9 of the 40 under 40 UGA alumni 2023

UGA’s 40 Under 40 Greek Alumni

Each year, the University of Georgia Alumni Association choses a group of alumni under the age of 40 that have experienced career achievements, achieved personal goals or have been involved in philanthropic efforts to be recognized as a 40 Under 40 recipient. The Greek Life Office at UGA is pleased to announce that 15 of the 40 2023 inductees are Greek alumni.

To be chosen as a 40 Under 40 recipient, nominees must uphold the Pillars of the Arch, be UGA alumni and show lifelong commitment to the university. Greek Life is proud of these distinguished alumni who continue to hold themselves to a standard of excellence post-graduation and remain a role model for the Greek community. Here are some shared thoughts from nine of this year’s Greek 40 Under 40 recipients.

STACY WILLINGHAM “In short, Greek life paved the way for so many opportunities for me during my time at UGA, but most importantly, it gave me so many of the wonderful people in my life. I met my husband during my junior year at UGA because he was also involved in Greek life. I’m now a decade out of college, and the girls I befriended in 2009 during my first few weeks in AOPi are still, to this day, my very best friends. They were the bridesmaids in my wedding; we talk every single day, and I now know, after 14 years of friendship, that we’ll be in each other’s lives for the rest of our lives. As a fun fact, the house I lived in with those girls during our junior and senior years of college serves as the setting in my upcoming college campus thriller, ONLY IF YOU’RE LUCKY, being published in January 2024, so I guess you could say, in a small way, Greek life also gave me the idea for my most recent novel. In addition to all of that, being on the philanthropy committee in AOPi was my first real taste of community service, which is something I’ve enjoyed ever since.”

CLAYTON COX “The invaluable experiences and leadership roles I undertook within the Greek system at UGA have undeniably played a pivotal role in shaping my current career in politics and government affairs. As the president of my fraternity, I cultivated essential skills in team management, conflict resolution, and strategic decision-making. These experiences not only honed my abilities as a communicator but also instilled in me a profound understanding of the dynamics of group interactions.

Furthermore, serving as the Vice President of the Interfraternity Council afforded me the opportunity to bridge diverse perspectives and foster collaborative relationships among various fraternity chapters. This role demanded adept negotiation skills, effective communication, and a nuanced approach to consensus-building – all of which have seamlessly translated into my endeavors within the political sphere.”

ASHLEE NICOLE TILLERY “UGA Greek Life and Kappa Delta had a significant role in sculpting me into the individual I am today—a physician who seeks to be grounded in leadership, compassion and camaraderie.

Kappa Delta not only fostered lifelong friendships, but also provided me with a network of trusted confidants who now serve as my daily sounding board—influencing both my practice and personal growth.”

LAWRENCE HARRIS “Being a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. provided me with a brotherhood of men who held me accountable to the values, goals, and standards I set for my life. The leadership opportunities and community service initiatives honed my organizational skills, and solidified my desire to make an impact on my community. It sparked my focus on youth development and ensuring our youth had a positive path forward after high school. Further, my active engagement in my fraternity has fostered my commitment to philanthropy, and continues to influence my values well beyond my college years.”

DERRICK A. WILLIAMS “I credit Greek Life with being instrumental in my early engagement with volunteerism and sparking my interest in public service and philanthropy. Within this shared community, I learned the value of brotherhood, networking, paying it forward, and lifting as you climb. Often, the collective impact of a group is greater than the sum of its individual members. There’s an old saying, “Many hands make light work.” Greek life provided me with a platform and real-world experience on the tangible effects a group of goal-orientated individuals can have on their communities. In retrospect, these experiences from Greek Life have seamlessly translated into early successes in my career. As an undergraduate at the Terry College of Business, I was a campus ambassador for a Big 4 firm and worked to create opportunities in the public accounting field for others. As a young alumnus, I engaged in university recruiting on campus to maintain my connection with my alma mater. Additionally, I had the privilege to represent my employer at several diversity conferences and career fairs, offering insights, guidance, and mentorship to attendees. As a young professional, I’ve actively engaged in both Employee Resource/Affinity Groups and employee volunteer events, to enhance my cultural awareness, broaden my internal network, and give back while gaining exposure to new experiences within my local community.”

MIKA KAWANA “I think that my time at Georgia being a Delta Zeta in the Greek community gave me a glimpse into how to utilize a network to meet bigger goals. Serving as Vice President of New Member Education is where I first had a glimpse of how to highlight what is great about sororities and Greek Life. Additionally, being the social chair taught me how to network and build connections with others. In my role now at ICE I lead the all employee engagement efforts, so my time at UGA working on philanthropic efforts and learning the importance of networking is something I see and utilize in my career. I get to see Greek connections in the work place first hand. Ultimately, joining Greek Life is an opportunity to have an impact on your campus, the Greek community and beyond.”

EBONY CALDWELL “I was initiated in Delta Sigma Theta in the spring of 2011 which was my junior year of college. My organization had a big impact on the later years of my life. Delta Sigma Theta brought me some of my closest friends and taught me a lot about running a business. I had practice with budgeting, tax returns, etc., all of which are things I do now in my career. One thing I really enjoyed about my experience was that our alumni members were very active. Being able to connect with the women I crossed with as well as those that founded the chapter was a good opportunity to be able to meet women with various experiences at UGA and to be able to find mentors in the same field. As I travelled and moved, I had members from my chapter that I could always reach out to for support. The other members in my organization that had similar interests, such as those in medicine, helped me to build a community, especially during the internship I held in NYC right after I crossed.”

R. ALLEN LIGON JR. “There is no doubt that UGA Greek life influenced me as a person and enhanced my trajectory as an individual. Fraternity brothers represent people in my wedding and remain the core support system I hold close today. The UGA Greek Life network and the relationships formed have greatly influenced my career trajectory in every single step of the journey.

As an undergraduate, I received the Interfraternity Council scholarship which helped to offload the financial commitment. This enabled me to participate in Greek Life and enjoy the benefits of involvement as there was no way my family and I could do it alone. UGA Greek Life is a culture built on relationships and respect and continues to provide a network for me even to this day, very far removed from my undergraduate time.”

PATRICK SINGLETARY “The education that I received at the University of Georgia College of Ag and Environmental Sciences and University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine was exceptional in preparing me to become a practicing veterinarian. I also strongly credit the Leadership Opportunities that were made available to me during my time at UGA for preparing me to take on the leadership responsibilities that are now required of me as business owner leading 35 team members. My time serving as Alpha Gamma Rho President during my junior and senior years in undergrad helped me learn valuable lessons in leadership such as clear communication, delegation, and resilience. I lean on those same leadership principles daily in my current leadership role, and I am thankful that I was given the opportunity to start developing those professional skills during my time at UGA. As my ownership and entrepreneurial journey continues, I have found that making sure I am continuing to grow as a leader, developing other leaders in the practices, and having a strong leadership team are the single most important factors to our success as we continue to grow and scale. The importance of personal and team leadership development was cultivated during my time serving as Alpha Gamma Rho President, and I continue to reflect back on my time of leadership at the University of Georgia with gratitude and many fond memories. “