A Forsyth County native is among the first recipients of the University of Georgia’s Graduate School Alumni of Distinction Award.
The award was created as a way to recognize individuals who have made significant contributions to their professional fields and communities.
James Eugene “Gene” Bottoms, who currently serves as senior vice president of the Southern Regional Education Board, or SREB, was among the first class of 18 honorees.
Bottoms is the son of the late Rev. and Mrs. Jay Bottoms. His brothers, Dennis and Lynn, and sister, Bernice, still live in the county.
Bottoms began his 56-year-career after finishing a two-year social studies teach certification program at Georgia State College.
In his second year of teaching, he was appointed the role of teaching principal and coach at Forsyth’s Friendship School.
During this time, he met Helen Milford of Cherokee County, to whom he has been married for 53 years. They have three children: Gina Maio, Kevin Bottoms and Andrea Jacobson. The couple also has nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Bottoms was later tapped to design a complete system of student support for South Georgia Technical College in Americus. It included recruitment, aptitude assessment, enrollment, graduation and job placement.
Due to the program’s success, Bottoms was added to the staff of the Georgia Department of Education and the state secured a federal grant to expand it to technical schools.
During his 13-year tenure, Bottoms advanced from a consultant to a division director, responsible for innovative programs for school improvement, as well as teacher certification and professional development.
In 1977, Bottoms was named executive director of the American Vocational Association, headquartered in Washington, D.C.
During that time, he worked with members of Congress to craft legislation resulting in the passage of the Carl Perkins Act, the major national commitment and funding mechanism for providing quality academic and career technical studies for secondary students.
The act, which passed in 1984, remains in place today.
In 1985, Bottoms and his family returned to Georgia, where he affiliated with the Southern Regional Education Board and founded High Schools that Work.
The HSTW program is a school-improvement model that has grown into the nation’s largest research-based improvement initiative.
Since launching it in 1987, more than 3,000 high schools in 34 states, along with many middle schools and shared-time technology centers, have used the program.
Bottoms also has authored numerous articles, research briefs and reports, and is a frequent presenter at national educational conferences.
In addition, he often is called upon to serve on presidential and gubernatorial commissions.
The Public Broadcasting Service, or PBS, included his High Schools That Work program in a documentary of successful school improvement initiatives. Bottoms was also the recipient of the Harold McGraw Prize for Excellence in Education.
His current work is focused on designing 21stcentury curriculums for career technical studies as a way to better prepare high school graduates for both college and career.
The hope for this program, known as Advanced Career, is that it will eventually become for career studies what Advanced Placement has been for academic courses.