. The lawn also was dotted with bright, checker-clothed cocktail tables centered with floral bouquets.

Watson-Brown Curator Michelle Zupan said crowds on the Hickory Hill stately lawn is nothing new. She said Mr. Watson holds the record for the largest gatherings in McDuffie County, when 8,000 gathered to hear his speech and 10,000 came for his funeral in 1922.

"He'd be thrilled," she said. "He'd like it with all the young people, the brilliant minds and the Southern food. It doesn't get any better than this."

The keynote speaker for the event was Ferrol Sams, a doctor from Fayetteville, Ga. who also is an award-winning and national best-selling author. The first of Dr. Sams' eight books was published when he was 60-years-old. He also has been an instructor at Emory University and Emory Medical School.

"I'm amazed at this foundation," Dr. Sams said as he began his speech. "I knew it was here, but I didn't realize the scope of it. Not only the large number of scholarship recipients, but the scope of the schools to which they are going, from the University of Georgia all the way down to Princeton and Harvard. I'm a Southerner born and raised, and I'm proud of it."

In more of a stand-up comic style rather than scholarly-address style, the Doctor told humorous anecdotes of his past as he challenged the young people to "keep your Southern character in tact."

Before recognizing the new scholars, Ms. NcNeil asked all current scholars and alumni in the audience to stand.

"New students, find these people," she said. "They know which professors to take, the best resources and what not to eat in the cafeteria."

McDuffie County students who received scholarships:

Alabama State University

Amber N. Johnson

Ashley N. Mims

Augusta State University

Carmen D. Anderson

Sarah R. Bass

Lindsey T. Burch

Jeffrey R. Cook

Aaron M. Dixon

Marie L. Hedgecock

Kimberly R. Lansdell

Cheronda D. Neal

Megan R. Newman

Jessica A. Newsome

Zachary T. Washington

Brewton Parker College

Gloria F. Holloway

Christendom College

Barbara M. Molitor

Fort Valley State University

Demetris J. Freeman

Gainesville College

Lindsey M. Murphey

Georgia College and State University

Erica R. Bettross

Jasmine A. Garnett

Steve E. Holbert

Ethan C. Holliman

William A. McCorkle

Elizabeth J. Thigpen

Courtney Timmerman

Georgia Institute of Technology

Callie G. Gilmer

Kathy L. Robinson

Kelly Robinson

Georgia Southern University

Amanda S. Acosta

William J. Anderson

Anthoney X. Brown

Benjamin D. Dixon

Janette L. Gordy

Andrew C. Harding

Jasmine N. Lott

Kathryn H. May

R. Daniel Palmer

Benjamin L. Raburn

Benjamin A. Rushing

Eric B. Toulson

Christine G. Usry

Seth D. Williford

Georgia State University

Mary A. Harden

Howard University

Tykia C. Key

Northwestern University

Jerrica J. Bell

Oxford College of Emory University

Helen S. Hill

Southern Polytechnic State University

Austin J. Hixenbaugh

University of Dallas

Thomas E. Molitor

University of Georgia

Brittany E. Barnhill

Joseph A. Batrous

Jordan M. Lewis

Melissa D. Newsome

Crystal D. Reese

Amber N. Usry

University of Tampa

Tse'Lani S. Drew

University of West Georgia

Andrea N. Culpepper

Valdosta State University

John W. Atnip

Alana M. Long

Kaitlin N. McNeal

Jacob S. Powers

Warren County students who received scholarships:

Fort Valley State University

Crystal R. Gillom

Amber N. Ivey

Georgia Southern University

Bianca P. Ficklin

John M. Spivey

Medical College of Georgia

Allison S. Newsome

Southern Polytechnic State University

Albert R. Hudson

University of Georgia

La'Porisha Franklin

Davis F. Griffin

Sammantha M. Jerrison

Ashley B. Moyer

Heather L. Neal

Cassie P. Pickrell

Web posted on Thursday, June 04, 2009

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