ABAC Will Honor Eight Alumni at Homecoming on April 5th

Staff Report From Tifton CEO

Thursday, March 14th, 2019

Eight former students of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College will be honored for their accomplishments at the annual ABAC Alumni Association awards luncheon as a part of the 2019 Homecoming Celebration on April 5 at 12:30 p.m. in Gressette Gymnasium on the ABAC campus.

The ceremony will recognize ABAC alumni who impacted the college and their communities in significant ways.  Tickets to the event are $25 per person.  The deadline to purchase tickets is March 27.  If any tickets are available after that date, the cost will be $30.

Tickets can be purchased on the web site at www.abac.edu/homecoming. For more information on the 2019 Homecoming Week, interested persons can call the College Advancement Office at (229) 391-4900.  

ABAC Alumni Association award winners this year include George Turk from Commerce, Distinguished Alumnus; Andy Bell from Climax, Master Farmer; Ben Smith from Columbus, J. Lamar Branch Award; Dr. Audrey Luke-Morgan from Tifton, Outstanding Educator; Kim Gilman from Ashburn, Outstanding Health Care Professional; Amanda Bridges Harden from Dahlonega, Outstanding Young Alumnus; the Harry and Lester Thompson families from Colquitt County, Family Legacy Award; and Josie Smith from Tifton, Miles A. Drummond Rising Star Award.

Turk is a 1952 ABAC graduate who recently retired after working as the Northeast Georgia Division Manager of Gold Kist Poultry. He currently works as a General Partner with Turk Family LP.  Turk has served as the President of the Georgia Hatchery Association and is a lifetime member of the Georgia Poultry Association.

Turk has served on the ABAC Ag Council and is a lifetime member of the ABAC Alumni Association.  He also established the George and Betty Turk Endoment Fund for the Ag School.

Bell, a 1980 ABAC graduate, farms a diversified operation of row crops and cattle in partnership with his brother, Buster. They currently grow approximately 1,100 acres of cotton, 750 acres of peanuts, 150 acres of corn, 150 acres of pine timber, 15 acres of pecans and 350 acres of hay and pasture land.

Bell is a founding director of the grower owned peanut shelling plant, American Peanut Growers Group, located in Donalsonville. He was named the Ag Man of the Year in Decatur County, received the Georgia Young Farmers Association President’s Award, and earned his FFA American Farmer Degree.

A 1965 ABAC graduate, Ben Smith recently retired after working with Tom’s Foods and Lance-Snyder’s for over 46 years. He managed a peanut shelling operation for these companies for many years, allowing him to work closely with peanut farmers.

Smith has earned honors from the American Peanut Shellers Hall of Fame and American Peanut Council Hall of Fame. After graduating from ABAC, he went to the University of Georgia to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Forestry.

Now an ABAC Assistant Professor of Agribusiness, Luke-Morgan graduated from ABAC in 1994. She teaches a variety of the ABAC agribusiness and agricultural economics courses.

As an academic advisor, Luke-Morgan has the opportunity to work closely with students as the embark on their college journey. She is the current advisor of the ABAC Agribusiness Club, National Ag Marketing Association (NAMA) Team, and ABAC’s Collegiate Young Farmers and Ranchers. She is a lifetime member of the ABAC Alumni Association.

Gilman, who graduated from ABAC in 1992, now works with Phoebe Putney Health System as the CEO of Critical Access Hospitals. She serves Phoebe Worth Medical Center in Sylvester and Southwest Georgia Regional Medical Center in Cuthbert.

Gilman was elected to the Georgia Hospital Association’s Center for Rural Health Board, received a Georgia Hospital Association Award, and was a guest speaker at ABAC’s Nurse Pinning Ceremony in 2015.

A 2000 ABAC graduate, Harden is Assistant Vice President of University Advancement at the University of North Georgia. In addition, she is the Chief Operating Officer of the UNG Foundation.

Harden serves as the President of the Georgia Education Advancement Council, as a member of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, and as a member of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.

The Thompson Family, including Lester O. and Robert Harry Thompson’s families, has been selected for the ABAC Family Legacy Award. Lester O. Thompson is a 1952 ABAC graduate, and his brother, Robert Harry Thompson, is a 1969 graduate.

Other family members who have attended ABAC include Regina Thompson Murray, class of 1977; John Neely, attended 1975-1976; Jennifer Neely, graduated in 2006; John Michael Thompson, graduated in 2011; Michael Thompson, attended summer of 1985; Deborah Gail Darby Thompson, class of 1970; Joey Thompson, attended in 1995; Dr. Darby Thompson Sewell, graduated in 1998; and Jeff Sewell, attended 1994-1996.

Josie Smith, a 2010 ABAC graduate and lifetime member of the ABAC Alumni Association, is the Office of College Advancement Marketing Coordinator and Alumni Assistant in the ABAC alumni office. She assists with the planning and execution of alumni events such as reunions, socials, homecoming, and graduation events.

Smith is the advisor to the Student Alumni Council. She was a recipient of the Georgia 4-H Volunteer of the Year Award in 2018, and she also received the Tift County 4-H Volunteer of the Year Award.