Laughter and energetic conversations floated over the putting green at Druid Hills Golf Club on September 22 where attendees of the 7th annual GDBBS Awards Banquet gathered for pre-dinner drinks and appetizers. As the early evening progressed, the back terrace filled with graduate students, faculty, and alumni greeting each other and noting how pleasant the late-summer weather was, especially compared to the rain of last year. Between updates on research projects and compliments on everyone’s formal dress, congratulations abounded for those on the list of awardees.
The crowd moved indoors when the dining room opened and divided amongst tables decked in blue and gold balloons. Just as the hungry audience started passing around their bread baskets, GDBBS Director Dr. Nael McCarty called attention to the stage with a warm welcome and some chuckle-eliciting jokes. Dr. Lisa Tedesco, Dean of the Laney Graduate School and Vice Provost for Academic Affairs then briefly took the microphone to thank the attendees. She underscored how thankful the graduate school is for the alumni, who not only support the graduate school with monetary donations, but also serve as role models for current students, showcasing many of the future paths and successes that are available to Emory graduates.
Dinner was served soon after, inviting lively conversations throughout the dining room. Monica Taylor, the GDBBS Director of Student Development and an integral organizer of the night’s events, took time to visit each table in the room. She asked how the students and alumni were enjoying themselves and could be seen laughing along with attendees as she caught up with their news.
As attendees finished up their meals, Dr. McCarty commenced the awards section of the night. The three endowed research awards were presented first, recipients and benefactors taking the stage together for photos. Next, the Distinguished Alumnus Award was presented by Dr. Haian Fu to Dr. Jing Chen, a 2001 graduate of Dr. Fu’s lab in the Biochemistry, Cell and Developmental Biology program. Dr. McCarty then presented awards to the program scholars of the year, asking to hear noise from the students in the crowd as each program was called. This incited a small competition, with tables erupting with yells and claps and, in a of couple instances, stomping and banging, as each name was called. The energetic cheering continued through the rest of the awards and recognition of students receiving fellowships and scholarships.
Toward the end of the banquet, Dr. Edward Morgan took the stage to remember two previous GDBBS award winners who passed away within the last year. Charlene Wang, the 2015 Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Program Scholar of the Year, and Dr. Marion Sewer, the 2013 Distinguished Alumnus recipient, were both lost unexpectedly in the winter. Dr. Morgan spoke highly of both women’s accomplishments in science and their admirable character while some of their peers and friends stood respectfully. As Dr. Sewer’s mentor, he said he knew how she would respond to the grief of her friends and family. “She’d tell us to ‘buck up and put your big girl pants on,’” he said. “So we’ll keep trying.”
Dr. McCarty wrapped up the evening with many thanks, staving off competition for the centerpieces full of snack food by dictating that they would go to the person at the table with the nearest birthday. Nevertheless, while award winners and programs gathered around the dining room for group photos, spirited bargaining over the centerpieces continued. Bemoaning the end of the festivities, attendees gradually said goodbye to their friends and new acquaintances and filtered out into the warm evening.