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Published on February 25th, 2016 |

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GSU president keynotes annual Buckhead business awards luncheon

When Dr. Mark P. Becker came to Atlanta in January of 2009 to take over as president of Georgia State University (GSU) none of the students were wearing their school’s colors or logos. There was a lack of school pride. Today, the campus is a sea of blue and white pride.

Georgia State University President Dr. Mark Becker addresses the Buckhead Business Association's Annual Luncheon Thursday.

Georgia State University President Dr. Mark Becker addresses the Buckhead Business Association’s Annual Luncheon Thursday.

Becker gave credit for the change to the start-up of a football program, a successful basketball program…sports in general. “We started sports because it builds a sense of community,” Becker told more than 200 business executives and community leaders attending the Annual Luncheon of the Buckhead Business Association, Thursday.

But that is only one side of the story. Georgia State University is now the largest university in the state, has been touted nationally as the fifth most innovative university, one of the nation’s leading urban research universities and its president is ranked the 10th most innovative.

And, oh yes, Georgia State’s intercollegiate teams have won six conference championships since rejoining the Sun Belt Conference in 2013 and Georgia State’s football team made its first bowl appearance in 2015. That helps build a good deal of school pride among students, too.

Becker’s speech was a fitting meat and potatoes complement to the desert of the Annual Luncheon—the BBA’s annual presentation of Buckhead Beautification, Entrepreneur of the Year, Bullish on Buckhead and Business of the Year Awards—although awards came before Beckers speech.

The winner of what has come to be considered the primo BBA award annually, The Buckhead Business of the Year, was won for 2015 by Mountain High Outfitters, located in the Publix shopping center at West Paces Ferry Road and Northside Parkway. The award was accepted by Christopher Groom, the founder and CEO of the Alabama-based chain.

The four runners up for the Business of the Year Award were Keri Gold Salon, King + Duke restaurant, Sally B Skin Yummies and the Seven Lamps restaurant.

BBA 2016 President David Coxon, left, presents the Business of the Year Award to Mountain High Outfitters founder

BBA 2016 President David Coxon, left, presents the Business of the Year Award to Mountain High Outfitters founder Christopher Groom.

The new Garden Hills neighborhood Pool House, which was completed in 2015 after a years-long fundraising effort in the community, was the winner of the 2015 Buckhead Beautification Award. Accepting the award was Garden Hills resident Jeff Clark who headed up the fundraising efforts. The pool facility is owned by the city of Atlanta but run by Garden Hills.

Runners up for the Beautification Award were Lenox Square Mall for its new façade design and the Restoration Hardware store on Peachtree Road across from The Shops Buckhead Atlanta, which won the award the year before.

The Bullish on Buckhead Award name was changed for 2015 to the Sam Massell Bullish on Buckhead Award honor the person whose support of Buckhead it was designed to honor. The award this year went to Sheffield Hale, president and CEO of the Atlanta History Center.

(Apparently BBA has lost track of previous Bullish on Buckhead Award winners, because 2015 BBA president Greg Davis said it had not been presented since 2011 when it was first established and was won by Sam Massell. Actually, it was presented to BuckheadView’s John Schaffner in 2012, the year after BuckheadView.com was started, and also a year or two later to the Buckhead Coalition’s Garth Peters, to name a couple of honorees).

Justin Amick and William Stallworth won the 2015 Buckhead Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the start-up of their upscale bowling alley/gaming/dining and drinking business, The Painted Pin, which they opened on Miami Circle.

Also on the agenda for the luncheon—which was held at Buckhead’s newest special events facility, Flourish by Legendary Events—was the passing of the gavel from the 2015 BBA president Greg

Jeff , left,accepts the 2015 Buckhead Beautification Award on behalf of The Garden Hills Pool House from awards committee chair Marcia Jaffe.

Jeff Clark, left, accepts the 2015 Buckhead Beautification Award on behalf of The Garden Hills Pool House from awards committee chair Marcia Jaffe.

Davis to 2016 BBA president David Coxon.

Becker was a fitting speaker for the BBA’s Annual Luncheon because the school has a major presence in the Buckhead community with its J. Mack Robinson College of Business executive and graduate business programs. Becker urged the business group to visit the center and take part in its programs. “Everyone can use another degree,” he told the audience.

One of the most diverse universities in the U.S., GSU is a national model for student success, setting records for its graduation rates and number of students it graduates and is the only university that has eliminated disparities in student achievement based on race, ethnicity and income, Becker told the group of business leaders.

With assimilation of the Georgia Perimeter College system into GSU this year, the student population has doubled in size. The merger with GSU, Becker said, came about due to GSU’s success in boosting its graduation rates for all students by 80 percent in a decade. Only 15 percent of Perimeter College’s students were obtaining their two-year associate degrees.

Becker also outlined GSU’s plans to redevelop the Turner Field site downtown, explaining that he first heard the Atlanta Braves were leaving from Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, who suggested that GSU consider purchasing the site. Mitchell was in the luncheon audience.

He said one great use for the new property will be to provide student parking opportunities. Becker said GSU leases 1,800 parking spaces downtown for students and on a day like Thursday, he

Justin Amick, right, accepts the Entrepreneur of the Year Award for The Painted Pin, from BBA 2016 President David Coxon.

Justin Amick, right, accepts the Entrepreneur of the Year Award for The Painted Pin, from BBA 2016 President David Coxon.

added, those spaces will park 5,500 cars with turnover.

He told the group that the present Braves stadium will be turned into a football stadium for about 25,000-30,000 to watch games. He said GSU will build a small baseball stadium on the site of the original Fulton County Stadium, where the Braves first played when they cam to Atlanta. It torn down long ago. “We will do this to honor the history of 50 years of baseball in Atlanta, the Braves and Hank Aaron, the place where he hit the home run that broke Babe Ruth’s record.”

He also said the site “just a drive up one road to the main campus” will also have single family homes, other housing and even retail potential. He pointed out that Georgia State University is only closed for two weeks a year.

Becker told the audience, “We started sports at Georgia State because it builds a sense of community.” Becker added, “It is part of the experience of going to college in America, especially in the southeast U.S.”

Asked where he sees Georgia State will be in 10 years, Becker said he sees the emergence in the 21st century of very large urban institutions in cities and those institutions being very connected to their cities–especially through the core local indstries.

“Georgia State University will not stop at 50,000 students. We will continue to grow to meet the needs of Atlanta,” Becker predicted.

Sam Massell Bullish on Buckhead Award winner Sheffield Hale, at left, addresses the BBA audience as 2015 President Greg Davis and 2016 President David Coxon look on.

Sam Massell Bullish on Buckhead Award winner Sheffield Hale, at left, addresses the BBA audience as 2015 President Greg Davis and 2016 President David Coxon look on.

The 2016 BBA Annual Luncheon was presented by Sandy Springs-based Reporter Newspapers, which publishes the Buckhead Reporter among its four biweekly and one monthly publications.

Host for the luncheon was Tony Conway, owner of Legendary Events.

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