SOUTH FORSYTH — The president and CEO of the Greater Hall County Chamber of Commerce and Forsyth County Schools’ outgoing superintendent were among the inspiring leaders recognized by the University of North Georgia during a luncheon Tuesday.
Also honored was Mike Banks, a Gainesville native and banker who was instrumental in organizing the event prior to his death in January. The awards were presented in his memory.
“[Banks] was truly and inspirational leader,” said Ruben Boling, director of UNG’s Center for the Future of North Georgia. “But we never really called him that, he just was and so it was a great honor to recognize and remember him today.”
Kit Dunlap with the Hall chamber received the Inspiration in Business Award, which she said was “extra special” since she had grown up with Banks.
Addressing the crowd of more than 250 people gathered at the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center, Dunlap described her longtime friend as “an inspiration.”
“What a leader, what a friend, what a community person,” she said.
Presenting the award to Dunlap was James McCoy, president and CEO of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce.
“I know that Kit goes to work every day thinking about working for the future of our entire region,” McCoy said. “She does an amazing job.
“I know there is no one who cares more deeply and works more diligently for the economic prosperity of our entire region than Kit Dunlap.”
Evans, Forsyth’s school chief, received the Inspiration in Community Award from Darla Light, who chairs the board of education.
“It’s a great honor and a pleasure to be able to be allowed to present this award to one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever known. From his leadership in and out of the school system, to his outside interests and hobbies, Dr. Evans embodies the idea of building personal capacity for lifelong learning,” Light said.
Evans, who has served as local superintendent since 2007, is retiring from the position in June to join the state Department of Corrections as assistant commissioner of education.
He credited the importance of strong partnerships with God, his wife of 35 years, Debbie, and others he has gained during his career.
“I have been blessed way beyond what I deserve and being a part of Forsyth County for the last seven years has been a big part of that,” he said.
Kat Cole, president of Cinnabon, one of the world’s largest food franchises, gave a keynote address at the Inspirational Leaders Luncheon.
The young executive focused on the business lessons she’s learned through personal experiences with her family, past leadership roles with Hooters Restaurants — where she was an executive by age 26 — and through service to nonprofits around the world.
Boling said the event exceeded organizers’ expectations.
“Kat gave a fabulous presentation and I thought the involvement of the community was just wonderful,” Boling said. “It’s just good to see us all come together, especially when we start talking about inspirational leaders.
“What a wonderful community we live in. We have so many leaders and a lot of them we never recognize.”