MACON, Ga. – The Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce named Mercer University President William D. Underwood as its Citizen of the Year during the organization's 153rd annual meeting on Dec. 5.
Presenting the award to Underwood, who has served as Mercer's 18th president since 2006, was 2010 Citizen of the Year recipient Chris R. Sheridan, president of Chris R. Sheridan General Contractors.
"It took the selection committee a 10th of a nanosecond to select this year's award winner," Sheridan said. "(Underwood) was an overwhelming choice. He wants to serve; he wants no credit; he seeks no accolade. He is a thorough and clear thinker of the highest order, and he exhibits and fosters excellence in every endeavor."
Sheridan cited Underwood's leadership in establishing the Mercer On Mission program, which is an international service-learning initiative that applies student and faculty research to real-world problems in the developing world, as an example of his focus on turning compassion into action.
But he said Underwood has also made an impact on Macon in more "Chamber of Commerce" ways.
"He's brought leadership in strengthening Macon's downtown through NewTown Macon. He is a member of the citizen consolidation committee that has helped shape our new government. He embraced a student idea that transformed a neighborhood and championed it into the College Hill Corridor. He championed a very successful program of tutors that has helped the educational prospects of hundreds of inner-city youth who up until now have not had a real chance in life. And in his characteristic, focused, well-thought-out, and I may add, winning way, he brought intercollegiate football to Macon, Georgia."
Sheridan also praised Underwood's wife, Lesli, calling her "that perfect partner who provides calm in a storm, organization in the midst of rapid change. She is his sanity check. She helps calibrate his compass. They are a powerful team.
"Because of the capacity of Bill Underwood's mind, he is most effective conceiving and leading the big picture. Because of the capacity of his heart, he is most comfortable guiding and encouraging the individuals on the ground. And because of the combined capacity of both his mind and his heart, the Macon Chamber of Commerce unanimously presents its Citizen of the Year Award to Bill Underwood."