March 29, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. --- The inaugural Circle of Honor Gala celebrating athletic and academic excellence at the University of Georgia will be held Friday, April 5, in the Grand Ballroom at the Tate Center.
The social hour will start at 6 p.m., followed by the program at 7 p.m. The black tie optional event is open to the public. Tickets are $150 each and can be ordered by calling (706) 542-6792 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Football player Billy Payne and swimmers Kristy Kowal and Courtney Shealy -- all of whom not only starred at Georgia but also made a significant impact on the international stage -- will be inducted into the Circle of Honor, which pays tribute to student-athletes and coaches who have brought dignity to the university and themselves and who have contributed to the UGA tradition.
Payne was a tight end and an All-SEC and All-America defensive end for the Bulldogs, and he played on two SEC championship teams (1966 and 1968). As president and CEO of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, he launched a successful bid to bring the 1996 Games to Atlanta. Since 2006, Payne has served as the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club.
Kowal was an eight-time NCAA champion and a 16-time SEC champion for the Lady Bulldogs from 1997-2000. She was chosen as the 2000 NCAA Woman of the Year and received the Top VIII Award. Kowal represented the United States several times in international competition, including the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, where she picked up a silver medal.
Shealy was a five-time NCAA and 19-time SEC champion from 1997-2000. She was named the 2000 NCAA Female Swimmer of the Year, and she finished with the maximum 28 All-America honors. At the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Shealy earned two gold medals. Shealy also played volleyball for three seasons and earned MVP honors in 1998. She was the first NCAA Division I female to compete in two sports on the same day, accomplishing that feat three times.
In addition to the Circle of Honor inductions, several Georgia athletes and coaches will be recognized for awards they have received in the past year, including Jack Bauerle (Bill Hartman Award), Teresa Edwards (Naismith Hall of Fame and NCAA Silver Anniversary Award), Jake Scott (College Football Hall of Fame), Marcia Newby (Top VIII Award) and Marta Silva Zamora (Honda Award for women's golf). Rankin Smith will be honored as the Circle of Distinction recipient.
Serving as emcees for the gala will be former Georgia standouts Matt Stinchcomb (football), Litterial Green (basketball), Courtney Kupets (gymnastics) and Maria Taylor (volleyball, basketball). Fifty previous Circle of Honor inductees are expected to be in attendance and will be recognized. Georgia head coaches and several current student-athletes will serve as hosts and hostesses.
The Circle of Honor Gala will kick off a busy sports weekend in Athens, highlighted by the G-Day Game at Sanford Stadium on Saturday at 1 p.m. Baseball, track and field, and women's tennis also have home events during the weekend.