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Saturday February 6th, 2016 1:44PM

Piedmont alumni honor six for service

By The Associated Press
DEMOREST - The Piedmont College Alumni Association singled out six graduates for special honors during the annual Alumni Weekend awards banquet in Demorest.

Susan Kyle of Cornelia and Dwain Toney of Watkinsville earned the group's Distinguished Alumni Award. Raymond Collins Sr. of Cleveland was tapped for the Alumni Service Award; and Mitchel Barrett of Cleveland was selected for the Excellence in Education Award. Two alumni received the Pacesetter Award. They are Cindy Williams of Morganton and C.T. Hussion of Blairsville.

Susan Kyle earned a degree in history with highest honors at Piedmont in 1995 while pursuing a successful career as a writer. She has published more than 150 novels since 1979 and, under her pen name, Diana Palmer, is renowned as one of North America's top 10 romance writers. Her works have been named to the New York Times bestseller list numerous times, and she has earned seven Waldenbooks national sales awards. Originally from Cuthbert, she formerly worked as a newspaper reporter with The Tri-County Advertiser in Clarkesville and The Times of Gainesville.

Dwain Toney is a native of Carnesville and graduated from Franklin County High School in 1948. After service in the Army Signal Service and the National Guard, he began a 32-year career with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 1963, Toney returned to college and earned a degree in business administration from Piedmont. In his USDA career, Toney received numerous awards for his work with the Agriculture Stabilization and Conservation Service. He was also an advocate for recreation programs in Oconee County, where he also served as president of the Chamber of Commerce.

Raymond Collins Sr. is a member of the Piedmont Class of 1958 and earned degrees in social science and physical education. He also earned a master's degree in education from Western Carolina University. He served in the Army Signal Corp from 1954-56, and for more than 38 years, taught and was an administrator in schools in Thomas, Rabun and White counties, including service as the White County School Superintendent. Collins has served on the Piedmont Alumni Association board for many years.

Excellence in Education Award winner Mitchel Barrett graduated from Piedmont in 1972 and began a 40-year career in teaching and coaching that started at White County High School, his alma mater. He later earned a master's degree in education from North Georgia College and an education specialist degree from the University of Georgia. In 2003, he retired as principal at White County High School. For the past five years he has served as superintendent and principal for the Mountain Education Center, a state-chartered regional alternative school designed to help at-risk students earn their high school degrees.

The Pacesetter Award is given to young alumni who exhibit outstanding achievement early in their careers. Pacesetter Cindy Williams is a 2004 Piedmont graduate, and she earned an MBA from Auburn University. She is also a graduate of the Institute for Organization Management and the Georgia Academy for Economic Development. Williams is president of the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce. During her tenure, she has overseen the implementation of Union County's first formal tourism marketing plan and achieved the Georgia Certified Chamber designation.

Pacesetter Charles Todd "C.T." Hussion earned a bachelor's degree in business from Piedmont in 1997 and a master of arts in teaching degree in early childhood education in 1999. After graduation, he began teaching at Gainesville High School, where he was the head wrestling coach and assistant baseball and football coach. In 2004 and 2006, he was named the Gainesville Times Coach of the Year. Since 2007, he has taught economics at Union County High School, where he was named the Teacher of the Year in 2009. He also serves as the head baseball coach and helmed the team to the state playoffs for the first time in 15 years.
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