SSU Honored Alumni & Community Leaders During 25th Anniversary Gala

Staff Report From Charleston CEO

Thursday, May 9th, 2024

 Savannah State University honored several outstanding alumni and friends of the university at the 25th Anniversary Scholarship Gala on May 4, 2024 at the Savannah Marriott Riverfront. 

Savannah State University (SSU) honored distinguished alumni and community leaders during its 25th Anniversary Scholarship Gala on May 4, 2024 at the Savannah Marriott Riverfront. 

The annual event celebrated the generosity of the SSU community and with the support of SSU’s Foundation, The First Bank, Hyundai Motor America and charitable community members, the University raised $412,000 in scholarships at this year’s gala. Nearly 90 percent of SSU students use some form of financial aid. Special thanks to Michael Williams, class of 1980 and president of Atlanta-based Jetaire Group, and David Paddison, Savannah native and president of Sterling Seacrest Pritchard, co-chairs of this successful event.

“For 25 years the Savannah community has gathered to show their support for the students of Georgia’s first public historically black college and university,” said SSU Interim President Cynthia Alexander. “Their support is a lifeline to these young students trying to make their way in the world and an example of how to give back when it is their turn. We’re ecstatic to have the support of our local business community as well as the consistent contributions from our university foundation.”

SSU honored  a diverse array of accomplished individuals and organizations that have demonstrated extraordinary commitment to education, philanthropy, and community service including:

  • Scholarship: Mary Morrison Clark: Mary Morrison Clark is a retired elementary school teacher, councilwoman and mayor of Bowman, Ga. She is a member of the SSU One Hundred Thousand Dollar Club, a Diamond Life Member and former secretary of the SSU National Alumni Association and was named the 2000 National Alumni Queen. Clark is a member of the Bon Bons Social and Civic Club, ACTION, Inc., National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Elbert County Voters League. She is a life member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and serves on the Deaconess Ministry and is chairperson of the Women’s Conference Ministry at Oconee Baptist Church in Stephens, Ga. 

  • Arts & Entertainment: Tone Bell - 2004 SSU alumni, comedian and actor Tone Bell starred in the 2023 Netflix comedy series, Survival of the Thickest, a role for which he earned a nomination for a NAACP Image Award in the Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series category. Bell is the host of the new Netflix reality show Drink Masters, which premiered in October 2022. Bell studied television and film at SSU and performed as the school's mascot, the SSU Tiger. Bell’s stand-up comedy career took off in 2012 when he won the NBC Stand Up for Diversity Talent Search. That same year he appeared on the series Single Ladies (VH1) and took the role of RJ on NBC’s sitcom Whitney. He first gained notoriety for his wisecracking role as court bailiff Tedward on NBC’s sitcom Bad Judge.  

  • Leadership: Robert E. James - Businessman and community leader Robert E. James has served as president of Carver State Bank since 1971. He is former chairman of the St. Joseph’s/Candler Board of Trustees, and has served on the boards of the Savannah Economic Development Authority, Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce, United Way of the Coastal Empire and Step Up Savannah, Inc. James is a life member of the NAACP and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., and a member of the 100 Black Men of Savannah, Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and The Frogs Club, Inc. of Savannah. He is also a member of the Trustee Board of St. Philip AME Church. 

  • PhilanthropyBeatrice W. and Lemuel Campbell & Linda and William Daniel  - Beatrice Campbell, class of 1967, taught mathematics in the Savannah Chatham County Public School System for 30 years before retiring in 1997. Lemuel Campbell, class of 1974, is a U.S. Army veteran who worked at CSX Transportation for 36 years before retiring in 2001. Lemuel is co-Founder of The Liberty City Athletic Organization, served on several athletic boards and was inducted into the Savannah Athletic Hall of Fame. The Campbells established the Lemuel and Beatrice W. Campbell Athletic Endowed Scholarship Fund in 2013. They also support the Annual Scholarship Gala, the College of Education, SSU bands and other areas of need at the University. The Campbells are Diamond Life members of the SSU National Alumni Association and active members of the Savannah Chapter. Other memberships include the SSU Community Booster Club and the President’s Club. 

  • Linda Daniel retired from the Savannah Chatham Board of Education after 30 years as a school psychologist. William (Bill) Daniel practiced law before joining his father-in-law, the late Dan Vaden in the car business. He retired in 2022 and founded Lassiter Investments, a private commercial real estate investment firm with properties throughout Georgia. Linda and Bill have supported SSU for more than 40 years including chairing the 2020 Annual Scholarship Gala. In addition to currently serving on the SSU Foundation board, Bill has served on many local boards including serving as chairman of Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Directors of Memorial Health University Medical Center, and Savannah Christian Preparatory School.

  • Entrepreneurship: Otis L. Bizzard - Otis Bizzard is owner of Savannah-based Otis Bizzard Construction Co. LLC, M&O Landscaping Co. and DJB Real Estate. Bizzard’s entrepreneurial spirit developed at a young age when he first learned how to pour concrete. He started his lawn care company after working for a company for many years and started his construction company after gaining experience from building a house for a relative. In addition to managing his companies, Bizzard enjoys passing on the hard work ethics, morals and dedication he learned in his childhood to today’s youth. He sponsors youth sporting organizations in the Savannah area and sponsors college students who do not have sufficient resources for college matriculation. 

  • Service: Overcoming by Faith Ministries: Ernestine Dilworth started Overcoming by Faith Ministries of Savannah, Ga. in her home in 1976 and served as the church’s pastor for five years. In 1981, Ricky R. Temple, a graduate of LIFE Bible College in Los Angeles, Calif., became pastor. Under his leadership, Overcoming by Faith has become one of the fastest-growing ministries in Savannah. Overcoming by Faith offers a number of ministries inside the church for different ages (youth, college, adult and seniors) and demographics (single, married, parents, military). Outreach Ministries include Life Changers College Age, Young Adults, Inner City Night Shelter and Prison ministry, to reach people outside the church.

“We are delighted to recognize these outstanding individuals for their remarkable achievements and unwavering commitment to making a difference,” said SSU Interim President Cynthia Robinson Alexander. “Their dedication to education, service, and philanthropy inspires us all and serves as a shining example of the transformative power of higher education.”

The Scholarship Gala serves as a vital source of support for SSU’s scholarship programs, which enable talented and deserving students to pursue their academic goals regardless of financial barriers. 

“Through the generosity of our donors and the commitment of our honorees, we can continue to empower the next generation of leaders, innovators, and change-makers,” Alexander said.

For more information about Savannah State University, visit