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Riverside honors Strickland, Bagwell at Sandy Beaver Awards banquet
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Col. William Gallagher addresses attendees Thursday during the Sandy Beaver Entrepreneurial Leadership Award ceremony at Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville. - photo by David Barnes

Two men were honored Thursday night for their strong business leadership and generosity to the community in a dinner that continues that legacy of generosity by helping to fund financial help for students at Riverside Military Academy.

Loyd F. Strickland and Tommy Bagwell were awarded the Sandy Beaver Entrepreneurial Leadership Award during the fourth annual awards dinner at Riverside in the school’s Alumni Hall.

Riverside President William J. Gallagher called Strickland and Bagwell “fine examples of men of character.”

“They leave legacies of selfless service to friend, neighbor and fellow citizen,” he said. “They are pillars of their communities and for very good reason. They have challenged us to seek achievement through hard work, by leaving our comfort zones, by engaging with our talents and by recognizing there are probably limits to those talents and what we can do, but with their example, always pushing for improvement and never giving into those limits.”

Strickland, who died in 2013, received the award posthumously. His grandchildren, Baya Magnus Pruitt, Matt Magnus and Brooke Magnus Kalinauskas, accepted the medal from Gallagher on his behalf.

“We’re just glad to see him remembered,” said Matt Magnus. “He was an example to all of us and he was a very godly man.”

Strickland, who lived in Chestnut Mountain, started Crystal Farms Inc. in 1947, which was among the largest commercial egg producers in Georgia at one point. He was recognized for his vision in helping to build or strengthen several local organizations including the Boy Scouts, Gainesville College (now the University of North Georgia  Gainesville), Young Life and Eagle Ranch.

Eddie Staub, founder and executive director of Eagle Ranch, said Strickland’s faith was the foundation of his life.

“Regardless of what we have accomplished in life, everything flows out of our ‘why,’” Staub said. “Why are we on this earth? What’s our essence? What’s our core? I have no doubt that if Mr. Strickland was on this stage, he would say who he was would flow out of his relationship with Jesus and that his life was dedicated to bringing glory to God. ... His legacy, in large part, was to young people because he believed in investing in the future in a way that would have an exponential generational impact.”

Bagwell is owner and CEO of American Proteins Inc. in Cumming, which has five poultry byproduct plants in Georgia and Alabama. He took over the company started by his father and has grown it over the years to a business with about 750 employees.

He and his wife, Chantal, have been recognized for their generosity as Philanthropists of the Year in 2014. A year earlier, Bagwell was inducted into the Northeast Georgia Business Hall of Fame.

“Along the way, my dad instilled strong moral and religious values in all of us that leads me to believe he is one of the greatest men I have ever known,” said Bagwell’s son, Leland, in a tribute. “He is a father and mentor and if there is anyone who deserves this award, it would be him.”

After receiving the medal from Gallagher, Bagwell thanked the Strickland family for “allowing me to share in walking in the shadow of a giant. My father and your father and grandfather were in the same generation and I know a lot about Loyd Strickland. Thank you.”

“It’s a night that I will not soon forget,” Bagwell said of the award.

The dinner supports The Riverside Military Academy Foundation which was created in 2013 to provide to help with tuition for families of students in need. Amanda K. Willis, vice president for advancement at Riverside, said the foundation has raised nearly $500,000 since it started. Riverside President William J. Gallagher announced that the first financial aid awards from those funds would go to students with financial need this school year.

The award, established in 2014, is named for Sandy Beaver, who served as superintendent and president of Riverside from 1912-1969. It recognizes men and women who have shown entrepreneurial leadership and success in areas such as government, education, military, medicine or business “to a degree rarely observed,” according to a statement on the program. Personal character and values of candidates are also considered for the award.