By Clay Wilson
Saturday night was a time for celebrating the present and looking to the future for Clayton College and State University.
The school held its eighth annual President's Gala at the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park. The theme for this year's event was "Foundations for the Future ? Shades of Tomorrow."
The ball is a major fund-raiser for the Clayton College and State University Foundation, the non-profit organization that works to secure financial contributions for the school. However, according to university spokesman John Shiffert, the other major purpose of the evening is to present the annual Vision Awards.
Shiffert called the awards "an important part of Clayton College and State University's presence in the community." They recognize, in the words of university history professor Eugene Hatfield, "Peo
ple who helped to lay the foundation for the future of the Southern Crescent."
This year's awards recognized William "Bill" Anderson, chairman of Morehouse College's Art Department, for Artistic Achievement; Clayton County Commission Chairman Crandle Bray and Clayton County Development/Redevelopment Authority Roland Downing for Economic Enhancement; Georgia 82nd District Gail Buckner, D-Jonesboro, and Sutherland's Foodservice President James E. "Gene" Sutherland for Career Success; and Jack Smith, a partner at Smith, Conley and Associates, for Business Accomplishment.
Buckner, who got a degree in Early Childhood Education from the school in 1976, said she was "very honored" by the award.
"Just to have a spot with these other folks being recognized (by the school) is an honor in and of itself," she said. "This was certainly not anything that I would have been able to foresee in 1976."
While Buckner may not have envisioned getting a Vision Award, the evening's program focused on a hypothetical picture of Clayton State's future. Playing off the school's 35th anniversary this year, Hatfield and numerous CCSU students presented a look at the school's 50th anniversary celebration n in 2019.
"It is a time of celebration," Hatfield said. "The visions of 2004 have become a reality."
Among the prophecies the program presented were graduate programs in nursing and business, a College of Hospitality, and several new campus facilities, including a theater.
Speaking from the point of view of a future observer, Hatfield described Clayton State as "a large, comprehensive regional university with five campuses" n including one in Henry County.
Emphasizing a continuation of one of the university's current strengths n diversity n the program featured students from numerous countries, including Brazil, Nigeria, Barbados and the United Arab Emirates. It also featured a performance from the dance troupe "Fire and Ice."
"I think we get to show diversity in all the events we do," said junior Rishwai Patel.
"(CCSU) is a great school," said Junior Ashley Wyche. "I would advise people to come."
And Henry County State Court Judge Ben Studdard, who got an associate's degree in English from the then Clayton Junior College in 1981, encouraged local residents to support the university.
"This school is a real treasure to all of the Southern Crescent community, and I think we all need to support it," he said.