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Gainesville Rotary Club honors Burd and Hemmer
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The Rotary Club of Gainesville

Woman of the year award: Jane Hemmer

Man of the year award: John Burd

Sidney O. Smith Fellowship Award: Doug Carter

Guardian of Ethics Award: Don Carter

W. Lee Arrendale Vocational Excellence Award: Merrianne Dyer

Communities are made better when their members give to each other from their hearts. 

The Rotary Club of Gainesville honored several community leaders Monday night for their contributions to the area’s people and organizations at its annual awards banquet. 

The club presented community leaders John Burd and Jane Hemmer its Man and Woman of the Year awards at the Chattahoochee Country Club in Gainesville.

The awards are presented annually to men and women for their achievements, leadership and service to the Gainesville and Hall County areas.

Also recognized by the Rotary Club on Monday: Doug Carter received the Sidney O. Smith Fellowship Award; Don Carter received the Guardian of Ethics Award; and Merrianne Dyer received the W. Lee Arrendale Vocational Excellence Award.

More than 200 people braved the threat of inclement weather to attend the ceremony.

Martha Nesbitt, Rotarian and former president of Gainesville State College, recognized the 2014 Woman of the Year, Hemmer, for her many years of service to the county.

Hemmer, a member of the organization, was the first woman to serve on the Hall County Board of Commissioners in 1987 and was the first and only woman to be elected to represent the 49th District in the state Senate in 1992.

“All across Hall County, her contributions have left their mark and resulted in a better place to live,” Nesbitt said. 

Nesbitt went on to praise Hemmer’s continued service to the area’s institutions of higher education and area nonprofit organizations. 

Hemmer said she was “honored and humbled” by the recognition. 

“I did the flowers today,” Hemmer said, gesturing to the arrangements on the tables. 

“I feel very honored and humbled and surprised.”

Rotarian LaTrell Simpson announced Burd, former president of Brenau University in Gainesville, as the recipient of the man of the year award. 

Burd, an inactive 32-year member of the organization, served as president of the college for 19 years beginning in 1985. In that time he increased enrollment from 1,400 students to 2,300, increased the school’s endowment by $48 million and brought the then-college forward as a university. Burd has also served on numerous nonprofit boards and has worked to raise funds for the construction of the Smithgall Woodland Gardens, which is set to open this spring in Gainesville.

Simpson noted Burd’s hard-working nature and reputation for neatness while listing his accomplishments. 

“This man is known for his love of detail and his neatness,” Simpson said. 

Simpson recalled a story told by a former colleague about Burd’s displeasure with a less-than-perfect front lawn at the university on the first day of school.

“(The colleague) said, ‘I guess we’ll have to paint the lawn green,’” Simpson said. 

“To his astonishment, (Burd) said ‘Do it.’ And he did.”

Burd said little more than thank you when he accepted the award but said he was surprised by the recognition.

“I’m overwhelmed, I really had no idea,” Burd said. “I’m tremendously pleased and honored.”

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