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Business leaders honor trio of area pioneers
Carter, Cheek, Muhanna selected to North Ga. Business Hall of Fame
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Don Carter, Dr. Nabil Muhanna and Ben Cheek pose Saturday at the Chattahoochee Country Club in Gainesville before the Northeast Georgia Business Hall of Fame ceremony. The three were selected as the 2016 laureates for the Northeast Georgia Business Hall of Fame. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Northeast Georgia Business Hall of Fame

Saturday’s honorees

• Don Carter, Georgia Department of National Resources board member

• Ben Cheek, 1st Franklin Financial CEO

• Dr. Nabil Muhanna, neurosurgeon and inventor

Other award winners

• Nancy Norton, The Norton Agency, Volunteer of the Year Award

• Rose Procter, Director of BB&T Center for Ethical Business Leadership at UNG, Educator of the Year

• RichLife Advisors, Junior Achievement Business Partnership of the Year Award

• Dr. Ron Wilson, Gus Whalen Rising Star Award for innovation, entrepreneurship and community service

A neurosurgeon, a conservationist and a CEO walked into a country club Saturday night in Gainesville and walked out as the newest inductees of the Northeast Georgia Business Hall of Fame.

The annual event gathered friends, family and guests of the honorees, as well as other business-minded folk, for a night of honors and highlights of the lives and careers of some of Northeast Georgia’s distinguished citizens.

Every year’s inductees are chosen based on their business accomplishments, but also their community support, public service and involvement.

The seventh annual event was held at the Chattahoochee Country Club by Junior Achievement, an organization that strives to create programs for students to increase their knowledge of business skills and development of those skills.

Under Ben Cheek’s leadership, 1st Franklin Financial has grown from seven local loan offices in 1941 to 288 branches in six states today. He received the Distinguished Service Award in 1994 from the American Financial Services Association.

And that kind of hard work didn’t come without a few hiccups.

“There are a lot of ups and downs over a long career, but you have to persevere and hang in there,” Cheek said. “There are going to be bad days.”

Cheek’s wife, Gail Cheek, said he’s earned the recognition.

“He’s just so humble,” Gail Cheek said.

Dr. Nabil Muhanna is another of the night’s distinguished laureates. He’s both a neurosurgeon and an inventor with 29 medical device patents to his name. He was born in Syria, where he attended both pre-medical and medical school at Damascus University.

“One of the biggest moments for me was when I came to Gainesville (in 1983),” Muhanna said. “Every moment I have a relationship with the people of Gainesville is a big moment for me.”

He previously served in the United States Army and later became chief of neurosurgery at David Eisenhower Medical Center. In addition, he’s also been an assistant professor at the Medical College of Georgia.

For most of his professional career, Don Carter has been recognized for his service on the Georgia Department of National Resources board. He spent 29 years in that position, which makes him the longest serving member in the agency’s history.

Carter also received the Conservationist of the Year Award from the Georgia Wildlife Federation in 1996, and even has his own park named after him, Don Carter State Park in North Hall County.

All proceeds from the event will go toward funding Junior Achievement programs in Northeast Georgia. This year, over 8,000 students will be participating in these programs across Georgia.

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