Philanthropist and Times co-founder Lessie Smithgall of Gainesville recently received the 2017 Presidential Leadership Award during the fifth annual University of North Georgia Foundation Scholarship Gala in Gainesville.
Georgia first lady Sandra Deal introduced Smithgall, and UNG President Bonita C. Jacobs handed her the award. Smithgall turns 106 on April 1.
“The Presidential Leadership Award is reserved for those who have made an extraordinary mark on the lives of those at UNG and within its communities...,” Deal said. “Lessie personifies this award through her exemplary life accomplishments, her good works for the people of our community and her boundless spirit.”
Deal noted that Smithgall and her later husband, Charles, left an enduring mark on the region through media, art and philanthropy. The couple moved from Atlanta to Gainesville, and in 1947 they bought a radio station and a daily newspaper that eventually became The Times.
Deal said the Smithgalls’ support includes donating land for the Gainesville campus of the Atlanta Botanical Garden and Smithgall Woods State Park in Helen. They also lent their support to the Gainesville Theatre Alliance, a nationally acclaimed program that is a valuable resource for UNG students and the community.