Georgia Highlands College

Willis J. Potts, Jr. honored as Heritage Award Recipient at Highlands Gala

Over $62,000 raised in support of GHC students

About 300 people gathered for a grand celebration of milestones, scholarship, and altruism. The Georgia Highlands College Foundation hosted the second annual Highlands Gala on Friday, April 11, 2014 at the Coosa Country Club and raised over $62,000 in support of GHC students including more than $20,000 to endow the Willis J. Potts, Jr. Endowed Scholarship.

Willis J. Potts, Jr. was the honoree of the evening and recipient of the Heritage Award. The Georgia Highlands College Heritage Award honors those individuals who have left a legacy of leadership, patriotism, civic development, and philanthropic deeds. Integrity, honor, determination, and vision embody the characteristics of the Heritage Award.

To describe Willis Potts is a task almost as considerable as his stature and personality. However, both pale in comparison to his dedication and devotion to community service and leadership. 

Following a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering with highest honors from Georgia Tech, Willis began his career as an engineer at the Union Camp Corporation’s Savannah pulp and paper mill in 1969, later serving as the corporation’s senior vice president until its merger with International Paper. From 1999 until his retirement, he served as vice president and general manager for Temple-Inland, Inc. Over the course of his career, he served as chairman of both the Paper Industry Management Association and the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry.

After a successful career and a longtime commitment to leadership, education, and service, Willis was appointed by Governor Sonny Perdue in 2006 to represent the Eleventh Congressional District on the Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia. He served as chairman of the board from July 2010 to June 2011. Willis, along with the medical community in Rome and Floyd County, worked proactively with the Medical College of Georgia to make the clinical campus housed at Heritage Hall in downtown Rome a reality.

Always dedicated to serving others, Willis has long been actively engaged with a number of charitable and civic organizations, including the United Way, Boys and Girls Clubs, and the March of Dimes. He is past chairman of both the Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce and the Rome-Floyd County Development Authority.

Willis continues to serve his community through active involvement with the mentoring program "Community in Schools" and Mercy Senior Care. He currently sits on the board of directors for CatchMark Timber Trust in Atlanta where he serves as chairman, and J&J Industries in Dalton.

He and his wife, Glenda, are parents of three adult children and grandparents to six grandchildren.

In addition to the Heritage Award, the evening was also a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the GHC nursing program. While established in 1971, nursing was originally part of the Division of Science and Mathematics. In 1974, the college established nursing as an independent program with Ms. Belen Nora as its director. Members of the nursing class of 1974 were present at the event.

The evening’s program placed a special emphasis on the college’s students.  Student representatives from the GHC honors program, Phi Theta Kappa (national honor society), the Student Government Association, Brother2Brother and athletics were present.  GHC students Amelia Bagwell from Cartersville and Julian Orjuela from Woodstock were recipients of Willis J. Potts, Jr. Heritage Honors Scholarship. This scholarship will be presented each year during the Highlands Gala in honor of that year’s Heritage Award recipient.

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