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Eagle Award – Auburn Chamber of Commerce

February 25, 2019
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To celebrate the mutually beneficial relationship between community and businesses, the Auburn Chamber of Commerce held its 70th annual meeting to award leaders and volunteers maintaining this connection.

“I’m thankful to be a part of this community,” Auburn University President Steven Leath said. “I think all of us are really invested in making Auburn better. We want to see everyone thrive, we want to see the oneness in the university thrive and we want to see the city thrive.”

Lifetime Impact Award

As a new addition of awards given at the chamber meeting, the Lifetime Impact Award honors an individual who transformed the community in a span of 20 years by relinquishing impactful contributions. AuburnBank CEO Bob Dumas presented this award to former mayor Bill Ham.

“Bill, the business community is grateful for your steady leadership, your support, your ever-thoughtful counsel and your daily commitment to making Auburn a better place,” Dumas said. “We are sincerely appreciative and thankful for your service. Today, we are proud to present you with the first Lifetime Impact Award, which hereafter will be named the Bill Ham Lifetime Impact Award in your honor.”

Ham expressed gratitude for the award as he thanked the Chamber, city staff and the efforts exhibited by fellow award recipients. He also expounded on historical influences coaxing his contributive actions.

“Auburn has given my family the opportunity to work hard, build businesses – my dad opened his first business in downtown Auburn in 1933 – and then, to thrive in a place we all love,” Ham said. “Auburn has also given us the opportunity to give back to the community that we all love.”

Absent from the event due to a loss in his family, Mayor Ron Anders left comments with the 2018 Auburn Chamber chairman Brian Snyder, emphasizing thankfulness for the Chamber members, city staff and Ham.

“It’s with great regret that I’m missing today’s annual meeting of the Auburn Chamber of Commerce,” Anders’ message said. “A special thanks to my friend Bill Ham. Your award today is well deserved. As a community, this moment is appropriate. As a friend, I could never fully testify to your wisdom and assistance. Thanks, Bill.”

Spirit of Auburn Award

Before presenting the Spirit of Auburn Award to former Auburn football head coach Gene Chizik and his wife Jonna, Auburn-Opelika Tourism Bureau president John Wild introduced the recipients with accolades highlighting their service to the community.

“Gene and Jonna have not only been a financial resource for youth and families, they’ve been the feet and hands always looking for an opportunity to assist, provide, encourage and fill the need,” Wild said.

In his speech, Chizik credited his wife for maintaining active involvement within the community, and he continually reiterated his love and gratitude for the city of Auburn.

“For everybody in the community, we love it here,” Chizik said. “This is going to be our home. We decided that a long time ago, and we are very blessed, and we can’t thank you enough. We love it, and you’ll have to put up with us for a long time to come.”

Other awards

Before distributing various awards among the leaders, innovators and volunteers, Snyder stressed the importance of networking and celebrating the achievements among the businesses.

“Each single day we work to advocate for and promote our members, celebrate successes, keep the membership educated and informed and make connections because we know without a doubt that a healthy, vibrant, connected business community equals a better place for all of us to live,” Snyder said.

Businesses seeking to contribute to education, job opportunities, and charities benefiting the community – Auburn University’s Donald E. Davis Arboretum, Two Men and a Truck, Tiger Mochas from Auburn High School, Rabren General Contractors and Cutting Edge Lawn Service – received Eagle Awards.

Benefactors of tourism, Acre, Bow & Arrow executive chef and partner David and Christin Bancroft received the Auburn Chamber and Auburn-Opelika Bureau Tourism Partnership Award, Allstate agency owner Rusty Prewett was awarded young business person of the year and Donaldson human resource manager Jay Harris received the Norm Caldwell Excellence in Industry Award.

Other award recipients included Auburn-Opelika Tourism Bureau communication specialist Cat Bobo, who accepted the Teague – volunteer of the year – Award and retail solutions manager Crystal Russell of MAX Credit Union received Diplomat of the Year.

Final remarks

At the end of the celebration, Synder passed his gavel to the new Chamber chairwoman Sarah Brown, and she shared appreciation for the new position.

“We hope you leave today uplifted and encouraged by the celebration and feeling connected to something bigger than ourselves,” Brown said. “We hope you leave knowing the Auburn Chamber of Commerce is your advocate and cheerleader working every day to educate, inform and promote Auburn and our business community.”