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Luncheon pays tribute to Gainesville native Mike Banks

UNG 'Leaders' program honorees include Kit Dunlap, Buster Evans

POSTED: April 9, 2014 12:53 a.m.
MICAH GREEN/Times regional staff

Buster Evans, superintendent for the Forsyth County School District, is congratulated by Donna Mayo, dean of the University of North Georgia Mike Cottrell College of Business and others after recieving the Inspiration in Community Award on Tuesday at the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center in Cumming.

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Mike Banks, a Gainesville native and banker, was honored by the University of North Georgia on Tuesday during a luncheon at the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center in Cumming.

The president and CEO of the Greater Hall County Chamber of Commerce was also among those recognized at the Inspirational Leaders Luncheon, as was Forsyth County Schools’ outgoing superintendent.

The awards were presented in memory of Banks, who was instrumental in organizing the event prior to his death in January.

“(Banks) was truly an inspirational leader,” said Ruben Boling, director of UNG’s Center for the Future of North Georgia. “But we never really called him that, he just was, and so it was a great honor to recognize and remember him today.”

Kit Dunlap with the Hall chamber received the Inspiration in Business Award, which she said was “extra special” since she had grown up with Banks.

Addressing the crowd of more than 250 people, Dunlap described her longtime friend as “an inspiration.”

“What a leader, what a friend, what a community person,” she said.

Presenting the award to Dunlap was James McCoy, president and CEO of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce.

“I know that Kit goes to work every day thinking about working for the future of our entire region,” McCoy said. “She does an amazing job.

“I know there is no one who cares more deeply and works more diligently for the economic prosperity of our entire region than Kit Dunlap.”

Buster Evans, Forsyth’s school chief, received the Inspiration in Community Award from Darla Light, who chairs the board of education.

“It’s a great honor and a pleasure to be able to be allowed to present this award to one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever known. From his leadership in and out of the school system, to his outside interests and hobbies, Dr. Evans embodies the idea of building personal capacity for lifelong learning,” Light said.

Evans, who has served as local superintendent since 2007, is retiring from the position in June to join the state Department of Corrections as assistant commissioner of education.

He credited the importance of strong partnerships with God, his wife of 35 years, Debbie, and others he has gained during his career.

“I have been blessed way beyond what I deserve and being a part of Forsyth County for the last seven years has been a big part of that,” he said.

Kat Cole, president of Cinnabon, one of the world’s largest food franchises, gave a keynote address.

The young executive focused on the business lessons she’s learned through personal experiences with her family, past leadership roles with Hooters Restaurants — where she was an executive by age 26 — and through service to nonprofits around the world.

Boling said the event exceeded organizers’ expectations.

“Kat gave a fabulous presentation and I thought the involvement of the community was just wonderful,” Boling said. “It’s just good to see us all come together, especially when we start talking about inspirational leaders.

“What a wonderful community we live in. We have so many leaders, and a lot of them we never recognize.”


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