The College of Coastal Georgia celebrated two of its outstanding students and the life and legacy of alumnus Emory Dawson at a special reception held recently on the Brunswick campus. The annual event announces the year's recipients of the Emory Dawson Scholarship awarded by Elks Lodge 691 of Brunswick.
The scholarship is awarded each year to two students with disabilities at the College who have demonstrated strong academic performance. Sutton Rollins, a sophomore, and Jonathon Widener, a senior, were each awarded $1,000 to help continue their education at Coastal Georgia. The students were honored in front of family and friends, Elk Lodge members, faculty, and staff of the College inside the Huie-Wilcox Gallery in the Hargett building.
Rollins is a special education major. Her ultimate goal is to teach children with special needs how to grow and become self-sufficient in society. Rollins knew that working with children with special needs was in her future since elementary school. Although many people have tried to dissuade her from her career choice, this only fueled her passion to make a difference in the lives of children with special needs.
College of Coastal Georgia sophomore Sutton Rollins (middle) is awarded the Emory Dawson Scholarship from Elks Lodge #691 of Brunswick for her academic performance. Rollins is a special education major and is excited to one day teach children with special needs.
The future teacher also hopes to coach volleyball and golf. She played volleyball in high school and continues to love the game. Rollins is a talented golfer and played from age six through high school. She played golf at Dalton State until an injury sidelined her collegiate career. She now works with The First Tee, an international youth development organization that introduces golf and its values to young people.
Widener is earning an Associate degree in nursing and is set to graduate in May 2020. He received the Excellence in Service Learning Outstanding Student Award this spring, and works on campus as a tutor for the Academic Tutoring and Instruction Center (ATTIC), where he enjoys helping other students succeed. Widener plans to work in psychiatric nursing and enroll in a psychiatric nurse practitioner program, with the goal of doing clinical research. He wants to support and provide healthcare for high risk, vulnerable populations.
Elks Lodge Exalted Ruler Greg Hickey (left) shakes the hand of College of Coastal Georgia senior Jonathon Widener (middle) who was awarded the Emory Dawson Scholarship. Widener is set to graduate in May with an Associate degree in nursing, and aspires to work in psychiatric nursing.
Widener is also an avid photographer. His work has been published in both the 2018 and 2019 editions of Seaswells, the literary-art journal at the College. He also plays the guitar and has dreams of driving all across the United States.
The Emory Dawson Scholarship is named for Emory Dawson—a true humanitarian. Dawson graduated from Glynn Academy in 1968 and enlisted in the Marine Corp the following year. He was wounded in action while serving in Vietnam in 1969. Dawson received the Purple Heart medal for his service and returned home as a quadriplegic—but that didn't stop him.
Amy Jenks, board member of the Brunswick Glynn County Council on Disabilities, Inc. and a good friend of Dawson, spoke about his dedication to his community.
"He didn't let his disability hold him back," Jenks said. Dawson enrolled at the College, earned three associate degrees, and served as president of the Student Government Association for two years. "Emory had a heart of gold and spent his life volunteering," said Jenks.
Dawson worked with many local organizations, including Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Elks Lodge 691 of Brunswick, Exchange Club, and served on the Mayors Committee on Services for the Disabled, Inc., where he was instrumental in getting curb cuts and accessible parking throughout the county. In his honor, the City of Brunswick named the road leading to the fairgrounds "Emory Dawson Parkway."
"Emory was an excellent Boy Scouts leader. If you were in his troop, you were encouraged, if not expected, to earn the merit badge for disability awareness," Jenks said. "For his funeral procession in 1997, hundreds of boy scouts stood in uniform lining the road to his gravesite to honor him and his commitment to community service."
Amy Jenks, board member of the Brunswick Glynn County Council on Disabilities, Inc., talks about her friend Emory Dawson and his commitment to community service.
Jenks said one of the many wonderful things Dawson did was reach out to other disabled people. She shared a story of how he and his scouts would help in her yard, and how Dawson gave her rides in his wheelchair-accessible van.
"He even taught me how to drive his van using the hand controls," Jenks said. "Most importantly, he gave me the courage to press on. It was an honor to know a man as extraordinary as Emory Dawson, and a privilege to call him my friend."
Dawson's sister, Viann Dawson Brewer was also in attendance at the reception and bought in a framed photo of her brother for the special occasion.