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Rotary names Whalen, Coyle man and woman of the year
The Gainesville Rotary Club honored Gus Whalen, founder of the Featherbone Communiversity, with the club’s annual Man of the Year award for his contributions to the Gainesville community Monday evening during the Gainesville Rotary Club awards banquet at the Chattahoochee Country Club.

The Gainesville Rotary Club honored two community giants Monday evening with its annual man and woman of the year awards.

Mary Lynn Coyle, chairwoman of the Northeast Georgia Health System Board, and Gus Whalen, founder of the Featherbone Communiversity, were selected for their contributions to the Gainesville community.

The two were honored at a Valentine's Day-themed banquet at the Chattahoochee Country Club, complete with whimsical hearts and twinkling lights adorning the ceiling and classic love songs performed by the Gainesville State College Vocal Ensemble.

Pepper Brown, who presented the woman of the year award, praised Coyle for the countless hours she has devoted to local organizations over the years.

"She has a servant's heart and truly lives Rotary's motto of service above self," Brown said.

Coyle has spent much of her time as a volunteer in health care. Her father was a member of the original staff when the Hall County Hospital opened in 1951.

At age 12, she started volunteering as a candy striper and later served on the board of Lanier Park Hospital. She co-chaired the first Marketplace fundraiser for the Medical Center Auxiliary and served on the unification committee when Lanier Park Hospital was acquired by Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

She has also been active with Grace Episcopal Church food pantry, the Arts Council, Brenau University and many other groups.

"I am truly honored and humbled tonight. There really is no place like Gainesville-Hall County," Coyle said when she accepted her award. "I'm privileged to be a part of that and do whatever I can to make it a better place for all of us."

A longtime civic leader in Gainesville, Whalen helped transform a former clothing factory into Featherbone Communiversity, which now houses the nursing school of Brenau University, Interactive Neighborhood for Kids and the Manufacturing Development Center of Lanier Technical College.

LeTrell Simpson introduced Whalen as someone who is not only a good businessman but someone who cares about his employees and the community.

"His vision has successfully impacted his professional life and he has used his unique visionary as well as innovative abilities to help build better communities," Simpson said.

The Communiversity is a unique concept that has been described as a cross generational learning alliance that includes a business incubator, adult education courses and learning activities for children.

"As a Kiwanian, it doesn't get any better than this," Whalen, a member of the rival Kiwanis Club, joked as he accepted his award. "Thank you so much, I could not be more honored."


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