YOUNG HARRIS, Ga.— Young Harris College recently welcomed back to campus alumnus Ronnie Milsap, ’64, on Aug. 11 for an evening of celebration honoring the country music legend.
Milsap was the recipient of YHC’s 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award for Lifetime Career Achievement. “This award is presented to an alumnus or alumna who has demonstrated great success in their career following a successful foundation made by YHC,” explained President Cathy Cox. “We were honored to have Ronnie, his wife, Joyce, and their friends and family back on campus to celebrate his award-winning career.”
Milsap has compiled 40 No. 1 country hits, accrued eight gold albums, and won six Grammy Awards, eight Country Music Association Awards, and four Academy of Country Music trophies, including the lifetime honor. In 2014, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Milsap credits YHC as the place where he discovered his calling to be a musician. “I learned that being an entertainer was what I was supposed to be,” said Milsap. “I learned that here at Young Harris. I learned it from the students. I learned it from the teachers.”
More than 100 guests flocked to campus to celebrate with Milsap, enjoy musical performances by YHC’s student-led A capella group, The Altitunes, and listen to stories from those who knew Milsap best while he attended YHC.
Two of Milsap’s YHC professors included former U.S. Senator and Georgia Governor Zell Miller, ‘51, and Clay Dotson, Ph.D., emeriti professor of history, former academic dean and interim president. Both shared memories from when Milsap was a student.
Gov. Miller composed a special letter read by President Cox during the award ceremony. “I spent many wonderful years and days teaching here at Young Harris. Among the best of those were the years I spent with a young student from Western North Carolina by the name of Ronnie Milsap,” wrote Gov. Miller. “No one was more pleased with his rise to international acclaim and more grateful for his friendship than his old political science teacher here at Young Harris.”
Dr. Dotson shared his appreciation with Milsap. “Thank you for having the courage and the drive to use your musical talents to become one of the greatest musical artist of our times,” said Dr. Dotson. “Congratulations to you for being the recipient of this award. It probably doesn’t compare to being in the Country Music Hall of Fame, but for us, it’s big. We are proud of you and for what you have become.”
Milsap’s YHC roommate, John Ed McDaniel, ’64, shared humorous and heartfelt stories from their time together on campus. McDaniel expressed how much Milsap’s friendship meant to him saying, “Ronnie, every person you have ever met, you make a difference in their lives. You certainly made a difference in mine.”
During his acceptance remarks, Milsap expressed how honored he was to be back at Young Harris College, noting those were “really happy days.”
“John Ed was the perfect roommate, and Dr. Dotson and Gov. Miller were wonderful teachers,” said Milsap. “As with so many of the teachers here, they were all so kind and nice to me.”
To further honor Milsap, an endowed scholarship was established with proceeds from the event. “The Ronnie Milsap, ’64, Music Scholarship gives us the opportunity to honor his achievements while helping our talented music students in perpetuity,” said President Cox.
Milsap’s classmates formed a committee to assist with plans for the event and encourage others to make gifts to the scholarship. Members of the committee included Jon, ’65, and Paulette Anderson, Joe Bullington, ’63, Chuck Clowdis, ’64, Phil Hope, ’64, Marvin McArthur, ’65, Charlotte Sparks McCloskey, ’64, John Ed McDaniel, ’64, John Ted McDaniel, ’64, Charlie Morris, ’64, Steve Sharp, ’65, and Peggy Pleasants Thrasher, ’59.
Several sponsors also assisted with making the evening a success. Platinum sponsors included Mel and Judy Crocker, ’63, Hall, and Bill, ’52, and Judy Roberts. Gold sponsors included Jimmy Alston, ’64, Cathy Cox and Mark Dehler, and Charlotte Sparks McCloskey, ’64.
“We at Young Harris College love Ronnie, and we are so very proud of him—not only of his musical accomplishments, but of the person he is,” said President Cox. “In the words of Gov. Miller, ‘Ronnie Milsap is what he sang in an award winning hit: a legend in his time’.”
For more information about making a gift to the Ronnie Milsap, ’64, Music Scholarship, contact YHC’s Office of Advancement at (706) 379-5173 or visit www.yhc.edu/giving.
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