Shorter University recently recognized alumni Kathy Keown and Curtis Clemons as recipients of the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Awards.
Dr. Keown, of Coolidge, Ga., received the Distinguished Alumni Award, which recognizes an alumnus or alumna who has demonstrated outstanding personal achievement, public service, or accomplishment.
Mr. Clemons, of Gwinnett County, received the Distinguished Young Alumni Award, which honors a recent Shorter graduate who has demonstrated excellence through his or her professional achievement, commitment to community service, and/or dedication to the university.
Photo caption: Shorter University President Dr. Don Dowless, second from right, and the university’s Alumni Association Board President Darrell Black, right, present the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Awards to Dr. Kathy Keown, left, and Curtis Clemons.
Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient Kathy Keown
A native of South Georgia, Dr. Keown grew up in Cairo, Ga. She earned a Bachelor of Music Education from Shorter in 1977. After graduating from Shorter and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, she returned to South Georgia; she and her husband, Mike, also a 1977 Shorter graduate, have lived in Coolidge since that time.
“Shorter was the beginning step for Mike and me in a lifetime of ministry that continues even now,” Dr. Keown said. “It’s been interesting through the years that as Mike has been called to pastor a church, that church also needed a Minister of Music. My music preparation and degree from Shorter were definitely instrumental in preparing me well for church music ministry as well as the opportunity to work with young people in the public-school setting through music. Even before attending Shorter, I felt the call of God on my life. My years at Shorter confirmed that call while also honing my skills as a musician–skills that I have used over and over again in music ministry.”
Dr. Keown is a retired public school educator with 33 years as a classroom teacher, middle school principal, and district director. In retirement, she has returned to work with the Education Division of Thomas University, working mostly with student teachers. She also has served for more than 40 years as a church musician. At least 20 of those years, she was the Minister of Music where her husband, Mike, served as pastor. She continues her music ministry as she plays the piano for Sunday services at two small country churches in Coolidge.
“Serving as a church musician and as a pastor’s wife has been a calling, but also a delight,” she said.
Keown enjoys traveling with her husband, who also retired from the full-time pastorate. Kathy sings with the Jubalheirs, a music ministry of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board that includes approximately 250 female church musicians who perform across the state.
The Keowns have two grown sons, Michael and Matthew; two daughters-in-law, Keumele and Christina; and five grandchildren, Carrie Beth, Andrew, Colt, Andee, and Jacob.
“I think my fondest memories of my Shorter experience come from the friends I made during those years – not just the students, but also faculty and staff who took a real interest in Mike and me as a young married couple struggling to get through college,” Dr. Keown said.
Distinguished Young Alumni Award Recipient Curtis Clemons
Mr. Clemons earned both the Bachelor of Business Management and Master of Arts in Leadership from Shorter in 2009 and 2011, respectively. He serves as Assistant Chief of Police in Gwinnett County, where he has worked in law enforcement for almost 30 years.
His experience includes 14 years as a detective investigating everything from petty theft to homicides. He is most proud of his years as a detective and supervisor over the county’s Special Victims Unit (SVU), which investigated crimes against children and the elderly. He was appointed to the position of Assistant Chief of Police in July 2017 as the first African-American to attain that rank in the history of Gwinnett County.
Mr. Clemons serves as a consultant to the Gwinnett Sexual Assault Center for victims of sexual assault and serves as a mentor for troubled youth in Gwinnett County.
“My experience at Shorter impacted me to give back to my community in the form of mentorship to disadvantaged youth and through community service,” Mr. Clemons said. “Whether its teaching a young person how to tie a tie for a job interview, reminding youth to be respectful to authority figures, creating a vision board for future success, or just being a nonjudgmental ear, I hope to help those who think they are forgotten become future community and global leaders through the Gwinnett County Schools mentor program and through LEAADS, the Law Enforcement Agencies Assisting Disadvantaged Students program.
“My fondest memories at Shorter were in the classrooms interacting and networking with all my classmates who were destined to become giants in their fields,” he added. “This was due to the level of commitment, industry knowledge, and professional insight Shorter professors provided to us. We all bonded and commiserated with each other over so many papers to write – and of course over balancing school life with a healthy social life!”
Mr. Clemons describes himself as a “praying father of two.” His son Drexton is 24, and daughter Ciera is 20. He enjoys reading and collecting music of all genres.
“My interests are movies, giving back to the community through public service, and Atlanta Falcons football!”
He added, “My personal motto is a quote from author Bob Moawad, ‘The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours – it is an amazing journey – and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day that your life really begins.’”
Founded in 1873, Shorter University is a Christ-centered, four-year liberal arts university committed to excellence in education. U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review annually include Shorter on their lists of best Southeastern Colleges. The university offers traditional bachelor’s degrees in 40 areas of study, online courses and degree programs, undergraduate programs for working adults, associate’s and master’s programs.