Connie Hagler, who stepped down as executive director of the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club in October after working with the club for more than 10 years, was honored as Woman of the Year.
Steve Gilliam, who was also instrumental in the Olympic effort, presented the award to Hagler. He said she found success by introducing the sport of rowing to children.
" I remember seeing dozens of little kids sitting on top of kayaks paddling around Lake Lanier, splashing each other, falling out of the boats, swimming, and getting back in the boats," Gilliam said. "From there, they graduated to the kayaks that are used today."
In her acceptance, Hagler paid tribute to the community’s involvement in the rowing venue.
"I love this community," Hagler said. "I love this place and I love the people that are here. I didn’t do any of this by myself. It wouldn’t have happened except this place is so special."
Lawrence "Lorry" Schrage, owner of Saul’s in downtown Gainesville, was the club’s Man of the Year.
Outside of his business, Schrage has been a board member at Northeast Georgia Medical Center and Brenau University.
"This is overwhelming," Schrage said. "This is a very humbling experience. Gainesville means so much to me and my family. All these things happen because people in the community are willing to get out and do things and I’ve been fortunate to be in places to assist them."
The Man of the Year award was first presented by the Rotary Club in 1939. The Woman of the Year began in 1944.
LeTrell Simpson, the 1994 Woman of the Year and the first female president of the Gainesville Rotary, was honored with the club’s Sidney O. Smith Fellowship Award and becomes the first woman to receive the honor.
Gainesville civic leader Philip Wilheit, who was the 2006 recipient of the award, praised Simpson, a retired executive with Northeast Georgia Health System, for her community involvement.
"I cannot think of a single worthwhile organization that (Simpson) has not been chairman or president of," Wilheit said.
"I’m very surprised," said Simpson, who was on the program later to present the Man of the Year to Schrage. "I’m very honored."
The award is named for Sidney O. Smith, a charter member of the Rotary Club of Gainesville who was president in 1926-27 and later served as district governor of Rotary in 1948-49. The award has been presented annually since 1971.
A number of past recipients of all three awards were on hand at Monday night’s gala at the Gainesville Country Club. Among them, F.E. "Gene" Bobo, who was Man of the Year in 1956, and Nell Wiegand, who was the 1973 Woman of the Year.
Also honored Monday was past president Jim Telford Jr., who has 59 years of perfect attendance at the Rotary Club.
He served as president in 1959-60 and was the 1977 recipient of the Sidney O. Smith award.