Georgia Southern Recognizes Exemplary Donors at 2024 Gratitude Gala

Staff Report

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2024

(l-r) Georgia Southern University President Kyle Marrero, Darron Burnett, Kim Powell, DeNorah Huggins, Walt Huggins, Dr. Dennard L. Scoggins, Wanda B. Scoggins, Stephanie Sanders, Robbie Sanders, Maria Sanders and Georgia Southern Vice President of University Advancement Trip Addison.

Georgia Southern University hosted its annual Gratitude Gala to recognize key donors for their longtime support of institutional initiatives. The event was held on March 29 at the JW Marriott Plant Riverside in Savannah where honorees were presented with awards.

“The Gratitude Gala is a chance for us to celebrate you,” Trip Addison, vice president for University Advancement, said to the group. “The people in this room represent Georgia Southern’s most loyal alumni, friends, faculty, staff, corporations and foundations — those who have given $25,000 or more to the University, equipping our mission of helping students reach their academic and career goals.

“Each one of you has gone above and beyond in your support of the University, and for each student who is chasing an incredible dream, your support is helping them to take hold of it,” Addison continued. “Because of supporters like you, more than $4 million in scholarships were awarded this year. Over the past few years, we have also experienced record years of charitable support, proving that our alumni and friends believe in what Georgia Southern is doing and the impact it will have on our campuses, communities and state. Together, we soar.” 

The 2024 recipients are:

The Legacy Award: Dr. Dennard L. And Wanda B. Scoggins

Alumni and long-time supporters Dennard (‘65) and Wanda (‘64, ‘75) Scoggins have a unique story in which they first dated as students at Georgia Southern, married other people, and following the death of their spouses, reconnected and married more than 50 years later. They decided to turn Dennard’s planned legacy gift to Georgia Southern into something that they both could enjoy now and made a $1 million donation to the Georgia Southern Athletic Foundation, Inc. Pending a Board of Regents approval, the plaza between the Anthony P. Tippins Family Training Facility and the gates of Allen E. Paulson Stadium will bear the names of their deceased spouses.

The University honored Dennard and Wanda with the 2024 Legacy Award for their tremendous investment in the University.

The President’s Ambassador Award: Walt and DeNorah Huggins

Walt Huggins (‘80), and his wife, DeNorah, have been loyal supporters and ambassadors of Georgia Southern for almost 40 years. 

Walt, a partner of Quadrant Real Estate Advisors, has served on the Georgia Southern Foundation board, the Athletic Foundation Board, Housing Foundation Board and the Campaign Steering Committee. In addition, Walt and DeNorah were two of the first supporters of the University’s Honors College and football initiative, Transition 20.

The University honored Walt and DeNorah with the 2024 President’s Ambassador Award for their dedication to Georgia Southern, giving of their time, their talent and financial support.

The President’s Innovator Award: Synovus 

Synovus is an enduring corporate partner of Georgia Southern’s. The company’s community-focused team hires the University’s graduates, supports its programs, provides scholarships and cheers on the Eagles. 

Georgia Southern presented the 2024 President’s Innovator Award to Synovus representatives Darron Burnett and Kim Powell for the institution's unwavering commitment to the University.

The President’s Visionary Award: Mike Sanders

Mike Sanders was a distinguished alumnus (‘81) and devoted supporter of the University who left an indelible mark on the institution through his tireless efforts to foster educational opportunities for future generations.

After graduating from Georgia Southern, he remained deeply connected to his alma mater throughout his life. His impact on the University was profound, as evidenced by his pivotal role as co-chair of the comprehensive campaign, Together We Soar. His contributions, spanning both time and resources, were instrumental in helping to shape the growth and development of Georgia Southern.

Sanders was honored as a remarkable individual whose impact will continue to inspire the Georgia Southern community for years to come. The University presented his children, Stephanie and Robbie, with the 2024 President’s Visionary Award in honor of their late father.